Reid calls audible: Vick is starter

Michael Vick passed for 284 yards and two TDs in a 35-32 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. He also played well against Green Bay.
Michael Vick passed for 284 yards and two TDs in a 35-32 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. He also played well against Green Bay.

In a stunning move, the Eagles' coach went with "the hottest" QB.

Posted: September 22, 2010

In a stunning reversal Tuesday evening, Eagles coach Andy Reid named Michael Vick the team's starting quarterback - and the new face of the franchise - just a day after he had declared it was Kevin Kolb's job.

The Eagles coach said the decision - on one of the most intensely debated topics in Philadelphia and around the NFL - was made because Vick, who is just 16 months removed from an 18-month stay in federal prison, showed "accelerated play" over the last two games. Reid said Kolb's struggles through the preseason and the season opener were not the reason for the change.

Vick is "sitting there as possibly the hottest quarterback in the National Football League at this time and deserves an opportunity to play," Reid said at a hastily arranged news conference at the NovaCare Complex.

Reid boldly traded away his last franchise quarterback just five months ago. Donovan McNabb, the leader of the Eagles for 11 seasons, was dealt to the Washington Redskins on Easter Sunday, and Kolb was promoted to starter.

But the start of the Kolb era has at least been put on hold. He will be on the sideline when the Eagles play Sunday in Jacksonville against the Jaguars at 4:05 p.m.

Vick's promotion "also allows Kevin to continue as a young quarterback in the National Football League, his maturation process, and, again, to become a franchise quarterback in the future," Reid said.

Reid was asked whether he was comfortable with that scenario in light of Vick's dogfighting past and the fact that he remains a polarizing figure.

"One of the great things about America is you're given a second chance if you handle it the proper way," Reid said. "And I've mentioned this before: I think he's handled this the proper way. I think his teammates would all stand up for him, just as they would Kevin Kolb. But they would stand up for Michael for what he's tried to do in changing his life around, and I know I sit here and do the same."

Before his arrest for his involvement in a Virginia Beach dogfighting ring, Vick was among the best players in the NFL. As a member of the Atlanta Falcons, he thrilled fans with his athleticism and became a hero to young men, especially those who identified with his inner-city upbringing.

But in April 2007, police found evidence of a dogfighting complex at Vick's Virginia home. What happened next was a downward spiral that rivaled the greatest in sports, with Vick eventually pleading guilty to running the operation and participating in the execution of several dogs.

Vick served 18 months at Leavenworth, Kan., federal prison and was released in May 2009. After a two-month house arrest and his conditional reentry into the league, the Eagles made the controversial move of signing him to a two-year contract.

Vick's return to prominence wasn't as rapid as his fall. But just a little more than a year after the Eagles signed him, Vick is now their starter.

Reid did not commit to Vick's being his starter for the entire season, however, he said that "right now" Vick is the No. 1 quarterback. And when asked whether he believed Vick was capable this season of winning the Super Bowl, Reid responded, "Absolutely."

With the Falcons, Vick went as far as the 2004 NFC championship game when the Eagles defeated his Atlanta Falcons on their way to Super Bowl XXXIX. But Vick's run-first ways plagued his last few Falcons teams.

After watching Vick play just six quarters this season - when the quarterback nearly rallied the Eagles past the Packers and won at Detroit - Reid said he came away convinced that the 30-year-old was a different quarterback.

"One of the questions we had about Michael Vick was, and has been a question throughout his career is, 'Can he be a pocket passer?' " Reid said. "I think you saw Michael Vick, under duress, was able to move, maintain his eyes down the field, and make throws down the field."

Vick threw for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran for 103 yards in one half of the loss to Green Bay. But against the Lions, he was much more of a pocket passer, tossing for 284 yards and two touchdowns in the 35-32 victory. A career 54 percent passer, he has raised that to nearly 64 percent this season.

Reid said none of his players approached him about making the change. However, one offensive starter, who asked not to be identified, said the locker room had begun to shift its support to Vick after his stellar performance in Detroit.

"I feel that whoever management decides gives us the best chance of winning should be our qb," guard Todd Herremans wrote on Twitter.

Eagles defensive end Victor Abiamiri simply tweeted, "Wow."

On Comcast SportsNet, wide receiver DeSean Jackson said: "That means we're going to go out there and have some more fun. I'm excited for whoever. I just want to go out and win football games."

Reid said the final decision was his, and a member of the Eagles' front office said that the organization stood behind its coach's choice. An Eagles source said Reid began to think about making the move after watching the Detroit film on Monday. After the game, Reid had said that Kolb was still the starter.

"At the time, I told you what I believed," Reid said. "Obviously I'm not - like any of us - able to predict the future."

An Eagles source said the offensive line's struggles in the first two games, in which the quarterbacks were sacked 12 times, played into the decision. Vick is much more mobile than Kolb.

Reid, though, said it had nothing to with the line. He also said it had nothing to do with Kolb, although the team has invested a second-round pick, three years of development, and a $10.7 million signing bonus in the young quarterback.

"This isn't about judging Kevin," Reid said. "Listen, Kevin is going to be a fine quarterback in the National Football League - a championship-caliber quarterback."

Reid said he spent the last two days meeting with Kolb, who was cleared to return to practice on Friday after symptoms from his concussion had passed. He said that the quarterback did not ask to be traded.

"Kevin Kolb would like to be the starting quarterback of this football team, and I wouldn't expect anything less," Reid said. "This is one of the most competitive kids I've been around."

Messages left with Kolb and his agent, Jeff Nalley, were not returned last night.

After Reid walked away from the NovaCare podium a reporter asked whether this was the toughest coaching decision he's ever had to make.

"Tough," he said, "but tough in a good way."


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Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or Follow him on Twitter at

Staff writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this story.

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