NFC East: Kevin Kolb

The Denver Broncos have won the offseason title and free agency is not even four days old.

John Elway signed safety T.J. Ward to a four-year, $23 million deal that guarantees him $14 million. He stole cornerback Aqib Talib away from the New England Patriots with a six-year, $57 million deal that guarantees him $26 million. Then he thanked the Dallas Cowboys for their cap woes and unwillingness to pay DeMarcus Ware and signed Ware to a three-year, $30 million deal that includes $20 million guaranteed.

Ware will make $250,000 more with the Broncos this year than he would have with the Cowboys.

Add those three to an offense that will still put up points even if Eric Decker leaves and Denver should be viewed as the favorites in the AFC.

In fact, they might look like a "Dream …" Sorry. Got something stuck in my throat. "A Dream …" Man, there it goes again.

One more time: A dream team.

Could the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles serve as a reminder that a "dream team" doesn’t mean a Super Bowl team?

To refresh: The Eagles loaded up with Jason Babin (five years, $28 million), Cullen Jenkins (five years, $25 million) and Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million). They traded Kevin Kolb and got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in return. They added serviceable pieces in Ronnie Brown and Evan Mathis turned out to be a steal.

Then they signed Vince Young, who came up with the dream-team tag.

And Philadelphia finished 8-8.

The Broncos have Peyton Manning, so it’s hard to see an 8-8 season. But what happens if Manning gets hurt?
PHILADELPHIA – It looked and felt like Michael Vick’s last day as a Philadelphia Eagle.

As the former franchise quarterback cleaned out his locker, teammates came over and shook his hand. A few asked him to autograph jerseys or other items. A couple even posed with him for photographs.

When he talked to the media, Vick sounded like a man who was moving on after five years with the Eagles.

Vick
Vick
“It’s hard to sum up my time here,” Vick said. “Everything has been so surreal and has happened so abruptly. The thing I do know is I really appreciate the fans, I really appreciate the organization, I appreciate the relationships and the teammates that I’ve been able to endure in this locker room.

“There’s a lot of guys in here I’ll always remember forever, I’ll always keep in contact with and are my brothers.”

Vick signed with the Eagles in 2009 after being released from federal prison and reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Head coach Andy Reid wanted to give Vick a second chance without the pressure to be a starter. Vick was the third-team quarterback in ’09 and started 2010 as the No. 2 quarterback.

He replaced Kevin Kolb early in the 2010 season and eventually was signed to a new contract. After the Eagles hired Chip Kelly last January, Vick agreed to a one-year contract for 2013. He won the starting job coming out of training camp, but was replaced by Nick Foles in October after pulling his hamstring.

“I love Michael Vick,” Kelly said. “That guy is awesome … how he handled a very difficult situation. Unfortunately, he got hurt and that gave an opportunity to another guy. I think sometimes that’s hard to wrap your arms around because it’s not like Michael got benched. It was just a unique situation.”

Vick said he still wants to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

“I want to keep it going,” Vick said. “I’m not finished. My desire to start, I think, will be the same when I’m 38, 39 years old. But I’m still 33. I still feel good. The way that I’ve been able to take care of my body, the nutrition aspect and everything, has really given me another jumpstart. I feel good. I still know I can play. I’m confident in what I can do based on what I do every day.”

Vick’s experience with Reid and with Kelly, plus his years with various offensive coaches in Atlanta, give him a breadth of experience. Will another team commit to him as a starter? That won’t be known until March 11, when free agency begins.

If he can’t find a starting job, would he consider returning to the Eagles as a backup?

“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there,” Vick said. “I’m not even seeing that far. I’m praying that things work out in my favor, but you never know.”

With fourth-round pick Matt Barkley on board, the Eagles may not want to bring Vick back. Kelly had high praise for Barkley’s development and potential.

That explains the valedictory tone of Vick’s comments to the media.

“I have no favorite memories,” Vick said. “The memories I have are of coming here every day. The brotherhood that we have, each and every guy in this locker room. The memories I have over the years of throwing to DeSean (Jackson), handing off to Shady (LeSean McCoy), playing with Jason Peters. So many great guys in here I think are future Hall of Famers. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Drew Brees, Nick FolesGetty ImagesNick Foles, right, finally gets to share the field with Drew Brees, a quarterback he has long admired.
PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles has been chasing Drew Brees for his entire football life. He can finally catch the New Orleans Saints quarterback Saturday night.

When he was the star quarterback at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, Foles’ team lived in the shadow of Brees’ 1996 state championship team. The Chaparrals had gotten back to the state title game in 2000 and '01, but the ’96 team remains the school’s only champion.

While Foles was breaking Brees’ school records in 2006, Brees was establishing himself as the franchise quarterback in New Orleans. When Foles was a backup quarterback at the University of Arizona in 2009, Brees was leading the Saints to their first and only Super Bowl championship. When Foles was an NFL rookie standing helplessly on the sideline at the Superdome last year, Brees was beating his Eagles 28-13.

“When he's out there he's a warrior," Foles said. "The throws he makes -- there are not very many guys who can make the throws he makes. You can just tell with his intensity when he plays the game. You can just see his leadership. That's something I've always looked up to him for. He's a leader. He's a great guy; a great quarterback both on and off the field he's a great guy, and I respect that about him."

Saturday night, Foles will finally get the chance to face off with Brees in person. It is only the second time in history two graduates of the same high school have played quarterback against each other in an NFL playoff game. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Ferguson of Woodlawn High in Shreveport, La., did it in 1974.

“Here we are,” Brees said. “I know we’re not facing each other. He’s playing against our defense, I’m playing against their defense. It’s kind of interesting how this all comes together. I think it’s kind of cool.”

“I’ve always watched him from afar,” Foles said. “We’re from the same area, same high school. He’s a great player, one of the best to ever play the game at the position. He’s a guy I’ve watched and learned from.”

Brees has accomplished all the things Foles hopes to achieve. He has a ring. He has proved himself in the postseason, in the big games that define quarterbacks. This game represents Foles’ first chance to do that.

“The playoffs are where legacies are made,” Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said. “Because it’s on the line. I think the regular season, you do what you do, but the postseason, to really get it going, it means a lot.”

If that’s true for all players, it is especially true for quarterbacks. No one talks about how many big games the left guard or the free safety won in his career. It is the quarterback.

In a very real sense, Foles has a tougher challenge than Brees ever did. Brees came into the league in San Diego, where the NFL team is somewhere below the beach on the citizenry’s list of concerns. Then he went to New Orleans while it was reeling from Hurricane Katrina and where the Saints had one of the saddest histories in the sport. The only pressure on Brees was the pressure he placed on himself.

In Philadelphia, the pressure is constant. The recent legacy of near-misses authored by Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have fans hopeful that Foles and Chip Kelly can deliver -- but hesitant to give their hearts completely.

This playoff appearance feels like an unexpected gift in Kelly’s first season. It may be the last playoff game for Foles and Kelly that has that feel. It is a rare opportunity for Foles to establish a reputation as a big-game quarterback.

For Foles, this postseason is also another important hurdle on the track to being the kind of franchise quarterback Brees has been. Thanks to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Eagles are in an enviable position with Foles. The CBA prohibits teams from negotiating new contracts until after a player’s third season. Foles is just completing his second season.

That means he will make $635,000 for the 2014 season whether he throws five interceptions Saturday night or leads the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship. It also protects the Eagles from themselves. They can’t overreact to Foles’ stellar 2013 season the way they did a few years ago when Kevin Kolb was going to be their starter. Kolb got $12.25 million for the 2010 season and was replaced by Michael Vick by late September.

Two weeks ago, Foles and the Eagles beat Jay Cutler and the Bears 54-11. On Thursday, Cutler signed a new nine-figure contract.

That’s the kind of payday Foles can earn by continuing to play like he has for the past eight weeks. His 27 touchdowns, two interceptions and 119.2 passer rating are off the charts.

“It’s extremely impressive,” Brees said. “Those are pretty unprecedented numbers, especially for a guy who’s in his first year as a starter. I’m very happy for his success.”

It will mean that much more for Foles to perform at that level in the postseason. And if that means finally catching up to Brees, the man he has chased for a decade, so much the better.
Nick FolesAP Photo/Ben MargotThe Eagles didn't pick him as one and don't pay him like one, but Nick Foles is playing like an elite QB.

PHILADELPHIA – Try this exercise. Imagine the Philadelphia Eagles took quarterback Nick Foles near the top of the 2013 NFL draft. Imagine he came to town with the expectation that he would be an elite franchise quarterback.

Now look at what Foles has accomplished this season. He has started five games. He has won four. He threw seven touchdown passes in a game, tying the NFL record. Overall, he has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His passer rating is 128.0, best in the NFL.

If he were Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, his team’s fans would be over the moon with that kind of production. If he were Sam Bradford or Brandon Weeden or Ryan Tannehill, there would be full-fledged cults devoted to him.

In Philadelphia? There is a fascinating wait-and-see reaction to Foles’ phenomenal 2013 season. Hours of talk radio are filled with discussion about whether Foles can be the Eagles’ quarterback – for the season, for 2014, for the long haul.

There are good reasons for this, starting with the way coach Chip Kelly has handled the Eagles’ quarterback situation. Veteran Michael Vick was Kelly’s chosen quarterback after a training-camp competition. Since Vick was injured, even as Foles has put up the crazy numbers outlined above, Kelly has simply declined to say who his No. 1 quarterback is.

“I honestly really haven’t thought about it,” Foles said. “I don’t know. Whatever he decides, wherever he goes, I’m in it 100 percent. I’ll support whatever Chip says. I don’t know how the talk will go or when it will be, but I’m all in for this team. Whatever’s best for this team will always be the most important thing to me.”

But it goes beyond Kelly’s management of a tricky situation with the veteran Vick. Eagles fans have been down this road before: Ty Detmer, Bobby Hoying, A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb have raised hopes, only to disappoint and frustrate.

Kolb is the freshest wound. A second-round pick, Kolb started two games in place of the injured Donovan McNabb in 2009. He completed 55 of 85 passes for 718 yards and four touchdowns, with three interceptions. Kolb was the first quarterback in the history of the league to throw for more than 300 yards in each of his first two career starts.

Kolb did not become the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. Neither did Feeley or Hoying or Detmer. Eagles fans are naturally skeptical of flash-in-the-pan quarterbacks. And when Foles delivered a truly terrible performance against Dallas in his second start of the season, that skepticism flared up.

Foles has played brilliantly since then, but he hasn’t quite erased the memory of his Dallas dud. But there is one more compelling reason fans here haven’t fully jumped on the Foles bandwagon. And it comes back to Kelly.

When Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman landed the Wizard of Oregon, the excitement was palpable. Kelly was going to bring his futuristic offense to Philadelphia. Surely there would be a dynamic quarterback sprinting all over the field and firing passes from the rocket launcher on his shoulder.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsDespite Nick Foles' great play, Eagles fans are at best cautious. They've been here before.
Foles was an afterthought. It isn’t easy going from afterthought to hero. But the truth is, Kelly has said from the start that he could run his offense with Foles as his quarterback.

“It's always about the individual, so it doesn't matter what plays are called or what scheme is run,” Kelly said. “They still have to be executed. I think he is executing them and all the credit goes to him. He spends a lot of time. He works extremely hard at it. He's got a really good grasp on what we're doing, extremely accurate in his throws. I think he's a really good decision-maker. It's exciting to see him grow here.”

Kelly has praised Foles but, with Vick to consider, he hasn’t really embraced him. Teammates who respect Vick as one of the great athletes ever to play the game are beginning to talk about Foles as a guy who just wins. Fans who keep waiting for the next Dallas dud are cautiously beginning to believe Foles just might be the guy.

For now, if not forever.

All of this puts the Eagles in a pretty good position. They didn’t have to commit to Foles the way other franchises had to commit to Bradford or Tannehill or Christian Ponder or EJ Manuel. They wouldn’t trade their situation with Foles for San Diego’s with Philip Rivers, Dallas’ with Tony Romo or Chicago’s with Jay Cutler.

If Foles continues to play at an elite level, the Eagles will have filled the most important position in the game without taking a big risk. And if he goes the way of Kolb and Hoying and the rest, they won’t be hamstrung by a huge contract and a wasted first-round pick.

Meanwhile, they have a quarterback who has gotten them into the playoff picture, earned a display in Canton for his seven-touchdown game and has no sense of entitlement.

“I never think that way,” Foles said. “When you start thinking that way, you start getting complacent. Just because you do a lot of great things the week before doesn’t mean you’re going to go out there and do it again.”

That’s what the great ones do. Foles may not become one of them, but he at least has the chance.
PHILADELPHIA -- It was a playful moment, with Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles deciding to hold an impromptu joint news conference after practice Thursday.

But there was a sense that more was being communicated than Vick’s unavailability for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys and the two players’ mutual admiration, respect and even “love” for each other. It wasn’t as if Vick literally handed a torch or a baton to Foles, but that was the general tone.

“Regardless of what happens,” Vick said, “it’s all about rooting for one another. This is a fun game. You can’t have animosity toward a teammate because of the way he plays, or what people want, or the way they feel. We’re going to always root for one another and be there for one another, and whatever comes out of it, it’s going to be all good for both of us.”

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick and Nick Foles
AP Photo/Michael PerezMichael Vick and Nick Foles spoke Thursday not so much as competitors against one another, but rather as teammates with a shared goal.
Things have changed quickly since Vick pulled his hamstring two Sundays ago at the Meadowlands. Immediately after Foles played the second half in a victory over the New York Giants on Oct. 6, Kelly said Vick would be the No. 1 quarterback when he was healthy.

Much was made of something Kelly said when he named Vick his No. 1 quarterback.

“This is a one-quarterback operation,” Kelly said on Aug. 20. “This isn't going to be 'Someone's got to look over their shoulder,' or 'We're going to alternate by series.'”

But as Vick’s injury has lingered deep into a second practice week, and with Foles winning offensive player of the week honors in his first start, maybe the focus should be on a different Kelly quote, one he repeated a number of times over the summer:

“The best ability is durability,” Kelly said.

Vick’s durability is a legitimate concern. Sunday’s game will be his 11th missed start in 39 games over the last three seasons.

On Thursday, Kelly was asked his view of the old football principle that a starter should never lose his job because of injury.

“I think it all depends on the individual situation,” Kelly said.

But Vick could lose the job not because of this one injury, but rather because of the importance of durability and continuity at the quarterback position.

“We can’t look that far down the road,” Vick said. “We’ve got to take care of what we can take care of this week. I’m working to get myself back to 100 percent. Until then, Nick is the quarterback of this team and that’s where we stand.”

It must be remembered how Vick got the starting job in the first place.

Three years ago, Vick was the No. 2 quarterback. Starter Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the season opener against Green Bay with a concussion. Vick played well that day and in a start against Detroit the following week. Then coach Andy Reid, who originally said Kolb would be the starter when healthy, changed his mind and anointed Vick his No. 1 quarterback.

“That was an exciting time for me,” Vick said. “It was everything that I wanted, everything that I dreamed of. The way it happened, it was what it was. I didn’t think I was going to be the starter for the rest of the season, but that was the way the good Lord had it all planned out.”

That was one “individual situation.” The current one has three main characters:

Vick, whose assessment of the injury and his recovery sounds very much like an athlete learning that his 33-year-old body isn’t the same as his 25-year-old body.

“I just can’t rush it,” Vick said. “I came out and tried to push it a little bit, tried to run a little faster. I was able to do that, but at the same time I don’t want to push it too much. I want to let things happen naturally.”

Foles, who was very good during the competition with Vick in the summer and has been even better in six-plus quarters since Vick was injured.

“I’m not trying to do anything [as far as becoming No. 1],” Foles said. “I’m trying to win the game, as a team. You have to play this game for the right reasons. I’m sure Mike, too -- the reason we play quarterback is we want the ball in our hand every time. I don’t worry about [the future], I just worry about what I can take care of today.”

Kelly, who can let the situation “express itself,” as he likes to say, for another week before making a decision. If Foles is as good against Dallas on Sunday as he was in Tampa, Kelly can stay with him, citing performance and Vick’s lack of that all-important durability. If Foles struggles, Kelly can go back to Vick for a very winnable division game against the Giants.

At best, Kelly has two quarterbacks he can win with. At worst, he will have learned quite a bit about both of them as he builds his program for 2014 and beyond. No matter what, based on their repartee on Thursday, Vick and Foles will handle the outcome without rancor.

“I understand the nature of this business,” Vick said. “I understand how things go. I’m very confident in what I can do. When I’m needed, I’ll be there.”
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Chip Kelly has declined two opportunities to dismiss the possibility Nick Foles could wrest the starting quarterback job away from the injured Michael Vick.

Kelly said Vick would start if his injured hamstring allowed him. But he also said Sunday there is always competition and that the best players will be on the field. On Monday, he was asked to clarify whether Vick would remain the starter no matter what Foles does.

“That’s not the case for anybody,” Kelly said. “If somebody comes in and puts on an unbelievable performance, you have to take it all into account. That was my point. If Nick plays this week and does an outstanding job, that will be great for everybody.”

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelWill Nick Foles be named the Eagles' permanent starting quarterback if he shines at Tampa Bay this Sunday?
What to make of Kelly’s approach? Maybe it’s best to consider the alternative.

Three years ago, Vick was the No. 2 quarterback here behind Kevin Kolb. When Kolb left the season opener with a concussion, Vick came in and played well. Head coach Andy Reid declared categorically that Kolb would remain the starter no matter what.

"Well, let me say it again,” Reid said when pressed. “I know I'm using poor English. Kevin Kolb is the No. 1 quarterback."

Reid reiterated that after Vick led the Eagles to a 35-32 victory in Detroit on Sept. 19. Reid re-reiterated that during his Monday news conference on Sept. 20. On Sept. 21, the Eagles called the media to a hastily arranged news conference to announce that Vick was now the No. 1 quarterback.

"At the time,” Reid said, “I told you what I believed. Obviously I'm not able to predict the future. … It's not my obligation to tell people my decision. It's my obligation to make the proper decision. That's why I took the time to do that."

Reid was hammered, not so much for going with Vick as for appearing to be dishonest or at least indecisive. Kelly is avoiding that here. His words boil down to this: Vick is the No. 1 quarterback right now based on performance. If Foles’ performance exceeds Vick’s performance, that could change. Pretty simple.

If Vick remained healthy, Foles would only get to showcase himself during practice. Kelly said Foles normally takes “15 to 20 percent” of the snaps during a normal practice session. Those practices are closed to the media. So it is only during games that Foles can make a public case for deserving the starting position.

He didn’t quite do that in his relief appearance Sunday against the Giants. Foles was fine, but the offense as a whole was inconsistent. On Foles’ first drive, the Eagles moved the ball quickly for a field goal just before halftime.

The third quarter was not nearly as convincing. The Eagles netted 21 yards on their first two possessions of the half. With Vick out, the running game bogged down. Foles missed a deep throw to DeSean Jackson and made two throws short of the first-down marker before the punt team came on. The third possession ended with a field goal, but 27 of the 57 yards on the drive came courtesy of a pass interference penalty.

“I think Nick was inconsistent at times where we could have delivered the ball,” Kelly said. “We should have had more plays.”

Foles threw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after the Eagles defense intercepted passes in Giants territory. That’s a positive -- Vick has been poor in the red zone -- but it also means Foles didn’t put together a long touchdown drive.

By the same token, Foles didn’t have the benefit of preparing all week with a game plan designed around him. That makes Sunday’s game in Tampa fascinating. Kelly went to the Meadowlands determined to use Vick’s legs as a weapon against the Giants. He will not be doing that against the Buccaneers.

Kelly’s game plan will reveal a lot about how he views Foles’ abilities. Foles’ execution of that game plan will reveal even more. If the offense is more dynamic with Foles, that will be obvious to everyone.

Observation deck: Redskins-Bills

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
11:25
PM ET
Highlights from the Washington Redskins30-7 win over Buffalo on Saturday, their third straight in the preseason. Somewhere, Don Shula’s boys are getting nervous. Or not. Anyway, here you go:


  1. The running game was terrific, but I need to start with the defense. Yes, the Bills have some issues at quarterback. Kevin Kolb was knocked from the game, but he’s at best an average quarterback. Still, the Bills want to play at a fast tempo and it’s not just about passing the ball; they want to run the ball a lot, too. But the Redskins’ defense forced two three-and-outs in addition to a 10-play drive (aided by a third-down penalty on David Amerson). It would have been good to see the Redskins’ defense face this attack longer, to get a better feel because it can wear teams down. However, the Redskins handled this attack well and one reason was linebacker London Fletcher. To a man, players talk about how communication and conditioning are key to battling that offense. The Bills typically snapped the ball with 20-23 seconds left on the play clock. Yet the Redskins’ D did not look confused or lost. They subbed and were able to use their base and nickel packages. “London is the calming force of the defense,” Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston said. “You feed off his confidence and getting the calls. That tempo is trying to catch you with everyone not communicating. That’s how big plays happen.” By the way, Buffalo managed a first down on only three of 12 series and none in the second half, though when Jeff Tuel is your quarterback for most of the game, that's bound to happen.
  2. It can’t be underestimated how important it is to have someone like Fletcher on the field. It doesn’t mean mistakes won’ t happen; it does mean that they can minimize those mistakes because of his knowledge. “He’s a coach out there and even with the short amount of time we had to get up, we were able to get the calls out and get lined up,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. I haven’t asked Fletcher about this, but there’s little doubt that he’s watched film of Oregon and of Philadelphia in preparation for the opener, and probably has for a while. There’s still no voice in the defensive room that players trust more than Fletcher.
  3. I know one growing trend in the NFL is the use of packaged plays in which the quarterback has the option to either hand off or throw – and only he knows what he’s going to do. Buffalo does that; Philadelphia will do some of that. And Saturday, the Redskins scored a touchdown in that situation. They don’t do this a lot, but it’s certainly not foreign to them. They scored a touchdown two years ago versus Minnesota in this fashion to receiver Jabar Gaffney, and their first drive against New Orleans in the 2012 opener featured several such plays. Anyway, against Buffalo, Rex Grossman spotted the safety in a spot that left him vulnerable – up near the line on the right side. Typically, the safety would have been where receiver Pierre Garcon was headed on his slant. Grossman knew what to do. Watch the offensive linemen on this play– everyone was blocking for a zone run to the right; left tackle Trent Williams went for the linebacker. Grossman stepped that way but threw the slant to Garcon for an easy score. The corner had no shot at making the play – and even gestured to the safety at the end. Don’t blame him at all. “I knew we would get a blitz or he would drop out of leverage,” Grossman said of the safety. A good call and an easy touchdown.
  4. It’s a shame about Richard Crawford on many levels. It leaves the Redskins in a bind for punt returner. I wrote about this elsewhere on the site, but the options are veterans such as Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall. However, coach Mike Shanahan does not like to use key players in this role, and both would qualify. Besides, Moss has not returned a punt since 2009, and Hall has four returns in five seasons. There’s also Aldrick Robinson, who was bad in this role two preseasons ago and didn’t show a lot of improvement last summer. Can they really trust him? Skye Dawson has looked better since two disastrous returns in the opener (a fumble and a bad decision to reverse field). Anyway, Crawford is one of the Redskins smarter players; he’s always struck me as a future coach because of the way he thinks and understands the game. And he had improved a decent amount this summer – after spending the spring working with Redskins Hall of Fame corner Darrell Green. Mostly, this is about Crawford’s returns and I liked how comfortable he was fielding the ball. It looked natural and he (usually) made the first defender miss.
  5. Another option is Chris Thompson. There’s much that I like about Thompson and what he offers, and yet there are two major issues that just won’t go away: durability and ball security. I was pleasantly surprised how he looked fielding the ball. In practice a week or two ago Thompson did not look smooth at all; he twisted his hands awkwardly catching it on the run to his left and he fought the ball other times. However, he looked much different Saturday. “When I got back there I was pretty calm,” he said. It showed. He ran up and caught one on his 31-yard return. He had to backpedal and grab another one and moved to the side. Still, he’s only fielded three punts in a game since high school. It’s hard to imagine they can trust him with ball security at this point. But they absolutely love his speed and his sharp cuts in the open field. Some of this talk makes him sound like Brandon Banks, though Thompson is loads ahead when it comes to character.
  6. Now, for Thompson’s runs from scrimmage. The fumbles are an issue, and it’s clear he’s still adjusting to running in this offense. Of his 15 carries, none went for more than 9 yards. There were some positive signs: He did not dance around, and when he saw the opening he cut up and took what was there. Liked on a 5-yard run in the fourth how patient he was running to his left, then cutting up and running into the gut of a linebacker, moving him back a yard. He only averaged 2.9 yards per run and I’m curious to see when rewatching the game what sort of holes he really had. I saw good signs. However, those fumbles are killers. He showed resiliency in what he did after the fumbles and that’s good. (He actually carried the ball in his left hand on a run to the right, his first after the fumble. Why? Because he's left-hand dominant and felt more secure with the ball in that hand.) But he’s fumbled twice in two preseason games. If you’re going to do that, you’d better make a few really big plays. Thus far, that hasn’t been the case. Can he make the roster? Yes, because the coaches love his speed and he can develop. But he has not yet earned it with his performance (just remember, though, two years ago that Banks had not really earned it either until a big preseason finale).
  7. I liked how rookie tight end Jordan Reed played after a tough debut versus Pittsburgh. In that game, he dropped a pass and struggled as a blocker. Saturday, Reed caught the ball well and blocked even better. Reed competes hard, one reason he’s further ahead as a blocker than the coaches had hoped or realized he would be at this stage. On Keiland Williams’ 23-yard run it was Reed who cleared an opening by driving a linebacker out of the way. It wasn’t his only good block, but it was one good example. He used his hands better and was a little quicker with his feet getting in position. I also like that he makes smooth catches on balls that would be a little tougher for most players of his size at his position. I don’t know when he’ll make an impact, but I like his potential.
  8. Another guy who deserves credit: safety Bacarri Rambo. Didn’t get a chance to talk to him after the game, but you saw one reason why the coaches really like him: The ability to quickly learn. With the tackles it was all about angles rather than desire and after working on it even harder this week, there was a big improvement. Should you be completely comfortable yet with him? No. Even Sean Taylor needed to adjust to this during games; I remember asking Gregg Williams about Taylor’s open-field tackling as a rookie. The difference for Rambo tonight is that he didn’t hesitate. He was decisive and it showed. He tackled running back C.J. Spiller in the open field. Rambo also tackled Kolb in the open field. OK, Kolb isn’t Mike Vick. But what Rambo needed was some confidence in this area, and he received it Saturday. The coaches even gave Rambo extra time when the other starters were out, a smart move. They need him to be solid in this area. One game doesn’t make or break anyone – good or bad – but it was a positive step.
  9. The Pat White show continues. Does it mean he’ll win a roster spot here? Not unless the Redskins do the unlikely and keep four quarterbacks. And while he’s done a nice job running the zone read plays, keep in mind what separated Robert Griffin III on these plays was his ability to provide a triple threat: run, hand off or throw. White hasn’t shown he can be consistent throwing the ball from this look. White has improved greatly since we first saw him in spring workouts and if nothing else he’s shown that if and when he’s cut, it would be wise for someone else to at least take a look. His passing is still inconsistent and while he’s good throwing slants – hitting guys in stride – he has trouble on out routes. Before I go crazy on him I’d like to see consistency throwing into different areas and against different looks. But for a guy out of football for three years White has been far from an embarrassment and has provided jolts of energy on the field. He was very patient on his touchdown run, allowing fullback Darrel Young to do his job and then following behind. It’s just too bad for the Redskins that White is ineligible for the practice squad. White is behind Grossman; that touch throw to Roy Helu on the wheel route was very, very nice by Grossman. Maybe White gets there someday but he’s not close to those types of plays yet. Still, he’s improved.
  10. Finally, running back Roy Helu showed once again what he can do in the open field. As a running back there are still times I’m not in love with him. He gets the yards that are available too often whereas Alfred Morris creates more yards for himself. Morris did just that on his first three runs; each one went for longer than it should have because of his vision or his cuts or all of the above. His patience is exemplary. Helu is learning how to run with a little more patience. He didn’t always set up blockers. But one of Helu’s best runs, a 12-yarder, also coincided with a major negative – a fumble. However, the run was good as Helu pressed the hole well and got the linebackers to overflow to their right. A big cutback lane opened and Helu took advantage. Lucky for him, he recovered his own fumble. On the next play, you saw the dangerous Helu: his footwork was sharp as he was forced to cut a yard or two deep in the backfield because of pressure. Then he made a quick jump cut outside; all tight end Niles Paul had to do was obstruct his man and he did. Helu bounced wide for 17 yards. There’s a big difference between Helu and Morris, but both can be dangerous when used properly. If Helu gets 10 touches a game he will provide some big plays. If you put him on the field in passing situations with tight end Fred Davis and receiver Pierre Garcon and use play action… one of them will get wide open. Get a one-on-one matchup with a linebacker, as Helu did, and it can result in a wheel route and long completion. I’m not about to say this will be the most explosive offense ever, but a healthy Helu certainly provides more options and added firepower.
Tony RomoAP Photo/Tony GutierrezTony Romo has 18 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives, including five last season.
Last week ended with the news of a massive contract extension for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Although this news had been expected for some time, it was accompanied by the predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Romo has never won anything, always blows it in the big games and isn't worth that kind of money. Few players are as polarizing as Romo, and everybody from Dez Bryant to Donovan McNabb offered a reaction of one extreme or the other.

Then came the quarterback news from the early part of this week, and with it a heavy dose of perspective about just what Romo is and how thankful the Cowboys are to have him locked up long-term.

In case you missed it, the Oakland Raiders acquired Matt Flynn from Seattle in a trade, then traded Carson Palmer to Arizona. Kevin Kolb, formerly of Arizona, signed with the Buffalo Bills, who recently released Ryan Fitzpatrick. This week has been a big game of mediocre quarterback musical chairs, desperate teams settling for the least lousy options they can find on a market bereft of franchise quarterbacks.

Romo is not one of the elite quarterbacks of the NFL. That tier is reserved for record-breakers and champions. But he is a franchise quarterback -- someone around whose skills and ability a team can confidently build. Do the Cowboys wish he hadn't thrown three interceptions in the regular-season finale against the Redskins with the division on the line? Of course they do. But when they step back and see the big picture, they find ample reason to believe Romo is the quarterback for them.

He has delivered for them. Not on the level Cowboys fans demand, which is to say a playoff and championship level, but Romo's career is not simply a laundry list of choke jobs. He has 18 career fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives, including five this past season alone. The Cowboys were 3-5 at one point in 2012 but won five of their next six to get back into contention for the division. The wins in that stretch included Romo-led comebacks against the Browns, Eagles, Bengals and Steelers. During that stretch, he threw 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

None of this erases or excuses Romo's miserable flop in Week 17 in Washington, but it does serve to illustrate that he can play quarterback at a high level. He isn't completely clueless about how to win games that need to be won when things aren't going well. If a quarterback shows he can do that, you have reason to believe that someday he might come through in that really big game that always has seemed to vex him. Romo is certainly good enough to win playoff games and a championship for the Cowboys. The fact that he hasn't done it yet doesn't rule out the possibility that it could happen someday. The Cowboys have seen enough good from Romo to warrant hope that he won't always be bad when they need him the most.

If that sounds like damning with faint praise, just look around and tell me who is both available and better. The main reason the Cowboys locked up Romo long-term is because they like him and believe they can win with him. But the deal also helps them against this year's salary cap and, more important, gives them the peace of mind. They won't have to sift through dispiriting, insufficient options year after year at the most important position on the roster.

Romo can't hide his flaws. His term as starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys has coincided with a down period in franchise history. He bears some responsibility for this, as does everyone connected with the team. Although the criticism of Romo can be over the top at times, it is not always without merit. He has flopped too many times in critical spots.

But oh, could it be worse, Cowboys fans. Whatever else he is, Romo is a quarterback who gives you a chance to win every week. He's a quarterback you've seen come back in the fourth quarter, many times. You've seen him make brilliant throws on the run after the play breaks down. You've watched him succeed and thrive, for weeks at a time, behind poor offensive lines and in spite of incompetent performances by injury-ravaged (or simply incompetent) defenses. He is exciting, and regardless of how many times he has played poorly in big games, he offers you legitimate reason to believe you're never out of it.

And when it comes right down to it, this week's NFL quarterback news poses the question quite clearly: Would you rather be stuck with Romo for the next half-decade, or be one of the teams that has to play in the Flynn/Palmer/Kolb/Fitzpatrick end of the quarterback pool every year? Put it that way, and Romo's contract extension makes a lot more sense. The Cowboys are, in fact, lucky to have him.
What's up, blog faithful? Its Tuesday, 23 days before the NFL draft. We are going to have a chat and ... well, goodness knows what else? Maybe someone will make some news. Maybe we'll have to make something up like we did Monday about the Giants. Either way, it all starts with the links.

New York Giants

Brad Gagnon thinks Victor Cruz doesn't need to be in any hurry to take what the Giants are offering, since he has leverage that will only increase if he goes out in 2013 and performs the way he did in 2011 and 2012. I once thought the Cruz situation would get resolved quickly, and I still think he ends up with the Giants long-term. But right now it's hard to see either side taking a significant step toward the other anytime soon.

Should Eli Manning restructure his contract to save the Giants some 2013 cap space? Probably not. His cap cost each of the next two years is right around $20 million already, and another restructure would only create more problems down the line.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb trades obviously didn't work out for the Redskins and Cardinals but as Sheil Kapadia writes, the haul of picks and players the Eagles got in return for those two quarterbacks doesn't look as great now as it did a couple of years ago.

The three significant starting offensive linemen who had to miss large chunks of the 2012 season due to injuries are all healing, albeit at different paces. It sounds as though left tackle Jason Peters is doing well and center Jason Kelce struggling a bit.

Washington Redskins

Fred Davis' new contract comes with a 2013 cap hit of $2.5 million and could be worth as much as $3.75 million this year if he hits all of his incentives.

He's the Redskins' quarterback now, but Robert Griffin III still bleeds Baylor green. And when the Baylor women's basketball team lost to Louisville on Sunday in the NCAA tournament, Griffin did not take it well.

Dallas Cowboys

In assessing whether Tony Romo's new contract is appropriate within the marketplace, Calvin Watkins wants to compare Romo to other top quarterbacks who have yet to win Super Bowl titles and see how he stacks up.

The Cowboys would like to extend Anthony Spencer's contract as well, but Spencer has been otherwise occupied of late. The Dallas defensive end got married last weekend.
The Philadelphia Eagles released Nnamdi Asomugha on Tuesday. And on Wednesday night, free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie agreed to a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

This means that the two high-profile cornerbacks the Eagles acquired as part of their 2011 offseason spending spree are both gone from the organization and they will, as many had expected, need to find two new starting corners in 2013. Bradley Fletcher, who signed Tuesday, is a candidate for one of those two starting spots. It remains to be seen if the Eagles view second-year man Brandon Boykin as another at this point.

But it does seem clear that the people running the Eagles -- old and new -- are fine with distancing themselves as much as possible from what went on in Philadelphia for the past two seasons. Asomugha the free agent and Rodgers-Cromartie the trade acquisition (as part of the Kevin Kolb deal) were, as much as anyone, the symbols of how much the Eagles expected of the team they assembled in 2011, and how far short of expectations they fell. Neither was awful, but neither was great or consistent, and too many of the failures on defense over the past two years were the fault of blown coverages on which Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie either looked bad, bore responsibility or both.

The fact that the Eagles let Rodgers-Cromartie, who won't turn 27 until next month, leave on a one-year deal means they didn't want him back. And while there are some high-profile holdovers (see: Vick, Michael) from the mess of Andy Reid's final two seasons in Philadelphia, holdover GM Howie Roseman and new coach Chip Kelly don't seem to want any more of them around than is absolutely necessary.
Back at it on a playoff-week Wednesday with the Redskins getting ready for the Seahawks and the division's other three teams in the keep 'em/dump 'em stages of their respective offseasons. We got links.

Washington Redskins

The team for which Alfred Morris played last year went 1-11. This year, he was the second-leading rusher in the NFL and a big reason the Redskins won the NFC East. Too good to be believed, writes Mike Wise.

Mike Shanahan says the doctors are telling him Robert Griffin III's knee is 100 percent, and he thinks the only reason Griffin doesn't look like himself while running right now is that big brace he's wearing on the knee. Doesn't sound like the brace is coming off before Sunday, though.

New York Giants

ESPNNewYork.com's take 'em/trash 'em poll says Osi Umenyiora is on the outs with Giants fans. I don't think anybody has anything to worry about. I don't think the Giants were expecting to bring back Umenyiora in 2013 no matter what happened. That relationship isn't real good.

Lots of people are getting fired this week in the NFL, but that's not the way the Giants do things. They're saying not to expect serious changes to the coaching staff, and I'd believe them. The Giants love them some stability.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is interviewing for the Bears' vacant head coaching position. Hey, it's not completely nuts. John Harbaugh was a special teams coordinator and has done well as Ravens head coach. The special teams coordinator is generally the only assistant coach who deals with both halves of the roster, and if a guy can lead, a guy can lead.

Same way Umenyiora is likely out in New York, cornerback Mike Jenkins looks like a good bet to be gone from the Cowboys. We all know Jenkins wasn't happy being shoved into a reserve role when the team signed Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne, and there's enough demand around the league for corners that Jenkins should find a starting role somewhere.

Philadelphia Eagles

The list of potential Eagles head coaches continues to expand, and it appears to include Syracuse's Doug Marrone as well as fellow college head coaches Chip Kelly and Bill O'Brien. Doesn't sound like Kelly's real likely at this point, which is why you're hearing so many new names this week.

As for the guy that used to coach the Eagles, it sounds as though Andy Reid has a chance to be the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Be pretty funny if he could get something for Kevin Kolb again, right?

Eagles are a study in 'miscalculation'

November, 6, 2012
11/06/12
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Amid all of the perfectly justified rip jobs and sky-is-falling coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles' latest loss, this short item by Jeff McLane caught my eye. He's got someone with the Eagles telling him Andy Reid's bye-week firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was a "miscalculation." This comes as neither news nor a surprise to anyone who's been tracking the Eagles over the past two seasons, during which it appears "miscalculation" has been the hallmark of the front office's game plan.

Yeah, when you watch the Eagles play, it's easy to get caught up in the on-field, in-game issues. Why don't they run the ball more? Why can't Michael Vick make pre-snap reads? Have they quit on Andy Reid? Stuff like that. But I think if you look back over the past two years, it's easy to see that the flaws with this team are flaws of construction, and that the miscalculations are myriad and extensive. A partial list, in no particular order:

    [+] EnlargeMichael Vick
    AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelSigning QB Michael Vick to a $100 million contract appears to be a costly move for the Eagles.
  • Deciding on Vick as a $100 million franchise quarterback based on the spectacular aspect of the way he played in 2010, ignoring the likelihood that his issues reading the field, making audibles and adjusting on the fly were too ingrained to overcome in his 30s. And no, it's not that they should have kept Kevin Kolb or that they didn't get great value for him in the trade. It's just that tying so much of their 2011-12 success to Vick is going to set them back as they head into 2013 and beyond. And the bust potential that Vick came with at the time of the contract was high enough to make it a questionable decision at best.
  • Signing Nnamdi Asomugha on the presumption that he'd play like a top shutdown cornerback, then playing him in zone coverage for his first year because they didn't have the guts to move Asante Samuel. This resulted in their having to trade Samuel for nearly nothing a year later, and Asomugha has struggled at times this year in one-on-one coverage against speedy wideouts.
  • Drafting Danny Watkins in the first round after hiring Howard Mudd to run the offensive line. Mudd found Jason Kelce in the sixth round, identified him as the type of guy who could play his scheme and quickly molded him into a top NFL center. Surely, he could have found a guard in the fifth or seventh that fit his profile and done the same with him, and the Eagles could have used that first-rounder on something more immediately helpful. And no, the Eagles could not have imagined the extent to which injuries would ravage their offensive line this season, but it does seem as though they could have found backup players better suited to adapt quickly to Mudd's blocking schemes. Perhaps if they hadn't been so focused on bringing in high-profile, ultimately useless skill-position backups like Vince Young and Ronnie Brown last year, this could have been more of a point of emphasis.
  • Designing a defense predicated on the down linemen selling out for sacks, then failing in 2011 to support the defensive line with anything resembling adequate linebacker play.
  • In 2012, after bolstering the linebacker corps, failing to adjust anything about the defensive line scheme even though the whole league knew they'd be selling out for sacks on every play. The extent to which opposing offensive coordinators have appeared to be ahead of Castillo, Todd Bowles, Jim Washburn or whoever's been in charge of setting up the Eagles' defense on a given week this year is staggering.
  • Making Castillo the defensive coordinator in the first place, then of course firing him during the bye week just because they felt like they had to do something.

Look, I understand this is an exercise in second-guessing. I fell for it, as did a lot of the people who have been writing about this Eagles team for the past two years. Philadelphia's roster-construction efforts the past two springs and summers looked good as they were going on, and I for one failed to spot the number of flaws that have ultimately manifested themselves. The very good lesson, for those of us who write the NFL, is as usual about waiting for the games to be played before making broad conclusions about how they will go.

As we look back on it now, though, not much the Eagles have done in assembling their roster over the past couple of years has worked. There's the occasional DeMeco Ryans or Fletcher Cox, sure. The DeSean Jackson contract is a good one for them, and I don't think it was necessarily wrong for them to spend resources this past offseason locking up cornerstone pieces like Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy and Todd Herremans for the long-term. But in terms of building a Super Bowl contender in the short term, Reid and the rest of the people who run the Eagles have failed spectacularly. The product they've put on the field simply isn't as good as they believed it to be, and they are likely to pay for their run of miscalculations with their jobs.
In honor of the formerly great, perpetually overpaid Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and the spectacular end of his season last week, our man John Clayton has compiled a list of the 10 worst current contracts in the NFL. There are two NFC East contracts on the list. Quarterback Michael Vick's six-year, $100 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles is No. 2 (behind only Chris Johnson's deal with Tennessee), and tackle Doug Free's six-year, $48 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys ranks No. 9.

Here's what John has to say about the Vick deal:
Vick is the quarterback for now, but after the so-called "Dream Team" didn't make the playoffs last season, the 3-3 start has everything under review. Andy Reid could be in trouble if the Eagles don't make the playoffs, and that would affect Vick. He has $47.5 million coming to him in 2013-15, but the Eagles might try to get out of the deal if Reid is gone.

We know that the Eagles can escape the remainder of the Vick deal if they choose to opt out in January or early February. As ridiculous as this deal looks now, at the time Vick was coming off of one of the most spectacular seasons any quarterback ever had, and the Eagles had decided to trade Kevin Kolb and commit completely to Vick as their starter. This is what quarterbacks cost. It's now on Vick and the Eagles to use the next 10 games of this season to make the deal look more worthwhile.

Here's what John has to say about Free:
Jerry Jones thought he got a steal when the Cowboys signed Free, then a left tackle, to this contract last year. The coaching staff moved him to right tackle this season, and he's struggled in the transition. Free and left tackle Tyron Smith have been among the league leaders in penalties this season, making things tough on quarterback Tony Romo.

Remember how important it was to Cowboys fans that the team not let Free get away during that post-lockout free-agent frenzy? He's been a disaster. And it's not that he's struggling with the transition from left tackle to right tackle -- the team transitioned him there because he was so awful last year at left tackle. Again, the deal looked fine in the wake of Free's excellent 2010 season. But in retrospect, he's not an NFL left tackle and doesn't look much like an NFL right tackle either. Free's complete fall off a cliff after his big 2010 is one of the major mysteries with which the Cowboys are dealing right now.

Final Word: NFC East

September, 28, 2012
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Look out for an air show: The odds favor a lot of passing yards in Sunday's game between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The teams rank as the two worst pass defenses in the league this season. Washington is giving up 9.1 yards per pass attempt, tied with the Saints for second-worst in the league, better than only the Giants (9.3 yards a pass). The Bucs are allowing 8.9 yards per attempt, fourth worst. The Redskins rank 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and the Buccaneers rank 32nd. So although Washington and Tampa Bay rank only 22nd and 30th, respectively, in passing offense so far this season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both passing games get on track Sunday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeArizona Cardinals
Jennifer Stewart/US PresswireTo win Sunday, Michael Vick and the Eagles must avoid turnovers against the opportunistic Giants.
Here, you take it: The New York Giants have forced eight turnovers this season, third-most in the NFL through three weeks. On Sunday night, they play the Philadelphia Eagles, who have committed 12 turnovers. My friend and colleague Mike Sando emailed Thursday night to tell me the Eagles have turned the ball over more times this season than have the Falcons, Patriots, Redskins, Texans, Seahawks and Jaguars combined, and two more times than the 49ers did all of last season. That's completely ridiculous, and if the Giants can get any kind of pass rush against Michael Vick and force him to make the kinds of bad decisions that have characterized his season so far, it's not likely to get any better Sunday night.

Something's got to give: According to ESPN Stats & Information's "Next Level" numbers, the Eagles' pass defense has allowed only five completions on throws more than 10 yards downfield so far this season. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has averaged seven such completions per game. Manning's completion percentage when throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield this season is 60.0. The Eagles' defense is allowing a completion percentage of just 18.5 on such throws. Manning is the toughest test yet for an Eagles pass defense that has made its bones against Brandon Weeden, Joe Flacco and Kevin Kolb. But on the flip side, Manning hasn't faced a tough pass defense since the Cowboys in Week 1. He's put up huge numbers the past two weeks against Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Romo on the run: According to our "Next Level" stats, the Chicago Bears lead the NFL with 14 sacks in spite of sending four or fewer rushers on 77.5 percent of opponents' dropbacks. Especially against the Dallas Cowboys' porous offensive line, the Bears are likely to generate considerable pressure on quarterback Tony Romo in the "Monday Night Football" matchup. If Romo can avoid sacks, however, this could be a good thing for Dallas. Since 2010, Romo has thrown 12 touchdown passes without an interception when throwing from outside the pocket. That's the highest total in the NFL over that time.

Defensive struggle: Unlike that Bucs-Redskins game on Sunday, Monday night's game looks as though it could be a low-scoring affair. The Cowboys are allowing an NFL-low 250 yards per game this season. The Bears' average is sixth best in the league at 279 yards allowed per game. If someone can get on the scoreboard early, it could have a distinct advantage the rest of the way.
I was listening to Andy Reid's news conference live on the radio as I was driving through South Jersey this afternoon on my way home from Washington. And yeah, I heard the Philadelphia Eagles coach say "we'll evaluate as we go" when asked if he might consider a change at quarterback. And yeah, having been a sportswriter for 18 years, I can tell when I've just heard something that's going to blow up to be the big story of the day. I hope you can all forgive me for taking the remainder of the drive home to collect my thoughts, which are these:

[+] EnlargeVick
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelAt what point will the Eagles conside taking the job away from quarterback Michael Vick?
1. The exact question was at what point, if any, would Reid consider making a change at quarterback if the turnover problem didn't improve. Given the way the question was phrased, there's almost no other way Reid could answer that wouldn't open him to charges of coaching malpractice. Obviously, no matter who your quarterback is, if he continues to turn over the ball three times a game, you have to evaluate and consider other options. If Vick can't get the turnovers under control, he has no divine right to the job that would overcome that. The Eagles can't afford to turn over the ball at their current rate and expect to keep winning two out of every three games as they have so far. Vick is the Eagles' starting quarterback because Reid believes he's the best player for the job. If nine turnovers in three games don't affect your opinion of a quarterback (after turnovers were a huge problem for him last year and he swore up and down that he would correct it), then you're beyond stubborn and likely beyond help.

2. The current other options are Nick Foles, who was the Eagles' third-round pick this year and has never played in an NFL game, and Trent Edwards, who hasn't played in one since 2010. So it's not as though he's got John Elway and Dan Marino sitting on the bench. By leaving Edwards inactive and making Foles the backup so far this year, Reid is expressing that he'd be fine with Foles having to play quarterback for him if it came to that. But Foles has not proved anything to convince anyone he'd turn the ball over less than Vick does. He looked great in the preseason, against backup defenses that weren't game-planning to stop him, and no matter what kind of impression you or Reid has formed about Foles based on what little you've seen of him, no one actually knows how he'd do if thrust into real NFL action. Vick could be benched for poor play, but it'd be a lot easier to do that if the Eagles felt they had a reliable replacement option. And no matter how much they like Foles, they have no idea what they'd be getting.

3. And I think most important: Yes, there is precedent for Reid making a change at quarterback earlier than many would expect. But the two examples being cited -- his benching of Donovan McNabb at halftime of the Nov. 23, 2008 game and his switch from Kevin Kolb to Vick early in the 2010 season -- aren't direct parallels to this situation. McNabb was benched during a loss that would drop the Eagles' record to 5-5-1. The previous two games had been a loss to the Giants and a tie against the Bengals that McNabb famously hadn't understood as possible. McNabb was playing poorly, but the team also was losing games at a critical time in the second half of the season. This is September, and as poorly as Vick has played he is 2-1. When Reid switched from Kolb to Vick in early 2010, it was a jarring departure from his previously steadfast support of Kolb, but the change was based on the way Vick had played in Kolb's place. He'd nearly brought them back from 20-3 down against the Packers in Week 1, and he'd thrown for 284 yards and two touchdowns to beat the Lions in Week 2. Vick was playing at a startlingly high level and had proven -- against real NFL competition -- that he offered something Kolb did not. Such is not the current case with Foles.

In the end, I think it's the Eagles' record that determines this. The reason Reid isn't going to bench Vick for Foles this week is because Vick is 2-1. And as lousy as he has been at protecting the ball, he did lead game-winning touchdown drives in each of the first two weeks. Reid believes Vick can play better than he has played, and the fact that the Eagles have a winning record in spite of the problems likely buys Vick more time. If the Eagles were 0-3, it might be time to take a risk and see if the rookie could rescue them. But they don't need rescuing from 2-1. They simply need to start playing the way Reid believes they can play.

It's possible that Reid was just answering a news conference question as blandly and honestly as possible. It's more likely he knew the comments would be broadcast everywhere, parsed for meaning and heard by Vick himself, and that he's trying to light a fire under his quarterback. Nothing wrong with that, and there's nothing wrong with evaluating as he goes. Vick has to protect the ball better, or the Eagles will have to consider making a change. But I don't think it's any coincidence that Reid's first waver on this topic came after the Eagles' first loss. If they're 3-1 after Sunday night's game against the Giants, I imagine he'll go right back to full-support mode no matter how Vick played. But if they're 2-2 and Vick lays another egg, "evaluate as we go" might be about the nicest thing Reid's willing to say about his quarterback situation.

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