I can understand the temptation, and all the reasons for the Philadelphia Eagles to hold out hope that Michael Vick and his broken ribs can play quarterback for them Sunday night against the New York Giants. Their season is all but over, and one more loss -- especially to the Giants -- will extinguish all hope. Andy Reid is hearing it from all sides as angry fans ignore his outstanding pre-2011 résumé and insist he be fired for this year's failures. Vick himself set a goal to play in all 16 games (and, he hoped, more) this season. Take all of this into account, and you can understand why they might even be tempted to push Vick to play.
But Vick wasn't healthy enough to practice Wednesday. And it sounds as though, even if he's ready to play Sunday, he'd be doing so in considerable pain and discomfort. And that's just one reason the Eagles would be smart to just sit him down for this week and let Vince Young or Mike Kafka play against the Giants.
For the record, please understand what I'm advocating here and what I am not. I'm not going to go over the lunatic cliff with Skip Bayless and say Vick needs to be benched in favor of Young. I believe that Vick should get a week off and the right to reclaim the job the following week. I believe that starting Young, who doesn't know the offense, or Kafka, who's just not very good, dramatically reduces the Eagles' chances of winning Sunday's game. Could they win it? Of course. You can run on the Giants, and you can stop their offense if you cover their receivers. I'm not saying the Eagles should give the game away. With LeSean McCoy and all of the talent they have on defense, they could design a game plan that de-emphasizes the quarterback for one week and might have a chance to work. They should take their shot for one week and then go back to Vick, because a healthy Vick is still the Eagles' best chance to win all of the remaining games on their schedule, which is what they need to do if they have any hope of getting back in the playoff hunt.
But Vick is not healthy, and we watched him play Sunday with this injury, and it was ugly. Throw into the mix the fact that the opponent is the Giants, whose defensive game plan each week is to try and knock the quarterback out of the game and who especially like to whack away at this particular quarterback, and it makes even more sense. The Giants are going to try to hit Vick as hard and as often as they can, and if he's playing with a couple of busted ribs, he's at greater risk of a more severe injury if the Eagles send him out there against Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul & Co.
Sure, he could put that Kevlar vest on. And sure, Tony Romo played half of this season with his own broken ribs healing under such a vest. But Romo was playing for something. Vick and the Eagles, realistically, are not. To pretend otherwise at the potential expense of a quarterback in whom they have as much invested as they do in Vick would be irresponsible.
Vick may make this easy for the Eagles. He may just be in too much pain to play effectively Sunday night, in which case they have no other choice. But if he's pushing to play, it would be wise for the Eagles to take a deep breath, a step back and think of the bigger, longer-term picture. Considering his injury, the opponent and the standings, it's just not worth the risk to put Vick in this game Sunday night. Give the guy a week off and let him come back and finish the season on a strong, positive note. At this point, the Eagles have little, if anything, left to lose for 2011. They need to be thinking about 2012 and beyond.