LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins did Michael Vick a massive favor Monday afternoon. They signed Donovan McNabb to a five-year extension worth $78 million that raised eyebrows across the country -- and definitely in the Eagles' locker room.
The Redskins made a decision based on hope rather than production. Only two weeks after head coach Mike Shanahan clumsily yanked McNabb from a game that hadn't been decided, the organization made a long-term commitment in the name of stability.
But McNabb's former team has a mercenary quarterback who may be the best in the league right now. And based on his record-breaking performance in a 59-28 beatdown of the Redskins at FedEx Field, Vick will be asking for more than McNabb money. It's hard to feel sorry for a man who reportedly received $40 million in guaranteed money (that total seems more ridiculous every time I type it), but McNabb looked old and slow in comparison to Vick. The Eagles quarterback was 20-of-28 for 333 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. For good measure, he ran eight times for 80 yards and two more touchdowns. He's the first player in league history to do all of those things in one game.
Vick refuses to slide like most quarterbacks, so there's always the threat of injury. But if he can stay in one piece, the Eagles have a chance to do something special this season. They pulled into a tie with the New York Giants atop the NFC East with a 6-3 record. With the Skins pretty much bowing out of the division competition based on their woeful effort Monday, this is now a two-horse race. I'd wager that Philadelphia has the best horse in the field with Vick.
His brilliance was on display on the first play from scrimmage when the Eagles convinced the Redskins they were running to the right before Vick doubled back to his left on a naked bootleg. His back foot was on his own 3-yard line when he launched a pass that arrived in DeSean Jackson's arms at the Redskins' 34-yard line. Safety LaRon Landry has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but he never had a chance on the play. In fact, Eagles coach Andy Reid seemed a bit surprised that Landry was even close enough to clutch Jackson's jersey for a moment.
"The safety did a better job than we anticipated," deadpanned Reid.
When Vick is on his game, I'm not sure there's a team in the NFC capable of beating the Eagles. The team has won all four of the games he's been able to start and complete. The Redskins attempted to assign a spy to Vick on almost every play, but that only gave him a better chance in the passing game. And it's not like there's a spy on the Skins' roster capable of matching Vick's speed in the open field.
On the Eagles' second touchdown, Vick scrambled around right end and froze Redskins outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander with a hard inside move. The 7-yard run put the Eagles up 14-0, and the Skins never had a chance from that point. In fact, they never had a chance at any point. Vick's game has a video-game quality to it that isn't lost on his teammates. Redskins pass-rushers were so fearful of his feet that they gave him an inordinate amount of time in the pocket. It's almost unfair that Vick plays with perhaps the best collection of wide receivers in the league. Jeremy Maclin made a leaping grab early in the second quarter to make it 35-0 and Jason Avant had five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles' interest in the game waned for a few minutes in the second quarter, but they managed to cling to a 45-14 advantage at halftime.
"We all grew up with Michael Vick on Madden," said right tackle Winston Justice, who played well against Redskins Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. "We're all about 25 or 26, so we would win at Madden with Vick."
But I'm not sure any video game can accurately simulate what Vick did to the Redskins in the first half. He was 14-of-18 for 264 yards and three touchdowns and had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 -- if you're into that sort of thing. One of Vick's mentors, McNabb, finished the night 17-of-31 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. No word on whether the Skins will ask McNabb to redo his contract following such a humiliating loss.
The Redskins made a significant commitment to McNabb, in part, because it's hard to plan a marketing campaign around Rex Grossman. (Believe me, Kyle Shanahan has tried.) Vick's talented enough to put a team on his shoulders and take it deep into the playoffs. No offense to Joey Galloway, but the soon-to-turn 34-year-old McNabb desperately needs more talent around him in Washington. Of course, they used to say the same thing about him when he played for the Eagles.
"He has this attitude, 'I'm gonna score and you guys can help if you want,'" said Justice of Vick. "Some quarterbacks talk about climbing the hill as a team, but he says, 'I'm gonna score this TD.'"
And in Monday's game, Vick was true to his word.
It was one of the best single performances in league history. Now we all wait to see what he'll do next.