John Smallwood: Vick has nothing left to prove so show him the money

Posted: November 22, 2010

OF COURSE there is a risk.

There is always a risk involved when you're talking about investing millions of dollars in a quarterback and making him the face of your franchise.

The only question the Eagles have to ask is does signing Michael Vick to a new long-term contract represent a bigger risk than if they were thinking about signing any other quarterback.

No, it does not.

Is there a chance that what we've seen from Vick this season won't carry over as soon as you ink him to a 5- or 6-year deal?

Sure.

But there is no more uncertainty than when the Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in 1999 with the assumption that he would develop into a franchise quarterback.

And there is not any more doubt than when the Birds extended Kevin Kolb in April, paying him $12 million this season to see if he was ready to be the quarterback of the future.

The truth of the matter is that the Eagles know far more about Vick and what kind of player he is capable of being than when they made either of their last major quarterback decisions.

Frankly, the only thing that's likely causing management to drag its feet on negotiations with Vick is that it probably has a hard time rationalizing how the quarterback's performance has so much exceeded their wildest expectations.

After leading the Eagles to a 27-17 victory over the New York Giants last night at Lincoln Financial Field in a battle for first place in the NFC East, Vick is now 5-0 in games that he has started and played to completion.

He's passed for 1,608 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a passer rating of 108.7.

Vick has also rushed for 375 yards and five touchdowns.

He is the unquestioned leader of this team.

I doubt the Eagles fully believe they are in this situation.

I doubt that when they signed Vick fresh out of a 2-year prison stint in August 2009 they truly imagined he would work his way back into being an elite NFL quarterback.

Head coach Andy Reid & Co. may have believed that they could coach Vick up enough to make him trade bait, but no way they thought they'd end up with one of the best quarterbacks of the 2010 season.

But that's what Vick is.

No quarterback, not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Philip Rivers, is having a better season than Vick.

Vick wasn't near his best against the Giants yet he still led the Birds to victory against a tough division rival.

Don't get me wrong, because Vick wasn't terrible. His final numbers were a respectable 24 of 38 for 258 yards.

He, however, was not the unstoppable force that has had people talking about a redefinition of the quarterback position. And in all honesty, that was the last test.

What would Vick do when things were not flowing right from the get-go, when the defense had seemingly come up with a strategy to contain him.

Vick had that moment - the winning moment, the kind that separates the great quarterbacks from the merely good ones.

The Eagles trailed 17-16 with just under 8 minutes remaining, in large part because the Giants had scored off a fumble by Vick.

The Birds were down by a point and 90 yards from the end zone.

Vick's job at that moment was to drive his team down the field and get points in any way possible.

That's what he did.

Four completed passes and a penalty moved the Eagles to midfield, but still left them with a fourth and inches.

Vick bobbled a snap from center Mike McGlynn but quickly regained possession.

He then pitched a toss-sweep to LeSean McCoy, who sprinted 50 yards for the winning touchdown.

"The one thing I was thinking was that it was fourth down so don't fumble the snap," Vick said, "and I bobbled it.

"Fortunately, I was able to get the ball out to LeSean. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we were going to have to be resilient. It was a great win for the team."

Finding a way to win is the primary responsibility of a quarterback. It is arguably the most difficult one to master.

For most of the season, Vick has done that in a spectacular fashion. Against the Giants, he did it in a more pedestrian manner.

The point, however, is that he did, and the Eagles are 7-3 and leading the division.

So, it's time for management to step up and get a contract with Vick done.

Vick has proven himself.

There is simply no evidence to suggest that he will suddenly stop performing at the level he has been.

And, let's be honest, it makes no sense to leave a quarterback performing at this level on a lame-duck contract.

If Vick, who just turned 30, had not been out of football for two seasons, there's no question he'd be in negotiations for a new contract.

Certainly the Eagles can wait on this until after the season. They can always put a franchise tag on Vick to assure that he'll be here in 2011 - if there is a season.

That might even be the best business decision, but can you imagine how that will play in an Eagles locker room that voted Vick the recipient of the 2009 Ed Block Courage Award when he actually hadn't made much of a contribution on the field.

Every player in the league knows exactly what Vick now is and where he ranks among elite quarterbacks.

The Eagles committed themselves to walk a certain path when Reid benched Kolb after a half of football and named Vick the permanent starter.

They also had to know that would become a no-refund decision if Vick did indeed play to the anticipated level.

That's where the Eagles are now.

What began as "The Michael Vick Social Experiment" has morphed into having to make an expensive football decision.

There isn't much left to debate. The bill has come due.

Vick's performance has shown that the appropriate football decision is to commit to him as the present-and-future quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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