Bob Ford: With Vick, Eagles try to win now

Posted: September 21, 2010

All right, maybe it's not a rebuilding season, after all.

If there's anything substantial to take from Tuesday evening's bombshell dropped at the NovaCare bunker, that would be it. The Philadelphia Eagles are in the business of winning football games and Andy Reid believes Michael Vick can win more of them right now than Kevin Kolb. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

"This was an odd situation," Reid said, falling back in a time of stress on his fondness for the obvious.

Aside from reacquiring Donovan McNabb, little could have been more surprising than this sudden change of direction from Reid. Since the Easter night trade of McNabb - can this team do anything big when the sun is still up? - Reid has consistently pledged fealty and the starting quarterback's position to Kolb.

Even when Kolb suffered the concussion in the opener against Green Bay, after nearly a full half of making poor reads and poor throws, Reid stuck with him. Even when Vick rallied the team against the Packers, and even when Vick had a sensational day against the Lions, Reid appeared unmoved. The team even made a point of announcing before the Lions game that Kolb had been cleared to practice, making sure his position wouldn't be overshadowed by whatever Vick accomplished.

Behind the scenes, however, Reid was watching the film and making lists and thinking things over and deciding that when he said, "Kevin is the guy," that was just his way of saying nothing.

"There are ways I buy time," Reid told Eagles.com after his Tuesday announcement. "I don't have to tell anybody anything at the moment."

What Reid certainly sensed was that the locker room had been paying attention to this little drama. If you tell a group of professional football players that the team is pointing toward the future and not the present, that doesn't go over very well. Everyone in there likes Kolb and everyone in there likes Vick. It's a harsh world, though, and very scoreboard-oriented.

"Michael's playing exceptional football right now. I think that's obvious to everybody," Reid said. "The team had seen the great play by Michael Vick just like you saw it and I saw it, and that's part of this decision."

So, what exactly has Vick done to deserve the starting job, or what did Kolb do to lose it? How much of the decision - none, according to Reid - was made because a traditional pocket quarterback will not be served by playing behind the team's porous offensive line?

There's probably a little bit of all that in the mix. Vick has played well. The four series of football Kolb directed weren't very good. And, yes, when a team can't protect its quarterback, it helps to have one who can save himself.

However this turns out, Reid has to get credit for making a hard move because he believes it was the right one to make. It would have been a lot easier to send Kolb out against Jacksonville and pretend that the scenario hadn't changed.

"I know I'm kind of the bad guy in this situation. I understand that," Reid said. "But I've got to do what's best for both players and this football team. It's a win-win for both players. I'm looking out for those two guys and our football team."

Finding the win for Kolb in this is difficult, but Reid was selling the notion that the last guy who played behind Vick (Matt Schaub) has turned out to be pretty good. That's a bit of a stretch, but maybe Reid is buying time again and just hasn't told us yet.

The only thing that matters is if he is right. He won't be the first head coach to be lured by the siren song of Vick's spectacular athleticism only to end up with a gashed hull when he becomes a wild turnover machine.

Reid's contention is that Vick has suddenly become a quarterback capable of adding traditional pocket skills to his scrambling repertoire. Without saying it, the implication is that the Eagles have been a lot smarter about coaching him than were the Atlanta Falcons, and there's nothing more intoxicating than the idea of one's own genius.

What it really comes down to is timing. If the Eagles are going to find out what they have in Vick, he has to start now. Otherwise, Kolb might remain healthy.

No one is bothering to mention that the Detroit Lions have an awful secondary and they were forced to send maximum blitzes against Vick because it was their only chance. He slipped enough of them to make the Lions look foolish and, well, here we are at the confusing intersection of Present and Future.

"I'm not sure any of us thought Michael would get back to this level. I'm not even sure he thought that," Reid said.

"The guy has climbed his way back like the Phoenix. He's back."

Now we find out if he really should be.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.

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