Ashley Fox went over to Philadelphia Eagles practice this week and came away with this column about Michael Vick and his "last chance" to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Ashley's premise is that, if Vick can't hold off Nick Foles and Matt Barkley for the Eagles' starting quarterback job, he's never going to get another one anywhere:
Last season, Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg started the season by giving Vick more pre-snap responsibilities but got to the point that they had to limit his reads and checks. He freelanced often. With a decimated offensive line, Vick had shaky protection and frequently took off running, trying to make a play for a team that had few players who did. That led to bad habits and injuries, which limited Vick to just 10 starts. At the end of the season, when Vick was healthy, Reid chose to ride out his remaining games with the team with Foles. It was a mercy benching.
So this is it for Vick. This is his last shot. Vick has organized team activities and minicamps and training camp to prove to Kelly that he can run his up-tempo offense, master the crazy hand signals being sent in from the sideline, practice through the distractions of blaring music, and make checks and read the defense while still moving the chains. Three and out won't cut it.
Four months. That's it.
"He realizes that it's up to him if he wants to play," Eagles veteran offensive lineman Todd Herremans said.
This is the great mystery of the Eagles' offseason -- whether Vick truly is the man for this job. Kelly chose to re-sign him when he could have let him go, so he must see something that tells him they can do great things together, if only in the short term. But Kelly wants certain specific things from his quarterback, including the kinds of quick reads and quick releases for which Vick has never been known. Vick is the clear favorite to win the job right now, but it's far from inconceivable that Foles or Barkley or even Dennis Dixon could outplay him in camp and make it evident that Kelly is better off using one of them.
Vick is saying all of the right things. Over the past four years, he's been as good as anyone in sports at saying all of the right things. He's re-dedicated himself. He's determined. He's working harder than ever. He's focused. You know... all the stuff he said last spring and summer, too.
Don't get me wrong here. I believe Vick is earnest. I believe he wants to succeed, and is willing to put in the off-field work that he needs to in order to do it. I don't think he's lazy or aloof or not smart enough to pick up this new offense. What I think is that Vick, who turns 33 next month, is simply what he is, and that you have to take the good with the bad. He can say and do all of the right things in OTAs and minicamps, but when the games start and the play breaks down, nothing's going to stop him from doing what he knows and what he's always known -- holding the ball too long, trying too hard to make the spectacular rescue play instead of dumping it off or throwing it out of bounds and living to see the next play. That's the kind of quarterback behavior that has consistently, throughout Vick's career, led to turnovers and injuries and frustration for his coaches. And if that's what shows up as the season gets closer, Vick's hold on this job is far from secure.