Paul Domowitch: Eagles' Reid might be doomed if Vick stays healthy

Michael Vick , who didn't cope well with Cleveland's pressure, can't get this pass past Jabaal Sheard.
Michael Vick , who didn't cope well with Cleveland's pressure, can't get this pass past Jabaal Sheard. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 13, 2012

THOSE OF YOU who are eager to see Andy Reid become the former head coach of the Eagles might be wise to root for Michael Vick to be the picture of health this season.

Because if he continues to play as poorly as he did in Sunday's 17-16 win over the Browns, he not only will shatter George Blanda's 50-year-old record for interceptions in a season (42), he'll also get Reid fired.

Six years ago, when his son was Vick's head coach in Atlanta, Jim Mora famously described the quarterback as a "coach killer."

"It worries me a little bit because my son is the head coach down there, ya know?" Mora said. "[Vick] is a great athlete. My son likes him a lot. He's a good kid. But he's not a passer."

Sure enough, a little more than a month after Mora said that, his son was fired after the Falcons finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

Ever since he was selected by the Falcons with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, Vick has teased people with his talent. That cannon of an arm. The catch-me-if-you-can running ability.

But the cannon never has been very accurate, as evidenced by his .559 career completion percentage. And the running ability, well, it's made for a lot of great "SportsCenter" highlights. But for a quarterback in the NFL, it's still about being able to throw the football.

Just once in his career has he had a passer rating higher than 85.

Just once has he thrown more than 20 touchdown passes in a season. Ten years into his career, he's still averaging more yards per carry (7.1) than yards per pass attempt (7.0).

When the Eagles signed Vick in August 2009 after his release from prison, it wasn't Reid's intention to ever make him his starting quarterback. Influenced by two of his own sons' prison experiences, Reid brought Vick in to give him a chance to start putting his life back together, more than anything else.

But then Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion in the first game of the 2010 season, and everything changed overnight. Reid benched Kolb and went to Vick, who caught lightning in a bottle and helped the Eagles make the playoffs, only to throw an interception that killed a potential game-winning drive against the eventual Super Bowl-champion Packers.

Last year, there was no lightning in the bottle and no playoffs, just 14 interceptions and six red-zone turnovers and a vow by Vick that this year would be different.

But Sunday wasn't different. In fact it was worse, a lot worse. Four interceptions and more bad decisions than you can shake a stick at.

Reid attributed Vick's poor performance to rust caused by taking just 12 preseason snaps. But there was more going on Sunday than rust.

Rust is poor timing with your receivers. Rust is being high or low with your throws.

Rust isn't failing to go through your progressions or staring down a receiver or throwing sidearm and across your body and off of one foot like Vick was doing. Rust isn't dashing out of the pocket before the protection breaks down or failing to see defenders in coverage.

You know how some people are color blind? Well, Sunday, I was starting to think Vick might be linebacker blind. He continually failed to see the Browns linebackers dropping back into coverage. Three of his four interceptions were by linebackers. Another three passes almost were picked off by linebackers.

Depending on whose numbers you want to use, Vick was hit 11 to 15 times on Sunday. His protection wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. The problem was that Vick kept abandoning the pocket when he didn't need to. Often didn't see open receivers because he was running around.

One of Reid's more revealing comments at his Monday press conference came when he was being quizzed about the hits Vick took in the game and who was to blame. Asked if Vick gets hit more than other quarterbacks in the league, he said, "Well, in the pocket, I wouldn't say he gets hit more than the other quarterbacks." The between-the-lines translation there: Stay in the damn pocket, Mike. Whether he will listen, well, we'll see.

Seven years ago, when the Eagles beat Vick and the Falcons in the 2004 NFC Championship Game, the late Jim Johnson used a "mush rush" against the quarterback, sacrificing pressure with a deliberate stay-in-your-lanes pass rush that made him throw from the pocket.

Now, the most effective strategy against Vick is to blitz him. Early and often. Even Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who doesn't ordinarily like to blitz, sent extra rushers after Vick, mostly off the weakside. They even used those slot corner blitzes that the Vikings employed 2 years ago to upset the Eagles in that Tuesday night game after Christmas that cost the Eagles a shot at a playoff bye.

Vick's poor recognition of those blitzes, particularly since he had an entire offseason and summer to get ready for them, was disturbing.

He completed just eight of 17 passes for 135 yards when the Browns sent extra rushers Sunday. Both of his sacks came on blitzes. So did one of his four picks. He finished with a 49.9 passer rating against the blitz.

Last year, he was only a little better. He had a 65.5 passer rating against the blitz. Eighteen of his 23 sacks and 11 of his 14 interceptions came on plays when opponents sent extra rushers.

By comparison, the Cowboys' Tony Romo had an 85.1 passer rating against the blitz last year, including only three interceptions. The Giants' Eli Manning had a 98.4 passer rating against the blitz. Even the Redskins' Rex Grossman had a better blitz passer rating than Vick (74.5).

On Sunday, Vick will face a Ravens defense that's going to be considerably more tenacious than the one he faced this week. It sacked the Bengals' Andy Dalton four times and held him without a touchdown pass in the Ravens' 44-13, Monday night win.

The Ravens blitzed Dalton 16 times. He completed just six of 14 passes against extra rushers, was sacked twice and threw an interception.

They will blitz at least that much against Vick on Sunday. And if Vick isn't any better prepared for it than he was last Sunday, Reid is going to have an interesting decision to make.


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pdomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

 

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