Mike & Mike in the Morning are doing their "two-a-days," in which they review two NFL teams per day during the offseason, and Wednesday morning's first team was the Philadelphia Eagles -- 2011's most disappointing team. Mike and Mike ran through the usual stuff -- they need a linebacker in the draft, etc. Rattled off the usual names -- Kuechly, Burfict, etc. But then they arrived at what, for me, is the crux of the thing. They started talking about quarterback Michael Vick.
"It's about him and health," Mike Golic said, which is true to a certain extent. The fact that Vick played the Arizona game with broken ribs that he wouldn't tell anyone about and missed the following three games was costly. The Eagles went 1-3 during that stretch, including the inexcusable Arizona loss, and finished just one game behind the division-champion Giants.
But I caution against limiting the analysis of Vick to merely health and the risks he takes with his body. I think Vick's performance while healthy in 2011 was a major part of the Eagles' problem, and that even if he's healthy in 2012, he needs to make some changes to the way he operates if the Eagles are in fact going to recover from the 2011 mess and turn things around.
Vick started the Eagles' first nine games in 2011, and the Eagles went 3-6 in those games. He was not awful, nor was he the sole reason they lost the six they lost. But he bore a lot more responsibility for the losses than much of the postseason analysis would have you believe. Vick threw 11 interceptions and lost three fumbles in those nine games against just 11 touchdown passes (and he didn't run for any touchdowns, either, by the way). Of the 11 interceptions, 10 came in the six losses. The Eagles lost those six games by an average of 5.8 points.
This was razor's-edge stuff, this poor Eagles' start. The Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago and Arizona losses all could have tilted their way quite easily. And when you're playing close games and giving away fourth-quarter leads, you simply have to look at the fact that your quarterback keeps turning the ball over as a big reason the games aren't going your way. While Eli Manning was leading the Giants on a fourth-quarter comeback seemingly every week, Vick didn't have one. In fact, Vick's fourth quarters were, in many key ways, quite the opposite.
Vick took on a lot more responsibility for the offense in 2011 than he had before. Specifically, he was in charge of changing the offensive line protection at the line of scrimmage for the first time. The line was made up of a bunch of new pieces, and it'd be easy to excuse some confusion. But the Eagles are excusing a lot of things based on the lockout, the lack of an offseason and all of the new faces they brought in. Those excuses are out the window in 2012. Vick will have a full offseason to prepare with basically the same team (though we'll see about DeSean Jackson). If he comes out in September and starts turning the ball over again, none of the improvements the Eagles made in their final four 2011 games will make a bit of difference. And neither will Vick's health.