After hot start, Vick's time as an Eagle disappointing
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It was 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14, 2009, and Katie Couric opened up the nightly national news with these words:
“We begin tonight with the return of a fallen sports star. Michael Vick returned to the NFL today, joining a new team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Two years ago, he was one of the league’s brightest stars, with the biggest contract, before losing it all when he was convicted of running a dogfighting ring. Now out of prison, he’s trying to turn his life around.”
The start of Michael Vick’s Eagles career was the biggest story in the United States that day.
The end of Michael Vick’s Eagles career -- at least the likely end of it -- wasn’t even the biggest Eagles story on Monday. That honor went to Jim Washburn’s firing.
In the span of 40 months, Vick has gone from the biggest story in the country to a sidebar on his own team.
Head coach Andy Reid’s announcement that rookie Nick Foles will start at quarterback the rest of the year, even when Vick is fully recovered from his concussion, quietly marked the likely end of Vick’s stay in Philadelphia.
There’s still a chance Vick will play again in an Eagles uniform. Reid said that when Vick does clear his concussion test and return to action, he’ll likely be No. 2, ahead of Trent Edwards, so if Foles gets hurt after Vick comes back, Vick could quarterback the Eagles at some point in the last four games of a disastrous season.
And it is conceivable that if Foles struggles the rest of the year, whoever’s coaching the Eagles next year -- whether it’s a new coach or in the unlikely event it’s Reid -- could decide that a 33-year-old Vick is the Eagles’ best quarterback option, likely at a reduced rate than the $16.5 million he’s owed for 2013.
But the Eagles do have an escape hatch from Vick’s $100 million contract, which has four years at $62.5 million remaining after this season, including a base salary of $15.5 million in 2013. If the Eagles release Vick once the season ends in a month, they will owe him just $3 million.
So what is the takeaway from Vick’s four-year stay in Philadelphia?
On the one hand, this is where Vick was able to re-establish himself in the NFL and in the community following his prison stay. He’s been a model citizen since signing with the Eagles in the summer of 2009 -- cooperative with the media, active in the community, a supportive teammate, a reclusive family man.
On the field?
Vick won eight of his first 10 starts after replacing Kevin Kolb early in 2010, but since then he’s just 10-14, leaving him 18-16 as an Eagles quarterback, barely over .500. The only quarterback to start more than 10 games in an Eagles uniform the last 25 years and have a worse record is Ty Detmer, who went 9-9 in 1996 and 1997.
After his spectacular start, things started to turn for Vick Christmas week in 2010.
As Vick prepared to face the Vikings on Dec. 26, these were his stats: 63 percent completion percentage with 20 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 103.6 passer rating.
Then the Vikings game was postponed a couple days by a blizzard, Leslie Frazier and the Vikings provided the rest of the league a blueprint to neutralize Vick with a ferocious attack of blitzes, and the Vikings stunned the Eagles, 24-14.
And Vick was never really a special player again.
A few weeks later, with a chance to beat the Super Bowl-bound Packers in the Eagles’ only home playoff game in the last six years, he threw a terrible game-ending end zone interception on first down, then he lost six of his first nine starts last year and six of nine starts this year before suffering a concussion against the Cowboys on Nov. 11.
He’s missed the last three games of this lost season and has now missed nine starts since he replaced Kolb early in 2010.
And in 24 games since that 8-2 start, these are Vick’s numbers: 54 percent completion percentage with 31 touchdowns, 25 interceptions and a 77.3 passer rating.
Vick didn’t throw an interception in his first seven games with the Eagles. Since then, he’s thrown 30 in 28 games.
His 103.6 passer rating the first 14 weeks of 2010 was third-best among all NFL quarterbacks, behind only Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers.
His 77.3 rating since the Vikings game in 2010 is 28th-best among NFL quarterbacks during that span.
Most importantly, his 10 wins over the past two years are only 19th-most in the league.
Average. At best.
Curiously, Vick’s overall stats since he got to Philly compare quite favorably with other Eagles quarterbacks, thanks to the overwhelming numbers he put up in his 2010 Pro Bowl season.
His 88.4 passer rating is highest in franchise history, breaking the record of 86.5 set from 1999 through 2009 by his former teammate, Donovan McNabb.
His 51 touchdown passes are actually sixth-most ever, behind McNabb (216), Ron Jaworski (175), Randall Cunningham (150), Norm Snead (111) and Sonny Jurgensen (70), and he’s also sixth in passing yards, behind the same five guys.
Vick is also third in career completion percentage at 60.2 percent, behind Kolb (60.8) and Bubby Brister (60.3).
Vick is one of only eight quarterbacks in the franchise’s 80-year history to lead the Eagles to the playoffs, and his 95.1 career postseason passer rating -- boosted by a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on a trick play in 2009 -- is second to Rodney Peete on the all-time Eagles’ postseason list.
Incredibly, Vick is also in the all-time Eagles’ top-20 list in rushing with 1,667 yards and 17th with 13 rushing touchdowns, and his 6.5 per-carry average is second-best in Eagles history, behind only Cunningham, who averaged 6.6.
But ultimately, barring a surprise return to action and a change in fortune, Vick’s Eagles years will be remembered as largely disappointing ones.
Vick was a three-year starter without a playoff win to his name, and the only other Eagles quarterbacks to start eight or more games three straight years without delivering at least one postseason victory since 1945 are Snead, Jurgensen and Roman Gabriel, all in the 1960s and 1970s.
Vick gave us 2½ months of thrills and a few other scattered moments of brilliance, including a season-ending four-game winning streak last year and last-minute comebacks this September against the Browns and Ravens.
But there were too many fumbles at crucial points, too many interceptions with the game on the line, too many costly mistakes when just one more big play would have won the game.
Would things have been different if Vick had a more consistent offensive line, a respectable defense, and an offensive coordinator who made more of a commitment to the running game?
Maybe. But it’s too late to wonder what if.
Vick was briefly a superstar, briefly on top of the world. But his moment was fleeting. The Eagles were a home win over a 5-9 Vikings team away from a likely first-round bye two years ago this month, but Joe Webb was better than Vick that day, and Vick has won 10 of 24 starts since.
Ultimately, Vick’s Eagles career will go down in the books as one that brought tons of excitement, numerous brilliant plays, unforgettable electrifying runs and boundless promise.
For a while, he gave us hope. But in the end, he gave us little else.