- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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So, the Philadelphia Eagles finally won a close game in the fourth quarter, and it was backup quarterback Vince Young who led the game-winning drive. And because they've lost so many close games in the fourth quarter this year and starting quarterback Michael Vick has not led any game-winning drives, this is going to raise eyebrows. Prompt chatter. Lead some people to argue that Young should remain the starter even once Vick returns from his broken ribs. I'm fairly certain my friend Skip Bayless is going to go on "First Take" this morning, rattle that table with his fist and argue this very point. (See below).
But he's wrong. And as another Overreaction Monday dawns in the NFL, everyone who thinks the Eagles would be better off with Young as the starting quarterback needs to take a step back and a deep breath and think about what they're saying. I can understand the rush to celebrate a fourth quarter finally gone right for a team that's blown fourth-quarter leads in five of its six losses. But it's important to remember how awful Young was in the first three, and to understand that if you play the first three quarters like that every week, you won't often get the chance to blow a lead in the fourth.
"It got better as it went on," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He kept firing, which you have to do. He had a couple of turnovers, but he came right back. He didn't flinch, like the seasoned veteran that he is."
One of the reasons the Eagles signed Young to be Vick's backup quarterback is that they thought, because of his 30-17 record as an NFL quarterback, he was the kind of guy who could step in and win them a game or two if Vick had to sit out with an injury. Sunday night's victory over the Giants delivered on that signing, even though it probably wasn't enough to make up for that regrettable "Dream Team" news conference the whole team has been trying to live down ever since. And if Vick doesn't heal in time and Young has to play against the Patriots on Sunday, it's certainly possible he could find a way to pull out another win.
But it's far from certain, and the way Young threw the ball for most of Sunday's game, I don't think the Eagles would want to count on it. Maybe for one week, maybe two, but not over any kind of long term. A healthy Vick is still a considerably better thrower and runner of the ball, and the Eagles' offense needs him back if it's to function at its accustomed high level for 60 minutes a week.
"I'd rather just take it day by day," Reid said. "Mike's a good player. I'm pretty fortunate I have three good quarterbacks. We're lucky that way. We'll just see how things go with Mike. I'm not going to put him in a bad position, that's for sure."
Whoever plays quarterback for the Eagles on Sunday will look a lot better if the Eagles' defense and offensive line play the way they played Sunday night at the Meadowlands. The Eagles won this game not because of Vince Young, but because they outmuscled the Giants physically in the trenches all night. They cut off the Giants' running game. They pressured Eli Manning. They kept the Giants' formidable pass rush off of Young long enough for him to make plays.
And make plays he did. There were moments where he did things Vick doesn't do -- pull up just before crossing the line of scrimmage and spotting an open receiver. Sometimes he even managed to throw it to that open receiver, though often he missed quite badly.
"He got better as he went, and he trusted his ability," Reid said. "That's important -- to have that confidence."
Yes, Young led the winning, 18-play drive, converting an incredible six third downs along the way. And, yes, he deserves credit for that. But he doesn't deserve all of the credit for it. For instance, I'm pretty sure even he doesn't know how Jason Avant came up with that one catch down by his feet.
"That's just the kind of athlete he is," Young said of Avant.
You can make a similar comment about Young, whose NFL career to this point has been based on his abilities as an athlete and not as anything sustainable he's done as a starting quarterback. He hasn't started more than 10 games in a season since his second year in the league, and there are mountains of reasons for that. Immaturity is one, but the more important one to this argument is inconsistency. Young has flashed game-winning brilliance, but he's never been able to get away, for long stretches, from game-losing incompetence. And if the Eagles installed him as their starting quarterback, that would show up eventually. It always has with Young, and Sunday night's three-interception magic act did little to prove that it won't again.
The best move for the Eagles, once Vick is healthy enough, is to thank Young for doing the job of backup quarterback very well and put him right back on the bench. At this point in his career, that's what he is -- a backup. Just because he's a good backup doesn't make him a starter.