Vick helps defuse Eagles' QB situation

Posted: October 16, 2013

HERE ARE two widely held beliefs in sports: You need to have one quarterback and you need to have one goalie.

The reasons cited include player confidence, team unity, and playing style. But here in Philly, a town full of teams in turnaround mode, your new hockey coach has made it clear he's not in any rush to name one goalie, and your new football coach has discounted the importance of all three factors - including that one about a unified locker room.

"I don't see any divisions in the locker room," the Eagles' Chip Kelly said yesterday when I asked if that factored into deciding who to start at quarterback next Sunday against Dallas. "Or one side going one way and one side going another."

I agree with him on this, and it's because of Michael Vick. Whether it is self-confidence, the lingering sting of last year's injury-pocked mess, or a maturation that can no longer be questioned, Vick's impressive professional attitude as he nurses a cranky hamstring has defused - at least temporarily - the powderkeg of controversy that the network broadcasters and some others in the media predicted would come about after Nick Foles' ridiculously outstanding game in Tampa.

This was Vick after Foles completed 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, on top of the one he ran in:

"When you know you've got a quarterback behind you who can play, who will go out there and get the job done, the team believes in him, the guys believe in him, the coaching staff believes in him, you don't have to rush it.

"It's a good space to be in."

Kelly again implied yesterday that he would not play Vick until he was 100 percent healthy. But anyone who has ever suffered through any degree of hamstring pull will tell you that you can never quite tell when 100 percent is reached. It might feel fine running around on it, and then suddenly pop - you're right back where you were, or worse. Or it might feel 100 percent one day, you go to sleep, and there it is again when you awaken.

There are three degrees of hamstring strains. Neither Vick or Kelly has categorized his injury, but the advice for recovering from all three on several websites includes this piece of salient advice:

Avoid physical activity so as not to cause reinjury.

So how do you measure 100 percent, less than 2 weeks removed from the injury? Vick wasn't 100 percent for Tampa, but the Eagles still activated him and Kelly said afterward that he could have finished the game if they needed him to.

My guess is they will repeat this for the Dallas game. It's the free card Vick has allowed his coach, perhaps in appreciation for how the coach handled this summer's competition between the two, or maybe because he simply wants to be playing in Week 10 and beyond - not standing on the sideline, victimized again by injury, his future a dubious cloud once again.

"You've just got to be cautious with an injury like this," Vick said Sunday. "You go out there and stress it out, you hurt yourself for the next 2 weeks, next 3 weeks. I just gotta make sure I'm 100 percent."

Is this a risky play for Vick? Sure. A big one? That depends on how sold you are that what you saw from Foles in Tampa is what you will see in weeks to come. Former Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was all over radio and television yesterday, telling everyone that he was sold.

Former running back Brian Westbrook, on Comcast's SportsNet's "Philly Sports Talk," wasn't as sure. "Tampa didn't force Nick Foles to beat them," he said. "Tampa let Nick Foles beat them.

"The offensive line feels better about Nick Foles because they don't have to block all over the place. The receivers felt good because they got the ball. The running back, he still had 100 yards. But I think in the long run, when you have a larger sample, Nick Foles struggles. I really do."

Either way, here's the bottom line, as expressed by Kelly yesterday: "I think in this league, for you to be successful, you'd better have depth. I think it showed in our quarterback spot and it was very evident. I know a lot of people, when your No. 1 quarterback goes down, there's a very big dropoff. There was no dropoff for us at all."

It's no trivial point. Houston's season has imploded because it has no viable alternative to Matt Schaub. Last season, Kansas City's players lost their spirit with each awful effort by Matt Cassel. In Tampa, where Josh Freeman was benched, then released, the Eagles saw firsthand that a quarterback controversy is far, far better than a no-quarterback controversy.

And really, if Michael Vick is willing to ride it out, why can't we?


Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon

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