Monday, August 31, 2009

Checking In On the Michael Vick Experiment

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles

Now that we are going on three weeks since the Eagles stunned everyone with the signing of Michael Vick, lets take a pulse on the situation. Much of the initial backlash and strong reactions have calmed, so it becomes easier to evaluate how it might all play out. We now have some more insight into key variables such as: 1) how Vick will fit into the team, 2) what the dynamics between the quarterbacks might be like, 3) how fans will approach the situation, and 4) what will be the magnitude of distraction.

As far as the on field role of Vick, we have not gained a great deal of insight, particularly since the team will not want to preview their plans in the pre-season. It does appear that the intention is to be very creative with him by varying roles and moving personnel around. This could turn out to be too cute for their own good, though, as it has the potential to disrupt continuity and transform the offense into gimmickry rather than being a consistent force. The latter tends to be a more proven Super Bowl winning formula. And, importantly, Donovan McNabb displayed some frustration with the approach in Thursday night's game.

Speaking of McNabb, signs have emerged that he may not have been as big a proponent of bringing in Vick as originally indicated. It would also appear that the task of integrating Vick has detracted from McNabb and his teammates honing the base offense.

Surely a key element will be how the fans (and the media, who influence fan opinion) handle the entire situation. In Vick's first game at The Linc, fans greeted him with warm applause and possible protests outside the stadium were minimal. Additionally, a "We want Vick" chant broke out in the 3rd quarter, accelerating forward the virtually certain quarterback controversy that will ensue this season. Football pundits Michael Irvin and Ron Jaworski (who both understand the Philadelphia atmosphere very well) have both expressed that it is inevitable.

In the post game press conference, Andy Reid exhibited stoicism and some impatience when questioned about the McNabb/Vick situation. This is just the tip of the iceberg as Reid will be challenged throughout the season much as he was last season during the McNabb debates and with the whole T.O. episode.

Lastly, you need to look no further than the national media attention that arose from Vick swilling a vodka and grapefruit at an airport hotel last week to know that the distractions will persist throughout the season. Protests will occur. Every action and reaction will be analyzed.

For the Eagles to prosper through the situation, coaches and players will need to be somewhat de-sensitized to the matter, especially Reid and McNabb. Vick will need to walk the straight and narrow. And, the team will need to figure out how to integrate Vick into the offense without disrupting the flow and diminishing the already existing great potential. Stay tuned.

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