Eagles' Vick has shot at greatness, but he's not there yet

Posted: January 17, 2011

There were things Michael Vick could have done better. When his entire team was struggling against Minnesota in a pivotal Week 16 game, Vick could have sucked up a bruised quadriceps and made the Eagles' offense better, not worse.

The great ones do.

In the final minute last Sunday against Green Bay from the Packers' 27-yard line, Vick could have checked down to Jeremy Maclin or LeSean McCoy for a safe play that surely would have moved the Eagles inside the 20. If he was determined to go for the touchdown, he could have thrown the ball high and outside - instead of low and inside - to a place where only Riley Cooper could catch it, or it would sail out of bounds.

The great ones do that, too.

Vick is not there, not yet. He was not, as he said last Monday after a promising season was cut short by his mistake, co-MVP of the NFL. He was in the discussion for 15 weeks of the season. The Minnesota game cost him.

But after what he saw from Vick this season, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg thinks the 30-year-old has a chance - a chance - to become a great one.

"He's got a good opportunity to become one of the best ever," Mornhinweg told me on Thursday. "He's got several things to do to get that done."

Last week was a melancholy one at the NovaCare Complex. No one was ready for the season to end. No one thought it was going to end, not with the ball in Vick's hands and not after all the comeback wins he had delivered.

In that spot, the Eagles liked their chances. And then, moving on, who knows? A big game at Chicago? A potentially huge game at Atlanta, where half the stadium would be Falcons fans wearing Vick jerseys? The Eagles liked their chances there, too.

Instead, the players cleaned out their lockers on Monday. Some, like a teary-eyed Quintin Mikell, left wondering if they would return. Others, like Vick, figured they would. One, Kevin Kolb, decided he did not want to unless he would be the starter in 2011, which seems like a long shot.

Vick will be back, most likely via the franchise tag. While the Eagles would like to keep Kolb as an insurance policy for Vick, if they can exchange him for a difference maker, they likely will move him.

Kolb's value will never be higher. Plenty of teams would take a 26-year-old who is 3-3 in games he has started and finished.

Last year, Seattle exchanged second-round picks with San Diego and gave up a third-round pick in 2011 for Charlie Whitehurst, who spent four years as Philip Rivers' backup and never threw a pass for the Chargers.

In 2009, Kansas City gave New England a second-round pick for Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel, who spent four years as Tom Brady's backup and started 15 games after Brady blew out his knee in Week 1 of 2008.

In 2006, weeks before Vick's dogfighting became public, Atlanta flopped first-round picks with Houston and got the Texans' second-round picks in 2007 and 2008 for Matt Schaub, who had started two games in three years as Vick's backup.

Asked what the Eagles could get for Kolb, one NFC general manager quipped via text, "Regrets for losing him." When pressed, the general manager conceded Kolb's value "has a first-round shot."

The Eagles are banking on Mornhinweg's evaluation that Vick can become one of the greats. This is an important off-season for Vick. He needs more experience with the drop-back passing game, with recognizing defenses before the snap and then immediately after. That comes only with the experience of minicamps, training camp, preseason games, and regular-season games.

Vick was the second-string quarterback throughout the 2010 preseason and training camp. He did not take his first practice snap as the starting quarterback until Week 2.

Vick made an unexpected monster leap in his grasp of the passing game, but it is the little details - like not pump-faking too dramatically or checking down into a higher-percentage play - that will elevate Vick into the upper echelon of quarterbacks.

If the NFL and the players do not hammer out a collective bargaining agreement before the draft, Vick will lose valuable practice snaps. Vick admitted that going through an entire off-season as the No. 1 guy "would pay huge dividends for me." He has played only 11 full games as the Eagles' starting quarterback. There is plenty of room to grow.

"Quarterbacks get the starting job and do pretty well, but it's two to three years and then they're playing at the top of their game," Mornhinweg said. "Some hit it a little later."

The Eagles think Vick will hit it sooner, but the NFC general manager has his doubts. His analysis of Vick: "Special athlete and QB who takes a beating and production then falls off."

That was the case this season. To be truly special, Vick will have to do something about that part of his game, too.

Contact columnist Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com. Follow

her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AshleyMFox.

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