PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick doesn't know whether he'll play next week. He broke his right hand (which is not the hand he throws with) in Sunday's 29-16 loss to the New York Giants on a hit he thought should have been penalized. It was the second week in a row he left the game while the Philadelphia Eagles had a lead and the second week in a row they failed to hold that lead and lost. The conventional wisdom is that this Eagles team will go as far as Vick takes it -- that if he's out, it has no chance to realize its Super Bowl goals. In the long run, a 16-game season, I agree.
However, after watching the Eagles try to run their offense Sunday without any semblance of cohesion or reliable communication, consumed by their fear of getting their quarterback knocked out of the game, I now believe that a couple of weeks without Vick would actually benefit the Eagles. I think an injury that keeps Vick out for, say, two or three weeks would be a blessing in disguise for an Eagles team that right now, with Vick, is in disarray.
He is right, of course, and as brilliant and vital a player as Vick is, the Eagles are not devoid of talent elsewhere on the roster. They have one of the best backup quarterback situations in the league with Young, a veteran with a 30-17 career NFL record, and Kafka, a young backup who has spent the past couple of years learning the offense under Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. As long as they have their full complement of receiver and running back stars, the Eagles will have more than enough talent to score points with a backup quarterback on the field.
But it goes deeper than that, this notion that losing Vick for a short time might benefit the Eagles. They have major issues to sort out on defense and on the offensive line, and this mess with Vick is impeding those units' chances for progress and improvement. Vick and the problems they're having keeping him upright and on the field are suffocating the Eagles right now, and they could use a break from all the chaos.
"After getting a concussion and coming back the next week, you never really know what's going through his head," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "We have to protect him and make sure he's healthy. Every time he steps out on the field, I'm very confident in what he's able to do. We will just have to figure things out."
With Vick in the game Sunday, the Eagles were tentative. They were out of sync on offense. Center Jason Kelce referred multiple times to "cadence issues" that cost the offense in penalties and broken plays, and those could have been the result of Vick's having missed practices last week during his concussion testing. Even when they did get the snap off, there were too many plays when it looked as though Vick's protection of himself was the foremost thing on his mind. Plays where he'd normally run but seemed to pull up as if thinking, "Wait! I'm not supposed to do that as much," then threw into coverage instead. When the Eagles got near the goal line, they tried ramming the ball up the middle instead of taking a chance on rolling out Vick to either throw or run it into the end zone -- as though they were afraid of leaving him exposed for a big hit.
"I am conscious of my safety, and I want to protect myself at all times, even though sometimes I can't," Vick said. "I trust in my offensive linemen, and I want to stay healthy for my team. I guess I've got to do more."
Maybe. But maybe he has to do less. Maybe it wouldn't hurt the Eagles for Vick to spend a game or two on the sideline, letting his hand and assorted other bumps and bruises heal while the offensive line and defense do the work they need to do to get into their own rhythms. Maybe a couple of weeks in which Vick isn't the all-consuming issue around the Eagles would be the break the rest of the roster needs to work on the things they need to do that have nothing to do with Vick. And then maybe, in a few weeks, when he's all better, he would come back behind an offensive line that has more confidence and cohesion than it has now.
Vick doesn't need confidence. He has it by the truckload. But his linemen could use some. So could the Eagles' linebackers. Heck, after being burned twice by Victor Cruz, of all people, the Eagles' gold-plated secondary could use a bit of a confidence boost, too.
The Eagles don't want Vick to be hurt. They'd love for him to be on the field, doing everything they know he can do to help them win when he's at his best and everything's clicking. But right now, when Vick is on the field, everything's not clicking, and the Eagles aren't at their best. That's why a couple of weeks without Vick might just be what the Eagles need to get their feet under them.