John Smallwood: What will the Eagles do if Vick wins?

Posted: September 16, 2010

IT'S THE PLAY nearly everyone has talked about since Sunday.

Michael Vick, subbing for an injured Kevin Kolb against the Green Bay Packers, felt his protection collapsing midway through the third quarter and ran for 31 yards.

It wasn't just what Vick did. It was how he did it.

He was fast, lightning-fast, and elusive.

It was as if he hit a replay button on the "Michael Vick Experience" - that roller-coaster ride of highlight films that once made Vick the NFL's highest-paid quarterback.

To be honest, it was a glimpse from the past many thought could not be seen again.

Apparently, Vick, who missed two full seasons while in prison on charges related to his dogfighting operation, still might be able to play a little bit.

Normally, that would be a good thing to say about your backup quarterback. But Vick isn't your ordinary backup.

He was 40-30-1 as the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons from 2001-06. He guided Atlanta to the NFC Championship Game in the 2004 season. He made three Pro Bowls.

Vick turned 30 in June, and there is enough empirical evidence to suggest he might be better than several starting NFL quarterbacks - including Kolb.

Kolb was awful during his time on the field in the Eagles' opening loss before getting knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Vick was impressive in the backup role, passing for 175 yards, rushing for 103 more and leading the Birds to 17 of their 20 points.

Indications are that Kolb, who failed a baseline concussion test yesterday, will not play Sunday in Detroit. That means Vick will take all of the practice reps and have the rest of the week to prepare for the Lions.

"If I'm the guy, then I'm going to get ready to try to put this team in position to win, and that's still the ultimate goal," said Vick, who would make his first start at quarterback since Dec. 31, 2006. "I don't really go out and try to prove to anybody that I can still play this game.

"I just have to make the most of the opportunity and try to help this football team win until [Kolb] comes back and he's healthy."

But what if Vick plays well?

What if he leads the Eagles to a victory against Detroit and then the following week in Jacksonville?

What if, without even trying to, Vick proves to everybody he can still play?

Since coach Andy Reid makes the final decision, you have to take him at his word yesterday when he said, "Kevin knows he's the guy."

"Listen, I don't want to slight [Vick] a lick if this thing works out, having this opportunity to start or even play in this past Sunday. He did a great job,"

Reid said.

"On the other hand, Kevin's the starting quarterback for this football team."

The Eagles will never acknowledge this, but their primary goal coming into this season was to find out whether Kevin Kolb had the ability to succeed Donovan McNabb as the team's quarterback for the next decade.

Wins and losses are irrelevant in the big picture regarding the future.

Kolb might not be the Eagles' future. That's what they need to find out.

It's more certain that Vick is not. At best, his future with the Birds would be a 1- or 2-year stopgap measure until another young quarterback is acquired.

None of that can be determined, however, until the Eagles find out whether Kolb can play at this level.

It is the only thing about this season that must be determined.

Conceptually, I agree, but it's easy for me to see things that way.

It's easy for the fan, who is more concerned with what the Eagles might be 3 years from now.

It's even easy for Eagles management, which has to chart that course.

None of us, however, is a player. We are not the guys Reid and his coaching staff ask to risk their bodies and long-term health on Sundays.

The players are likely to look at this from a different perspective. Long range doesn't truly exist for football players. Their careers could end on any snap of the ball.

Frankly, for the 52 other guys on this team, Kolb's future is one of the farthest things from their mind.

Coaches, general managers, the media, and some fans have no problem sacrificing this season if it provides a clear direction for future success.

But what does that mean to the player who has no guaranteed contract and must fight for his job again next season?

The only guarantee is that some players in the Eagles' locker room won't be there next season. Their future is now. They want to make the most out of this season that they can.

If Vick plays well against Detroit and then Jacksonville and the Eagles are 2-1, how does

Reid explain to the other players that going back to Kolb, if he's healthy, is in the team's best interest? If Vick shows he is truly back to a top level, how do you say 6-10 with Kolb is better than 9-7 and a possible playoff berth with Vick?

Reid deals the cards, so there is no real quarterback controversy right now.

But next week could be an entirely different story. *

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