Andy Reid's controversial QB move is looking like a stroke of genius
This is an article from the Oct. 4, 2010 issue
In making the case for drafting quarterback Donovan McNabb over running back Ricky Williams in 1999, Eagles coach Andy Reid cited McNabb's ability to make "anticipation throws," the out-of-the-pocket, on-the-move completions that lay a defense low. McNabb possessed the skill in abundance, especially as the young, nimble passer who led Philadelphia to four consecutive NFC title games and a Super Bowl from the 2001 through '04 seasons.
Eleven years after that draft, Reid used similar criteria in justifying his decision to start Michael Vick over Kevin Kolb, a choice Vick is validating so thoroughly that it's impossible not to wonder whether Reid has found his new McNabb. "He's been playing his heart out," Reid said of Vick after the Eagles' 28--3 thumping of the Jaguars on Sunday. "It's more about him than me."
What stands out about Vick this season is how well he has adapted to Reid's pass-happy sets—and how Reid has found plays that take advantage of Vick's talents. The best example came late in the first half at Jacksonville, when Reid had the Eagles in a maximum-protection formation, with two running backs and a tight end staying in to block. The play called for receiver DeSean Jackson to run a double move down the left sideline and Jeremy Maclin to do the same down the right. From the Jaguars' 16-yard line with 12 seconds left in the half, Vick took the snap in the shotgun and began bobbing up and down like a bantamweight. He looked left, but Jackson was covered. The protection breaking down, Vick then slid to his right and zipped a pass to Maclin in the end zone. It was the kind of play a less mobile quarterback (read: Kolb) would struggle to make. "I knew I couldn't take a sack," Vick said afterward. "It was me improvising to make the play and keep my eyes downfield. Jeremy did a great job getting separation."
It's not that Vick, 30, has regained the form he had in Atlanta before pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges and spending 19 months in prison. He's playing better than that. As a Falcon Vick never had two TD tosses of 40-plus yards in a game, or threw for more than 250 yards back-to-back, or exceeded a passer rating of 100 in three straight games. He's done all of that in 2010. "Here, we throw the football a lot more," Vick said. "It's fun to be in an offense like this."
Not that any decision is ever clear cut when it comes to the Eagles. Kolb, who waited behind McNabb for three seasons before being named the starter this spring, is waiting once again: Knocked out of the opener with a concussion, he was okayed to play this week. Kolb clapped and cheered on the sideline, but in the locker room afterward he acknowledged that it's difficult to just stand and watch. "The quarterback situation has gone through a lot here, even my first couple of years," said Kolb. "This league throws some crazy things at you."
Crazy? Just wait until this weekend at Lincoln Financial Field, when the Redskins visit, and McNabb, the first object of Reid's affection, faces off against the coach's latest love.