Michael Vick’s contract situation is not something I imagine many Eagles fans thought they’d be thinking about this year. He was going to be a pet project for Andy Reid. One year, two at most, and then he’d move on somewhere else to play his brand of unconventional football. If there was one QB that was the antithesis of an ideal Andy Reid quarterback, it was Michael Vick. Funny things happen when you start running all over the field and winning games. Vick has convinced some, though I’m not among them, that he’s changed as a quarterback. For a team that is going to have to make some long-term decisions at the QB position in the near future, Vick is suddenly a viable and attractive option.
I think right now most Eagles fans are still in a wait and see approach with Vick. Some are ready to sign him to a contract now, but most realize he’s still only put together a handful of games. They want to see him, and see him healthy for the remainder of the season. What you don’t hear is people who want to run Vick out-of-town. There isn’t much Kevin Kolb support these days, and that’s strictly results based. Last week’s win against the Colts was a big deal, because the Colts still have that name recognition and Peyton Manning had a history of shredding the Birds. Beating Indy is a win you can brag about (remember last season the Eagles didn’t really beat a good team all year).
Monday’s game against the Redskins is another chance for Vick to win over the fan base and perhaps the Eagles’ front office. They are the people who hold most of the cards in deciding Vick’s future. I look at the Washington game as one where Vick actually has more to lose than he does to gain. It’s a first-round at a Major scenario. He can’t win it all Monday Night, but he sure can lose it.
I get the sense this is a must-win game for Eagles fans. They won’t be able to stomach getting swept by McNabb (regardless of how the Redskins finish), and if the Eagles drop to 5-4, the path to the playoffs becomes far more difficult. I think in some ways the season, thanks to the excitement of Vick, feels better than 5-3 right now. Vick is playing great, the defense is perpetually “coming around,” but you look at the standings and there are 3 teams sitting in the NFC South at 6-3 or better. The Eagles will have the 7th best record in the NFC if they lose to Washington, and that’s not where you want to be at the start of the 2nd half.
Getting swept by the Redskins is something I think would stick with Vick. You start to look at the scenarios and wonder, would 9-7 no playoffs and 0-2 against Washington be good enough to keep him around? I think most fans balk at that. But, switch it to 10-6, playoffs and 1-1 against Washington and suddenly we’re talking extension or franchise tag. Vick has earned himself a lot of fans over the course of this season, but I’d warn him that they could turn on him quickly. And, considering he’s been playing at a level that is almost impossible to maintain, I think that puts him in a very precarious situation.
So, in the end, I think we might be looking tonight at the tipping point of the Vick experiment. Of course they could lose and then fire off 6 out of 7 and everyone would forget, but that doesn’t seem very likely. The game tonight feels a bit like game-5 in an even seven game series. It’s a tone setting game. For Vick, the team, the fans, the whole outlook for the rest of the 2010 season could be hanging in the balance tonight.