Michael Vick and Eli Manning: A story of two quarterbacks and shifting perceptions

Posted: October 01, 2012

On the morning of Nov. 22, 2010, fans in Philadelphia and New York awoke with differing opinions of their starting quarterbacks. One quarterback was turnover-prone, fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter, and bore the blame for his team's loss. The other was careful with the football, a steadying presence on offense, and helped his team to a come-from-behind victory.

Guess which one was the Eagles' Michael Vick and which one was the New York Giants' Eli Manning?

It's not what it is today. On that morning, Manning was criticized for throwing three interceptions and making a costly fumble during a season in which the Giants failed to make the playoffs and Manning's 25 interceptions was one of the primary reasons. Vick did not throw an interception that night, led the offense to a fourth-quarter comeback, and helped the Eagles to the NFC East crown. Vick was perhaps the NFL's best quarterback that season, and certainly the most-discussed.

Entering Sunday's game against the Giants - the first Sunday Night Football game between the two quarterbacks since that night - the conversation has reversed. Manning has two Super Bowl rings and is near the top of anyone's ranking of quarterbacks. Vick is seemingly fighting to keep his job.

"For the same reason Eli's being defined by what he's done in the playoffs, so is everybody else," said Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, who will broadcast Sunday's game. "Until you win in the Super Bowl, you're one of the other guys, almost no matter what you've done."

Manning is 19-10 since that game in 2010, including an MVP performance to win last season's Super Bowl. He is widely considered among the NFL's most clutch quarterbacks and has started every game since he became the Giants' No. 1 quarterback in 2004.

Vick is 12-10 since that night, with injuries and turnovers serving as painful deterrents in the Eagles' $100 million pledge to make him their franchise quarterback. For the first time in what has now been two years as the starter, Vick endured questions last week about whether he'll be replaced.

"Put him out on the trade market and see what kind of response you'd get. There would be about half the league lining up," Collinsworth said. "I hear the same sort of thing about Tony Romo a lot. I'm like, 'Oh, yeah? Trade him.' See how quickly people react to that. . . . I have a feeling Mike Vick's not going anywhere for Philadelphia."

Not many similarities

Manning's and Vick's careers includes a subtle link.

They were both the No. 1 pick in years when the San Diego Chargers held the top spot. The Chargers traded the pick both times - once bypassing Vick, the next when Manning did not want to play in San Diego.

Both have endured criticism about turnovers at various points in their careers and both have also experienced success. Only three quarterbacks have ever won a postseason game as a visitor at Green Bay's Lambeau Field - Vick was the first, and Manning, who has done it twice, the most recent.

That is where the similarities end.

"I never put Eli Manning and Michael Vick in the same sentence for a number of reasons," said NFL Network analyst Shaun O'Hara, Manning's former center with the Giants. "No. 1, the obvious, Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion, but they're two totally different quarterbacks.

Vick, 32, entered the league billed as a player who could redefine the position with a combination of athletic and passing ability. He was the youngest quarterback to win a postseason game in 2003, and led the Falcons to one game short of the Super Bowl in January 2005. He has not won a playoff game since and is only 32-26 as a starting quarterback since that season.

Manning, 31, is football royalty, the brother of Peyton and the son of Archie. Eli plays and acts as if he's the prototype for a quarterback. Yet his performance always seemed to be wanting until January 2008, when the Giants took an unexpected march to the Super Bowl and Manning was the MVP after New York beat the New England Patriots.

He earned another Super Bowl MVP award last season, when he again led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Manning has 26 game-winning drives in his career.

"More than any other position in any other sport, how you play in the fourth quarter - and winning and losing - defines your career," Collinsworth said. "For my money, I can't think of anybody who's done better with everything on the line in the postseason than what Eli has done."

Manning's numbers have improved almost every year since his first title - save for the 25 interceptions in 2010 - and he has earned respect for playing at his best in both Super Bowls.

"It's got everything to do with it," Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "Once he won his first Super Bowl, people still were skeptical of him, but you got to respect him. But then what he's done since, especially last year, going out and winning the second Super Bowl and the way he turned it down and how he played throughout the playoffs, you got to give him respect."

Does Vick need a title?

The prevailing question in Philadelphia has become: How good is Vick at this stage of his career, and can he lead the Eagles to where Manning has twice been? His performance early in the season has underwhelmed, with nine turnovers in three games and questionable decision-making. Yet Vick also spearheaded two fourth-quarter wins with late-minute drives.

"Mike Vick delivered on those two fourth-quarter drives, and somehow the story remains, 'Yeah, but'? " Collinsworth said. "Who cares? We just got finished saying quarterbacks are defined by how they win and how they play in the fourth quarter, so in my mind, I know he's got [nine] of the 12 turnovers, but you also got two wins that aren't happening unless he's brilliant in the fourth quarter."

When Vick was asked whether he puts more stock into the way the quarterback performs or whether the quarterback wins, he said the two are connected. O'Hara complimented Vick's skills, but has noticed that Vick "puts so much pressure on himself," and the pressure has contributed to the amount of hits Vick endures and the turnovers he's committed.

"That's really something that comes with maturity, and I think Eli has learned that throughout his career," O'Hara said. "Sometimes the best play is to throw it out of bounds and go onto the next down."

The Eagles are missing Jason Peters and Jason Kelce on the offensive line, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was sidelined last week with a hip injury. Peters' backup, King Dunlap, is also out with an injury. The offense is built for Vick to make plays and find his receivers downfield, and the injuries hamper that effort.

It's worth revisiting 2010, when Manning struggled with turnovers and Vick didn't. And he was effective late in games. Manning proved last season that he is far better than a 25-interception quarterback. Vick needs to prove that he's not a turnover-prone, injury-prone quarterback, and that he can lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl - or else the questions of his job security become louder, and the skills will be overshadowed by the losses.


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter @ZBerm.

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