Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092710 (Part 2)

In Part 2 of this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — Saints Kicker Garrett Hartley is this week’s Lloyd’s Lackey for his crucial miss of a potential overtime game-winner

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092710 (Part 2)

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 3 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including NFL Kickers missing  potential game-winners

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092710 (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick has the NFL buzzing over his stellar play as he travels ‘Redemption Road’

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092710 (Part 1)

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 3 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including the comeback of Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick

2010 NFL Week 3 Review

The Indianapolis Colts (2-1) look to be back near the top of the AFC and receiver Austin Collie was one of the stars from  Week 3 of the 2010 NFL Season

As the NFL inched closer to the first quarter pole of the 2010 NFL season, summer has moved out the door and autumn has returned.  Week 3, which I dubbed “Separation Sunday”, definitely helped continue the 12-week process of sorting out which teams are contenders and pretenders before November and December’s playoff push. 

This week had the NFL’s usual boatload of Injuries (Lions RB Jahvid Best – Toe, Ravens RB Ray Rice – knee, Chargers LB Shawn Merriman – calf and others); Upsets (St. Louis Rams over Redskins and Falcons over Saints); Comebacks (Eagles QB Michael Vick and Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears); and Kickers driving you nuts (Saints former SB hero Garrett Hartley missing a “chippy” in OT and Raiders power-leg Sebastian Janikowski missing a short potential game-winner).  But I have to caution a lot of fans who are starting to hit the “Panic” button and making season-long assertions about their teams, it is way too early to go jumping off a bridge.

 Is it just me… or does everyone else feel like every NFL team has a record of 2-1 or 1-2 (24 teams)? After three weeks of play, “parity” is all over America’s game as shown by the current team standings. League standings show that there are three (3-0) teams (Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears) – “The Have’s” ; fifteen (2-1) teams (Eagles, Packers, Texans, Bengals, Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Bucs, Saints, Dolphins, NY Jets, Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, and Titans) – “The Contenders’”; nine (1-2) teams (Cowboys, Vikings, Rams, NY Giants, Redskins, Jaguars, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders) – “Still Sorting this out”  teams; and five lowly (0-3) “Have Not” teams – Bills, Browns, Lions, Panthers, and Niners. 

However whether your team is  3-0, 2-1, 1-2 or 0-3, it doesn’t matter as everyone still has a chance to make a playoff run — “Yes” even the hapless Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns who both were scrappy in Week 3, but lost again.   The NFL’s three undefeated (3-0) teams should be feeling good as since 1990 approximately 75% of teams that reach that mark have made the playoffs.  But (3-0) is no guarantee as 8 of the last 10 seasons have seen at least one (3-0) team miss the playoffs – last year it was New York Giants and Denver Broncos.

Four of the past nine Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-2 record including the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Plus half of last year’s 12 NFL playoff teams started at 1-2 before righting themselves.  History has shown that 1-2 teams can advance to the playoffs — since 1990, 22 teams have started 1-2 and still qualified for the postseason, including three teams in 2008 – Miami Dolphins (won NFC North), Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers (won AFC West).  There have even been three 0-3 teams that have made the playoffs since 1990 — 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1998 Buffalo Bills, and 1998 Detroit Lions.

Everyone needs to understand that an NFL regular season is a 17-week marathon and should be taken increments.  Being on top this early in the NFL season is a good thing, but teams can’t get caught up in thinking things are going to be biscuits and gravy throughout the entire season –- the 2009 New York Giants started 5-0 only to limp home to a 8-8 record and missed the playoffs. 

Trust me every team, including almost Super Bowl winning team, has experienced some form of adversity at one time or another during their season – remember last season the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints lost at home to the desperate Cowboys in Week 15, then to the Bucs in Week 16, and the Panthers in Week 17.  The main thing right now is for teams to focus on their opponents week-in and week-out, because things can change very quickly in the topsy-turvy NFL.  Teams can no longer just mail-it-in as shown by the formerly winless St. Louis Rams’ unexpected 30-16 victory over the heavily favored Washing Redskins in a Week 3 “Trap Game”.

There are only three unbeaten teams remaining (Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, and Kansas City Chiefs) all of which most people would describe as “unlikely”. You have to start with the AFC West leading and undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (3-0).  The Chiefs, who after making the playoffs in ’07 had only 10 wins in the last three years, now could be the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2010.  Kansas City dominated the equally surprising – for the wrong reasons – Niners by a score of 31-10 at renovated Arrowhead Stadium.  It was a battle of two teams headed in the wrong direction.  The Chiefs now hold a two-game lead over the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos.

The AFC North is looking like the NFL’s best division with the Steelers (3-0), Baltimore Ravens (2-1), and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) all bunched near the top.  But to the surprise of experts –including yours truly –- it is the Steelers who are currently undefeated even though their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a 4-game suspension.  Fueled by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch’s three touchdown passes, the Steelers annihilated the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) by a score of 38-13 in Tampa.  And they are doing it the “Steelers Way”. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is averaging over 100 yards a game and their defense led by safety Troy Polamalu has allowed an NFL-best 11 pts per game.  Now everything will point to a Week 4 battle between the Ravens and Steelers.  Plus you can’t sleep on Ochocinco and T.O as their Bengals who are quietly picking up wins too.

The last undefeated team to discuss are the Chicago Bears (3-0).  The Bears, who many predicted would finished 3rd or 4th in the NFC North, have pulled to together in an effort to save head coach Lovie Smith’s job.  This is a new Chicago team who seem intent on changing  a downward spiral that has plagued this team since losing in the Super Bowl in 2006.  They have a ton of offensive weapons (QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, and others), a defense that looks to have their teeth back (have allowed an average of 17 points per game through 3 weeks) and good special teams (blocked field goal and returned a punt for a touchdown in win over Packers).  On Monday Night Football, the Bears showed that they were the “Beast of the NFC North” by beating the formerly undefeated Green Packers by a score of 20-17.  However this division should get interesting as I don’t expect the Packers to be so sloppy in the future and the Vikings picked up a big win over the Detroit Lions.

So with Bye Weeks about to start there is much football to be played in this parity laden league -– or mess as some analysts are saying.  Trust me… NFL fans and media are both scratching their collective heads when trying to predict which teams have what it takes to go the distance.

The unexpected surprises of the undefeated Kansas Chiefs and the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers plus the revival of the Michael Vick Experience so far show that nothing is a given in the NFL.   And  “Any Given Sunday” still reigns supreme.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

NFL is a Passing League First…But — To Fantasy Footballers dreams, last year there were an NFL record  10 quarterbacks who passed for over 4,000 yards in a season.  And so far in 2010, five quarterbacks have passed for over 400 yards in a game.  But this week showd passing is not everything.  The Top 5 passing quarterbacks in terms of yardage all lost — including Broncos QB Kyle Orton, 476 yds   in loss to the Colts.  Ironically four out of five of the week’s Top Rushers’ teams won their games (led by Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson’s 160 yards in a win over Detroit)

1972 Dolphins must be feeling good –  The champagne will be flowing soon in Miami as the only team to have an undefeated Super Bowl season will be celebrating in the near future.  There are only 3 undefeated teams left in the NFL this season (Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears) and in this parity-filled league, I am certain none of them will go past Week 8 without a loss.  Hard to believe in 2009, the 1972 Dolphins had to wait until Week 16 for the Colts (14-0 at the time) to finally lose a game.

Rookies making their mark at a surprisingly early rate – Following in the footsteps of several 2009 rookie stars (Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Jeremy Maclin, Austin Collie and others) many rookies this season have stepped into the spotlight. No longer “redshirting” takes place in the NFL as teams need rookies to help right away.  Already several outstanding rookies have made an impact  including Eagles FS Nate Allen, Chiefs RB/WR/KR Dexter McCluster, Lions RB Jahvid Best, Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount, Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki, Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez and others.

Coaches on the Hot Seat – With most of the coaches on our Hot Seat List starting with either a 1-2 or 0-3 record, the heat is on.  Some of coaches feeling a little uncomfortable include the Cowboys Wade Phillips, Giants Tom Coughlin, Panthers John Fox,  Jaguars Jack Del Rio, Niners Mike Singletary, Raiders Tom Cable, Browns Eric Mangini and some other coaches that might even know it .

Game Ball Winners

Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick — The catalyst for the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) has been incredible as he has produced a 110 quarterback rating.  Vick  has gone from Public Enemy No. 1 to the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player in his first game as the Birds anointed starter passed for 291 yards and 3 TDs in a dominating 28-3 win over the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars.  The real fun will come next week when Vick and rising Eagles host former Philadelphia and current Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.  However the Skins and Eagles can’t get too comfortable as the Cowboys (1-2) are still lurking and they should get even better after a Week 4 bye.

Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, Kansas City Chiefs rookie WR/KR Dexter McCluster, Green Bay Packers CB Charles Woodson, Philadelphia Eagles DE Trent Cole, Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis, Seattle Seahawks RB/KR Leon Washington, Chicago Bears LB Brian Urlacher and Chicago Bears WR/KR Devon Hester

Lloyd’s Lackey

New Orleans Saints K Garrett Hartley – Less than one year after Hartley skyrocketed to fame by connecting on a 40-yard game-winning field goal to send the New Orleans Saints to their first  Super Bowl, he may be looking for a job.  The Saint erratic kicker missed 29-yarder – a kick any high school kicker could make — in overtime that could have kept the defending Super Bowl Champs undefeated.  Of course after the big miss the Falcons kicked their own game-winner, a 46-yard field goal by Matt Bryant..  After the game, you could clearly see that Saints quarterback Drew Brees was not happy about Hartley’s miss and the team started auditioning new kickers on Tuesday.

Dishonorable Mention:  NY Giants (3 personal foul penalties, a safety called on a penalty in the endzone and overall sloppy play), Green Bay Packers (franchise record 18 penalties), Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, Dolphins RB Ricky Williams and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox

2010 NFL Week 3 Results

Sunday, Sep 26 

Chiefs (3-0) over Niners (0-3), 31-10 — The NFL most surprising undefeated team rolls to 3-0 with a dominating win over the reeling Niners…Singletary in trouble??…Niners allowed 457 yards in total offense to the Chiefs…How About Chiefs RB/KR Dexter McClusters who is an explosive player

Bengals (2-1) over Panthers (0-3), 20-7 — Chad Ochocinco and the Bengals take a layup against an awful Carolina team…rookie QB Claussen now sees the NFL is not NCAA football… John Fox on the hot seat       

Ravens (2-1) over Browns (0-3), 27-20 — Welcome to the Charm City, WR Anquan Boldin… Flacco and Boldin abuse Browns CB Eric Wright for 3 TDs…The Browns and QB Seneca Wallace are scrappy… You have to take your hat off to RB Peyton Hillis who ran for 144 yards and 1 TD against the Ravens tough defense    

Vikings (1-2) over Lions (0-3), 24-10 — It was a “win”, but Favre (6 INTs in ’10) and the Vikings were a little sloppy in beating the lowly Lions…Huge day for RB Adrian Peterson who ran both long and short in the win (23 carries, 160 yards, and 2 TDs including an electric 80-yard run)

Titans (2-1) over NY Giants (1-2), 29-10 — Head coach Tom Coughlin’s team is an undisciplined mess (5 personal foul penalties)..V.Y does just enough but it was the CJ2K show (32 Rush, 125 yds, 2 TDs) in NYC…Titans defense is opportunistic against  a careless Eli Manning          

Steelers (3-0)  over Bucs (2-1), 38-3 — Honestly, Did anybody expect a different story?  P-Burgh is now 3-0 w/o Roethlisberger and Batch looked great in his first start in awhile…The Steelers D and RB Mendenhall were consistently good again

Falcons (2-1) over Saints (2-1), 27-24 in OT — K Garrett Hartley (missed 29-yarder in the extra period) goes from Super Bowl hero to goat as the Saints lose in OT….The Falcons ran the ball with extreme toughness (202 yards) and their defense did just enough.. Lance Moore filled in nicely for injured RB Reggie Bush (broken fibula)

Patriots (2-1) over Bills (0-3), 38-30 — Pats won their 14th straight over the Bills… Brady (252 yards w/ 3 TDs) and Moss hooked up 2 times…Bills have something in CJ Spiller (2TDs)…Pats rushed for 200 yards

Cowboys (1-2) over Texans (2-1), 27-13 — The Battle for Texas ended early with Dallas throwing the ball downfield to WR Roy Williams (117 yards and 2 TDs) and running it too…Romo was back to his old self including not throwing any interceptions..Cowboys go into a bye week with some momentum

Rams (1-2) over Redskins (1-2), 30-16,  — Maybe I was too premature in saying the Skins were much better with McNabb and Shanahan… Washington was out scored 16-3 in the 2nd half after trailing by 3 points at halftime…Redskins were 1 for 10 on 3rd downs…Where is the Skins running game (115 yards but 25 of them were McNabb)…Jackson leaves with a groin injury.. Redskins had 9 penalties and 2 costly turnovers     

Eagles(2-1) over Jaguars (1-2), 28-3 — The Michael Vick experience is back in the NFL after a long hiatus — 17-31, 291 yds, 3 TDs and 30 yards rushing w/ 1 TD in the win.  The former first overall pick in 2001 — Vick now  40-28-1 as an NFL starter — definitely seems to have a firm grasp of the Birds scheme and is a dual-candidate for both MVP and Comeback Player of the Year… The Eagles defense sacked Jags struggling QB David Garrard six times..Jack Del Rio better get his resume ready

Seahawks (2-1) over Chargers (1-2) — An old AFC West rivalry game where San Diego played catch-up the entire game…No Ryan Matthew meant no running game for San Diego.  Seattle comebacking RB/KR Leon Washington had 2 kickoff return touchdowns      

Colts (2-1) over Broncos (1-2), 27-13 — Robo-quarterback Peyton Manning was on the money the entire game (27-43, 325 yds, 3 TDs)…2nd year receiver Austin Collie had 12 catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs in the unexpected easy win.  Despite 476 passing yards by QB Kyle Orton, the Broncos couldn’t hang with the resurgent Colts. Denver failed to get into the end zone on five trips inside the 20-yard line (settled for 2 FGs and turned the ball over on downs 3 times)

Cardinals (2-1) over Raiders (1-2), 24-23 — The Cardinals are tied w/ the Seahawks at the top of the NFC West at 2-1…This was a gift victory as Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski was 3 for 6 on FG attempts including missing a 32-yard kick at the buzzer.    

NY Jets (2-1) over Dolphins (2-1), 31-23 — Miami falls from the ranks of the unbeatens after a SNF loss to the battle tested AFC East leading NY Jets… After serving a 1-quarter team imposed penalty for his DUI during the week, WR Braylon Edwards responded by producing the game’s biggest play, a 67-yard touchdown catch.  Jason Taylor got a Gatorade bath in his victorious return to South Florida

Monday, Sep 27 

Chicago Bears (3-0) over Green Bay Packers (2-1), 20-17   — A back-and-forth Monday Night Football game as the Bears and Packers met for the 180th time…The Packers shot themselves in the foot over and over (franchise record 18 penalties, 1 blocked FG, Punt Return for a touchdown, 2 turnovers and only 63 rushing yards)..Former NFL #1 return guy, Devin Hester, was back as he scored on a 62-yd punt return (first since Dec. 30, 2007)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Week 3: Parity Still Reigns

The St. Louis Rams  upset win over the heavily favored Washington Redskins shows that the NFL is still full of surprises and parity

I know there are still 14 more weeks of NFL play…But is it just me or does everyone else feel like every NFL team has a record of 2-1 or 1-2 after almost three weeks of league play? 

Way back during the tenure of influential former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, a man who was one of the league’s key caretakers, coined the phrase, “On Any Given Sunday”.  In Bell’s dream theory for league play, equitability was extremely high and “competition was key”.  The former league head, who for many years ran the organization from his home in Narberth, Pennsylvania, wanted a league where any team — whether top or bottom — could beat another on a weekly basis. 

Well somewhere Bell is smiling!  The NFL after three wacky weeks of play only has four unbeaten teams remaining including some teams no thought would be at the top. Now only the surprise Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0), who both unexpectedly have remained unblemished.  Along with the Chicago Bears (2-0) and Green Packers (2-0) who square-off in a Monday Night Football “Somebody’s Zero, Got to Go” game tomorrow night in the Windy City. 

I ask, “Where have the NFL’s beloved/hated dynasty bully teams gone?”  Think of Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns of the ‘50s, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers of the ‘60s, Chuck Knoll’s Pittsburgh Steelers of the ‘70s, Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers of the ‘80s, Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys of the ‘90s, and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots of the ‘00s. 

Hard to believe during the 2009 NFL Season, the 1972 Miami Dolphins – who currently live as the NFL’s only undefeated Super Bowl Champion — were left wondering if not one but two teams might catch them.  It all seems like a mirage as both the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts went 13-0 to start last season.   So far in the 2010 NFL season, the National Football League’s current landscape is filled with “parity”. Teams can no longer just mail-it-in as shown by the formerly winless St. Louis Rams’ unexpected 30-16 victory over the heavily favored Washing Redskins in a Week 3 “Trap Game”

With the aforementioned battle between the unbeaten Bears and Packers yet to be played in Week 3, league standing show that there are two (3-0) teams, fourteen (2-1) teams, nine (1-2) teams, and five lowly (0-3) teams.  The whole parity laden league – or mess as some analysts are saying — has left several NFL fans and media scratching their collective heads when looking at current division leaders. 

You have to start with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs, who dominated the equally surprising – for the wrong reasons – Niners by a score of 31-10 at renovated Arrowhead Stadium.  It was a battle of two teams headed in the wrong direction.  The Chiefs now hold a two-game lead over the Chargers and could be the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2010.  While you have to wonder if the Niners, who face the “red hot” NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons (2-1) in Week 4, might be looking to replace embattled head coach Mike Singletary after an 0-3 start in a season where his team had very high expectations.

The AFC South has the Houston Texans (2-1) leading by a tiebreaker over the Colts, but that maybe changing soon.  The Texan showed that they were not quite just ready for the “Prime Time” as the desperate Cowboys thumped them 27-13 in Houston while machine like Colts (2-1) easily rolled over the Denver Broncos (1-2) by an identical point difference of 27-13.  The AFC North is looking like the NFL’s best division with the Steelers, Baltimore Ravens (2-1), and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) all bunched near the top.  To the surprise of experts –including yours truly – it is the Steelers who are currently undefeated even though their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a 4-game suspension.  Fueled by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch’s three touchdown passes, the Steelers annihilated the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 38-13 in Tampa.  Now everything will point to a Week 4 battle between the Ravens and Steelers.

The AFC East also looks like a 3 team race for the top as the NY Jets (2-1), Miami Dolphins (2-1) and New England Patriots (2-1) have the same record.  But a recent two –week streak that included wins over the Patriots and Dolphins has left the “brash” NY Jets sitting on top.  To the delight of head coach Rex Ryan, the King of Hard Knocks, the J-E-T-S took care of business by beating the Dolphins 31-23 on NBC Sunday Night Football in Miami. It was a triumphant homecoming for former Dolphins star and current Jets’ DE/OLB Jason Taylor who had produced 1 sack and 1 tackle in the win.

Switching to the NFC side of the league, there could an 8-8 division winner in the NFC West, which easily is the NFL’s worst division.  Even the Niners at a record of 0-3 still have a chance in their division race.  The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are currently at the top with a (2-1) record, but both teams are very beatable.  The Cardinals benefited from a rear short field goal miss by Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski to win 24-23 and stay tied with the Seahawks, who surprised the San Diego Chargers 27-20 in Seattle.  This week’s version of Monday Night Football will settle the NFC North picture as the Packers and Bears meet for the 179th time with Chicago being the host city for this tilt.  The Packers seem to have hit their stride led by QB Aaron Rodgers, but the Bears are hungry as head coach Lovie Smith’s job is on the line this season.  But both teams still need to be weary of the Minnesota Vikings (1-2), who behind some great running by RB Adrian Peterson (160 rushing yards and 2 TDs), finally hit their stride in a much-needed 24-10 win over the struggling Detroit Lions (0-3). And did I mention Favre and his boys will have a Week 4 bye to get healthy.

The NFC South could have witnessed the changing of the guard as the Atlanta Falcons surprised the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints by a score of 27-24 in overtime.  We will see if the Falcons (2-1) and their emerging quarterback Matt Ryan can continue staying at the top of the division.  But I think the Saints (2-1) are learning how hard it is to be the hunted, especially without playmaking running back Reggie Bush who is hurt with a broken fibula. 

The last division race is probably the most surprising as the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) may found their catalyst in quarterback Michael Vick – has gone from Public Enemy No. 1 to the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player in his first game as the Birds anointed starter passed for 291 yards and 3 TDs in a dominating 28-3 win over the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars.  The real fun will come next week when Vick and rising Eagles host former Philadelphia and current Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.  However the Skins and Eagles can’t get too comfortable as the Cowboys (1-2) are still lurking and they should get even better after a Week 4 bye.

The unexpected surprises of the undefeated Kansas Chiefs and the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers plus the revival of the Michael Vick Experience so far show that nothing is a given in the NFL. 

And “Yes”… “Any Given Sunday” still reigns supreme in the NFL.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 3 Preview

In Week 3’s NFL Podcast — All eyes will be on Monday Night Football for a NFC North black-and-blue special as the Green Packers (2-0) and Chicago Bears (2-0) lock horns (Atari Bigby pictured)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 3 Preview

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance and Host Mark Gray breakdown Week 3’s upcoming games including Houston and Dallas in a Texas Showdown

Reid Makes the Right Decision in Choosing Vick by Lloyd Vance

The Philadelphia Eagles QB Controversy took a crazy turn as head coach Andy Reid named Michael Vick as his starter for the rest of the 2010 season

In a shocking and quite bizarre change of events, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid did a total 360-degree about face by naming comebacking quarterback Michael Vick to be his starter for he rest of the 2010 season.  Reid said in a September 21st press conference to announce the change, “Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I think his play has even exceeded expectations over the last two weeks.” 

Of course in naming Vick the starter, Reid who has notoriously been quite stubborn over his 12 years in Philadelphia –- see former receivers that he told us were good enough…when we all knew they weren’t (i.e. Pinkston, Thrash, Mitchell) — definitely had to back track on his anointing of former starter, Kevin Kolb, who had been the team’s face since an Easter Sunday 2010 trade of 11-year veteran Donovan McNabb. The 4th year quarterback and first-time starter had been given a lucrative extension on April 29th with the terms 1-year, 12.26 million through 2011 with all of it guaranteed and $10.7 million in a signing bonus.  Reid even said when Kolb signed his new deal, “When given the chance, Kevin has proven to have good command of this offense and we’re looking forward to having him operate as the number one quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles”. 

I guess the coach misremembered his comments from April and a couple of days prior, because now Vick is his guy.  Reid tried to soften the blow to Kolb by saying, “This has nothing to do with Kevin Kolb’s injury. Kevin Kolb has done a phenomenal job for us here and the future of Kevin Kolb is not slighted by this one bit. He has an opportunity, obviously, to be, what I would consider, a franchise quarterback and deserving of so.”  In trying to further justify his decision Reid added, “Again, this is more about Michael Vick and his accelerated play. He’s sitting there as possibly the hottest quarterback in the National Football League at this time and deserves an opportunity to play. It also allows Kevin to continue as a young quarterback in the National Football League, his maturation process, and, again, to become a franchise quarterback in the future.”

Alright before we try to get in the mind of Coach Reid and understand why he flip-flopped in a matter of 3 Days, we have to first jump in the hot tub time machine and go over the events that led to the firestorm of activity around the Birds’ quarterbacks.  Let’s go back to Sunday September 19th around 5:00 PM EST; the Eagles had pulled off a hard-earned 35-32 win over the scrappy Detroit Lions.  Where backup quarterback Michael Vick, who was making his first NFL start since December 31, 2006, for the second week in a row had given the Eagles a noticeable spark as Kolb recovered from a concussion suffered against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player was sensational as he made something out of nothing several times, both in and out of the pocket, in the win over the Lions.  Vick finished with numbers 21-for-34 for 284 yards passing and two TD tosses, with 37 yards rushing plus he withstood being sacked 6 times behind a porous Eagles’ offensive line. 

Almost immediately after my hometown Eagles put the final touches on a good win that put them at 1-1 and we later learned a tie for first place in the NFC East, my cell phone started going crazy.  I didn’t even need to answer a single call or read one text message.  Because I knew the “vocal” majority of the Birds’ fan base –- the same ones that wanted McNabb gone and for Kevin Kolb to take over… but I digress — had now switched their allegiance to Vick.  However almost immediately into his post-game press conference, Reid tried to squelch any Vick talk by saying that his now-healthy Week 1 starter, Kolb (concussion), would be returning as the team’s starting quarterback next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.  Can you say, “Quarterback Controversy”? The move was both lauded and loudly questioned on post-game radio, television and Twitter in the Philadelphia area and nationally.

To Vick’s credit, he showed that he had moved on from his former selfish ways that plagued him during his time with the Atlanta Falcons by supporting his teammate.  Of the whole Kolb-Vick quarterback controversy brewing in Philly, Vick stepped away from the grenade by humbly saying, “This is Kevin’s team”. Vick added, “All I wanted to do was come out and get the momentum going. I’m sure Kevin will be back next week.”  But you had to think that deep down after all he had been through that even Vick -– career passing numbers 973-1801, 54.0%, 12050 yards, 75 TDs, and 52 INTs with additional rushing numbers of 4094 yards, 7.2 ypr, and 23 TDs — knew that he “deserved” to get his shot back in the spotlight. As incredibly as it sounds, the player once described as “Public Enemy No. 1” in the minds of many NFL fans had done the unthinkable, going from a hated reputed dogfighter to a playmaker.

C’mon not even Hollywood could have written a better script. The long redemption road that the former Virginia Tech star had traveled since his last start in December 2006 has been a well-documented rollercoaster, to say the least. Vick’s road back to NFL glory included an 18-month stay in Leavenworth Prison for his role in a dogfighting ring and a getting-to-know-you 2009 season where he served as a spare part Eagles’ third-stringer –- only threw 13 passes, completing 6 for 86 yards and 1 TD. But now he was back to the player that once had the NFL buzzing back when he led the Falcons to a mission-impossible 27-7 win over the Green Bay Packers at snowy Lambeau Field in the Wildcard round of the 2002 NFL Playoffs.  Surprisingly 8 years later, his 4.3 speed was back and he also added another piece to his repertoire by showing the vision needed to make passes downfield from the pocket. Even Reid couldn’t help talking about Vick’s eye-opening effort in the win over the Lions, which unfortunately for Kolb, probably forced his hand in naming Vick the starter.  Reid said after the Lions win about Vick, “You’re talking about a phenomenal football player who’s had another chance to prove himself…To see the sparkle in his eye is amazing.”   

Call me “crazy”, but Vick –- salary of $3.75 million in 2010 plus an already paid $1.5 million roster bonus — has bought into Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s coaching enough that now he looks like Donovan McNabb circa 2000.  That season the Eagles made the playoffs for the first time under Reid by finishing 11-5 even though they were a very young team.  Back then the Eagles relied heavily on their dual-threat quarterback and McNabb produced passing (over 3,000 yards), and rushing (over 600 yards) while accounting for 27 touchdowns (21 passing and 6 rushing)…Does any of this sound familiar.  In two weeks of play in 2010, Vick –-passing numbers through 2 weeks of 37-58, 63.8%, 459 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs with a career-high passer rating of 105.5 plus 140 rushing yards — has knocked off several years of rust to become Reid’s type of starting quarterback.  He no longer is settling for his first read then taking off to make spectacular running plays only, Vick is a passer first…if you can believe it. The exciting thing is that the Eagles have responded under Vick’s leadership by putting up 52 points in six quarters. 

Reid recently said in a press conference that he now is in the enviable spot of having “Two Quality” quarterbacks.  But give me break coach…you can spin it anyway you want, the reality of the situation is that Kolb -– career passing numbers of 84-140, 60.0%, 909 yards, 4 TDs, and 7 INTs with a 1-2 starting record –- was not the “right” guy for the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles.  I know that sounds harsh after Kolb has only played in basically one half of football -– passing numbers of 5-for-10 for only 24 yards and produced only 3 first downs before the concussion knocked him out against the Packers.  But today’s NFL is a “Win Now” league.  Everyone from fans to the media to the team’s management are not content with having a rebuilding season when the NFC East is there for the taking. Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw also believes now is the time for Vick.  Bradshaw said on the network’s pregame show of the situation, “With Kolb, you’re looking at a guy who really doesn’t have a resume”.  The Hall of Fame quarterback added, “He’s only started three games. I would find it very difficult for Kolb to win with the Eagles offensive line being in shambles. Vick is better suited right now to win football games than Kevin.”

The division-favorite Dallas Cowboys (0-2) are looking like they could implode at any moment and the other teams in the division, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, don’t look like they are making reservations for Super Bowl XLV either.  As always, Reid’s goal is to make the playoffs and he knew Vick was his best chance to win.  Though I am not entirely ready to say the Eagles are definitely a playoff team with Vick.  Who knows if the 2010 Eagles could possibly catch the same lightning in a bottle that caused the 2005 Steelers, 2007 NY Giants, and 2009 NY Jets to make to make strong playoff runs, despite having some regular season flaws.   

Another deciding factor for Reid had to be an offensive line that is beat-up and sorely missing their leader, Jamaal Jackson.  The Eagles’ offensive line needs to make adjustments, because as a unit they have allowed a whopping 12 sacks in two games and lost Kolb to a concussion.  Vick, who has been sacked 9 times despite running from pressure, is the Eagles’ best weapon against the fast attacking defenses that have been exploiting the team’s protection breakdowns. And I won’t even go into whether the Eagles wanted to take back the Philadelphia area’s sports fans’ attention from major league baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies who look like they are surging to their 3rd World Series appearance in three years, but that is always an item for debate.

Whatever the reason for naming Vick the starter, it was the right reason for the Philadelphia Eagles to win now.  Reid said of the decision to go with Vick, “This is my decision”.  Reid strongly added, “Listen, when you deal with a decision like this, you take as much time as you possibly need to take and so I did that. It’s not my obligation to tell people my decision. It’s my obligation to make the proper decision. That’s why I took the time to do that.”

Good Luck coach with your new starting quarterback, because you know this quarterback controversy is not going away anytime soon… especially with the passionate fans of Philadelphia. 

Wonder if Eagles fans and Reid would rather still have Big 5 still under center –- he beat Dallas in Week 1 and threw for over 400 yards in a loss to the Texans in Week 2…..Alright I won’t go there.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092010 (Part 2)

In Part 2 of this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — Everyone is wondering if Vikings QB Brett Favre’s absence for the majority of training camp has affected his team’s play in Weeks 1 and 2, both losses

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092010 (Part 2)

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 2 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) and QB Brett Favre’s slow start