It’s a been a tough year for Michael Vick’s predecessor. Donovan McNabb, who I still think would be considered the best Eagle quarterback ever, has had a nightmare of a year in Washington. His declining skills and Washington’s messy state as a franchise has landed McNabb on the bench behind Rex Grossman, an unthinkable position at the start of the season. Added to that are the secondhand shots McNabb takes with every success Michael Vick has at quarterback. One of the themes in the local sports media of late has been revisionist history. To listen to some fans tell it now, Vick is better than McNabb ever was, McNabb never led a comeback, and Donovan has generally morphed into Trent Dilfer in people’s memories.
It is hard to blame the fans for jumping so enthusiastically onto the Vick bandwagon. He is by all accounts having an MVP type year. But what is it about Vick that causes such a powerful reaction that not only lauds him, but diminishes the feats of McNabb?
1. First, Vick is simply not Donovan. McNabb, the further removed he gets, continues to fall out of favor because more and more fans realize they were sick of his routine. His welcome was completely worn out. He was like an old pair of tennis shoes. You didn’t realize how uncomfortable they had gotten until you put on the new pair. In addition to that, Vick’s drastically different personality and demeanor on the field is a constant reminder that McNabb is gone. Vick is confident. He’s tough. He looks intense. McNabb’s competitiveness was always buried under a goofy smile. Michael Vick would never run out-of-bounds and then pick up a phone on the sideline in the heat of the game.
2. Secondly, Vick is benefiting from lowered expectations. When the Eagles traded McNabb there was the belief that 2010 would be a type of rebuilding season for the Eagles. Optimistic projections had them winning 9 games. And, looking at the defense, it appears most people were correct in their assessment that the team had weaknesses. What couldn’t have been predicted is Vick’s ability to cover up the flaws on this team. It is easy to forget now, but Vick not only didn’t do much of note in 2009, he looked mediocre at best in the pre-season. No one knew what to expect when Vick came in the very first game of the season, and so by getting the Birds to 10-4, he’s completed a minor miracle. The difference of course, is that during the McNabb years going 10-4 would hardly create much buzz at all. It had become old hat.
3. The last thing Vick brings to the table is something almost intangible. I don’t know if I’d call it hope, or belief, but whatever it is the guy makes Eagles fans a lot more confident. Donovan’s McNabb’s accumulated failures, despite some good results, left everyone feeling lukewarm at best when he was called upon to lead a game winning drive. With Vick, at least for now, it seems he’ll do whatever he needs to do get the job done. He also hasn’t had that first taste of real failure that haunted Don and left a bad taste in the fans’ mouths. The comeback Sunday was amazing and historic, but I’m sure all the fans weren’t surprised that Vick was capable of pulling it off.
The point of all this is to bring attention to how much fun Eagles fans are having this season. A long string of winning seasons sounds great, but the yearly playoff disappoints slowly wear people down. It gets to the point where the only game that mattered all year was the NFC Championship game. Did they win that? If not, it felt like Groundhog day at best and at worst just a giant waste of time. Vick has returned the Eagles to true appointment viewing, no matter who they play.
For everyone’s sake I hope it stays that way, because the truth is, Vick really hasn’t done anything yet that Donovan didn’t do while he was here in Philly. Like I said, a 10-4 start wasn’t a reason to celebrate in the McNabb years, but now it is. I wonder how long this honeymoon will last. Could it survive a 1st or 2nd round playoff loss, or would that just be more of the same for Philadelphia fans? I hope it can. First, because Eagles fans don’t know for sure they’ll have Vick in 2011 and also it feels good to have a clean slate. The longer the excess baggage, the type McNabb piled up over the years, stays away…the better.