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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Vick's interesting Philadelphia legacy

By Dan Graziano

Michael Vick
Michael Vick has thrown 57 touchdown passes since joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
Free-agent quarterback Michael Vick has a visit lined up this weekend with the New York Jets, who need him more than the Philadelphia Eagles do and thus look likely to lure him away. Even if the Jets don’t sign him, it appears increasingly likely that Vick’s time in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason.

Vick signed with the Eagles in August 2009, a month after he was released from federal prison following a two-year sentence on dogfighting charges. The move was a surprise, since the Eagles had Donovan McNabb at quarterback and a young Kevin Kolb being groomed as McNabb’s replacement. The idea that Vick would ever start a game for the Eagles, let alone be on the team for five years, was difficult to believe at the time. Even the Eagles themselves presented it as a move designed to help a guy get back on his feet, and if he helped the football team then so much the better.

But it has in fact been five seasons for Vick as an Eagle, and while it hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops, he has had his moments. And whatever you want to say about Vick's tenure in Philadelphia -- whether it's over or not -- you can't say it hasn't been interesting:

2009: Amid speculation that then-coach Andy Reid and then-offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg may have been dreaming up some special offensive packages designed to maximize Vick's speed and athleticism, Vick stayed more or less on the sideline while coaches worked with him in practice to sand down some of his rough edges as a passer. He played in 12 games, attempted a pass in eight of them (and no more than three passes in any) and had a rushing attempt in 11 of them (but never more than four in a game). If he was on the field at all, he was a decoy or a mop man. But he did get to throw for one touchdown and rush for another in garbage time in a 34-7 victory in Atlanta, which had to give the former Falcon some satisfaction.

2010: Kolb was named the starter in the preseason, but he got hurt in the opener and Vick came in and put on a dazzling show, nearly leading the Eagles to a comeback victory over the Packers. He was 16-for-24 for 175 yards and rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries. He was so brilliant that, even once Kolb was cleared, Reid announced he was switching up and giving the job to Vick, who did not disappoint. Highlights included the six-touchdown "Monday Night Football" torching of the Washington Redskins and the incredible comeback in Week 15 against the Giants. That was the game DeSean Jackson won with his now-famous last-second punt return, but the work Vick did in bringing the Eagles back from a 31-10 deficit in the final eight minutes of the game was utterly breathtaking.

That was the high point, though, as the Eagles followed it with an inexplicable Tuesday night loss (that's right, look it up) to the Joe Webb Vikings and then fell in the first round of the playoffs at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers. That was a close game. Vick cut it to 21-16 with a touchdown run in the final 5 minutes, and the Eagles had the ball in Green Bay territory in the final minute. But Vick threw an interception in the end zone and his sizzling season came to an early end.

2011: Vick actually threw for more yards in 2011 than he did in 2010, but he ran less and his other stats dropped. His interception total rose from an unsustainable six to a more reasonable 14. And the Eagles fell apart around him, starting out 1-4 and never recovering until they were out of the race in December. Vick contributed to the problem with a staggering 11 turnovers in the first six games, and his late-season injury issues forced a completely unprepared Vince Young into the starter's role in key games. The Giants won the NFC East with a 9-7 record and went on to win the Super Bowl as the Eagles, who had to win their final four games to get to 8-8, watched in self-disgust.

2012: This was a weird one. The Eagles won three of their first four games in ugly fashion. Vick threw four interceptions in the opener against the Browns and two more the next week in the home opener against the Ravens, but he led game-winning drives both weeks and the Eagles won each game by a single point. In Week 4, he led them from behind to a two-point victory over the Giants. The Eagles were getting away with all kinds of sloppiness, and it eventually caught up with them. They lost 11 of their final 12 games and got Reid fired in the process. By mid-November, a concussion and other physical ailments had sent Vick to the sideline, and even once he was healthy Reid decided to roll instead with backup Nick Foles to see what they had for the future. Vick's time in Philadelphia appeared done.

2013: Surprisingly, the Eagles re-signed Vick to a one-year contract and new coach Chip Kelly named him the starter in training camp. He looked good in the season-opening victory over Washington and threw for 428 yards and two touchdowns the following week in a loss to San Diego, but tough losses to the Chiefs and Broncos dropped the Eagles to 1-3 and had folks grumbling. Vick would run for 79 yards on seven carries in the first half of a Week 5 victory over the Giants,  but he pulled his hamstring on his final run of the half, and that was that. Foles seized the job and never looked back, leading the Eagles to an 8-3 finish with 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. But Vick's 2013 legacy may be the capstone on an Eagles career that began as a reclamation project. He made no waves, served as a willing backup and was attentive and helpful to Foles and the rest of the offense in practice and in meetings. Vick's ability to handle losing his starter's job with dignity likely helped his case as a free agent this year. Teams that may have been wondering a year ago about what kind of backup he'd make now have some proof that he wouldn't be a detriment in that role. Who knows? It could even land him back in Philadelphia if things don't work out this weekend with the Jets.