Reid runs reverse, names Vick as Eagles starter and sits Kolb

Michael Vick heads down tunnel to the field Sunday at Detroit, where he led the Eagles to a 35-32 victory.
Michael Vick heads down tunnel to the field Sunday at Detroit, where he led the Eagles to a 35-32 victory.
Posted: September 22, 2010

HERE'S ANDY REID on Monday, Sept. 13, when asked about the possibility of Michael Vick supplanting Kevin Kolb as the Eagles' starting quarterback: "That's not what's happening . . . Well, let me say it again. I know I'm using poor English. Kevin Kolb is the No. 1 quarterback."

Here's Andy Reid on Tuesday, Sept. 21: "I'm obviously here to announce that Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles."

In what might have been the most unReidlike turnaround of the Reid era, the Eagles' coach announced yesterday evening that he was drawing the curtain over those careful plans he made to have Kolb succeed Donovan McNabb, at least for now. Vick's play has been so impressive in six quarters of work, since Kolb suffered a concussion in the opener against the Packers, that Reid feels he must go with the hot hand, he said.

"This isn't about Kevin Kolb's play at all," Reid said. "You're talking about Michael Vick as one of the best quarterbacks right now in the National Football League, and I think that's the important thing to focus on."

As good as Vick has been - Reid pointed out that he is the NFL's fourth-ranked passer, with a 105.5 rating, after 2 weeks - it is only 2 weeks. Kolb was the Eagles' starter for 2 weeks a year ago, and he became the first QB in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in each of his first two starts. Yet Reid did not make Kolb the starter then, ahead of McNabb. Kolb's passing numbers in those games: 55-for-85, 718 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions. Vick's numbers this season: 37-for-58, 459 yards, three TDs, no interceptions.

Reid said last night that the difference is, Vick had a much greater previous body of work than Kolb; presumably, that means Reid feels he can be sure he will get more performances like Sunday's, when Vick survived a porous offensive line to lead the Birds to a 35-32 victory at Detroit. Though Reid did neatly avoid efforts to get him to say last night that Vick had the job for the rest of the season.

Outside Philadelphia, where most people know Vick as a former superstar and think Kolb's name is pronounced "Cole-ub," this has been the direction the Eagles seemed likely to take from the time Kolb's first incompletion fell to the Linc turf. If you know Reid, if you followed the team's painstaking decision process in trading McNabb, then signing Kolb to a contract extension through 2011 that included a $10 million-plus signing bonus, if you followed everything Reid said about Kolb through the spring and summer, then this is stunning.

"Are you sure, or are you just messing with me?" wideout DeSean Jackson asked, when the news broke during his weekly segment on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live."

No doubt, various conspiracy theories will be aired. Reid and then general manager Howie Roseman denied last night that the decision came from anyone but the coach.

"He's our decision-maker and we support him," Roseman said.

Could the Eagles, who don't have Vick under contract after this season and haven't discussed an extension, a league source said this week, be trying to enhance his trade value? That seems incredibly far-fetched. But so did this announcement, until it happened.

Neither Vick nor Kolb was available for comment last night. Someone familiar with Kolb's thinking said he is not expected to seek a trade.

"I think it's going to be very hard on Kevin," said right tackle Winston Justice. "Kevin is a real competitor, and he's very competitive, and wants to get on the field. So I think he'll use this as motivation."

Today, when practice resumes, will be a whole new world for Kolb and for Vick, who both will face painful questions. Vick came to the Eagles 13 months ago, fresh from federal prison, where he served more than a year-and-a-half for being the kingpin of a dogfighting ring. He was banned from the NFL and released by the Atlanta Falcons, who had made him the face of their franchise, after details surfaced in 2007 of years of Vick's horrible mutilation, torture and killing of dogs.

It is one thing to have Vick on the roster as a reclamation project, appearing briefly here and there. It is another thing to make him your starting QB. Reid was asked last night about making Vick the face of the franchise.

"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."

Of course, as Vick gets his second chance, Kolb might be wondering where his first chance went. Reid seemed oblivious to the idea that sitting Kolb down, after half a game, following enormous buildup, would mark Kolb forever, in the eyes of fans and teammates. Reid said the decision had nothing to do with Kolb's health; on Sunday and Monday, Reid said Kolb had been cleared to play and would start this week against Jacksonville.

Reid said he began the change by speaking to Kolb on Monday, then again yesterday. He said sitting behind Vick, after 3 years of sitting behind McNabb, would continue Kolb's "maturation" process. But it was clear last spring that Kolb would not have signed a contract extension here to be a backup, which was a key factor in the trading of McNabb.

"This isn't about judging Kevin. Listen, Kevin is going to be a fine quarterback in the National Football League, a championship-caliber quarterback," Reid said. He said he very much wants Kolb to remain an Eagle. "The thing that you find with young quarterbacks, this is the way it is with every quarterback that I've studied in the National Football League - you need to be allowed a maturation process, an opportunity to mature. When you have somebody that's sitting in that role or has been given an opportunity to play in the game that is playing at the level that Michael Vick is playing, then Michael Vick deserves the opportunity to continue to do that."

Reid said Vick's "first concern obviously is about Kevin. I think, on the other hand, he relishes this opportunity."

"I didn't expect, obviously, the acclerated play of Michael," Reid said. "I mean, he's playing exceptional football right now. I think that's obvious to everybody."

After his news conference, asked if he thought Vick outplayed Kolb in training camp, Reid said he would "give the edge to Kevin there."

So this really was a matter of scrapping a long-term plan over what happened the last 2 weeks.

"I think very few quarterbacks can go out and play the way he played the last couple of weeks . . . 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?' I think you saw Michael Vick, under duress, was able to move, maintain his eyes down the field, and make throws down the field," Reid said. "He's one of the top third-down throwers in the National Football League right now, and can help this football team, obviously, win games."

Reid said his change of mind had nothing to do with an offensive line that has allowed a league-high dozen sacks, but he did indirectly acknowledge that it might have been hard to get the locker room back in Kolb mode, after players got a taste of what they might be able to do with Vick.

"Well, the team has seen, obviously, the great play by Michael Vick, just like you saw it, and I saw it. So that's part of this decision," he said. "I think we all sat there on Sunday and went, 'Wow, this guy is back, and maybe even a little bit better,' and that's a beautiful deal. I think that's a beautiful deal."

Of course, on Sunday, Reid pretty much downplayed Vick's excellence, speaking of plays he'd "like to have back," and emphasizing he would forge ahead with Kolb.

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