- Ashley Fox
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"Aw, man," Jackson said. "I'd say I was in high school."
Jackson shook his head and then added, almost wistfully, "He's amazing."
Amazing, and now, once again, Vick is the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback. Vick won the quarterback competition with Nick Foles, coach Chip Kelly announced Tuesday. Vick will be the starter in the Eagles' next preseason game Saturday at Jacksonville. He will be the starter in Week 1 against Washington. There will not be a weekly competition or a question about who is the guy throughout the regular season.
The guy is Vick. The reason is simple: The Eagles are Vick's team. It is obvious. It might have taken Kelly several months to figure that out, but it is an inescapable truth. The players wanted Vick to be the starter. They like Foles, sure, but many look up to and admire Vick. Some idolize him. They all remember the Michael Vick experience. They remember how he ran as a rookie for Atlanta. They've all seen the good, and they believe in him.
After deciding to bring Vick back for another season, this is the only decision Kelly could have made. Vick deserves to be the starter based on his play in two preseason games. He was accurate, smart, efficient and careful with the football. He moved the chains. He didn't turn the ball over, save for an interception on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half against Carolina.
Vick had a long touchdown pass to Jackson in the Eagles' first preseason game against New England, showcasing his strong arm and the effortlessness with which he throws the football. He scrambled with ease in the second preseason game against Carolina, showcasing his ability to be a dual threat given his mobility. Vick completed 87 percent of his passes in two games. Foles completed 79 percent of his passes, but he lost a fumble in one game and in the other threw a weak interception when trying to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone.
But it is more than just statistics and decision-making and repetitive accuracy, and Kelly apparently understood that.
Asked if his decision was based strictly off of what he saw on the field or whether he took into account the locker room, Kelly said: "We evaluate everything."
And the Eagles should have.
Vick's leadership was apparent in the aftermath of the Riley Cooper imbroglio. After Cooper apologized to the team for using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert, Kelly asked if anyone else would like to address the team. Vick stood up. He talked about the power of second chances. He tried to defuse the situation, as he later told me, because it was so volatile. The players listened because Vick's voice carries weight.
He also carries weight with players such as Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, because they were with Vick in 2010, when he incredibly beat out Kevin Kolb and became the Eagles' starter a season after re-entering the NFL following a prison term for dogfighting. They were with him in Washington in Week 10 that season, when Vick accounted for six touchdowns and helped put 59 points on the board on "Monday Night Football." They had a front-row seat for Vick's rebirth as a player.
"It carries a lot of weight," Jackson said. "He's been here -- Vick's been here, what, four, five years now? So just being able to go out there, that camaraderie we built together, us kind of looking up to him like a big brother. He honestly teaches us things on and off the field, things he went through.
"I've been saying that since day one. He's almost like a big-brother figure in our lives. He really motivates us and tells us things the average teammate or the average older brother wouldn't tell us. He cares in us, and he sees the future brighter here in Philadelphia."
That's powerful and meaningful.
I asked Vick if he felt the Eagles were his team.
"From a confidence standpoint, yeah, but realistically no," Vick said. "It wasn't, because I wasn't the starter. So I couldn't do the things I felt I could normally do. Now, I can."
Things like initiate extra reps with the receivers before or after practice and be a more vocal leader. McCoy said Vick has set the standard in the locker room by being one of the first to the practice facility every day and one of the last to leave.
After practice Tuesday, Vick said he was going to go do 500 push-ups and sit-ups and run on the treadmill until he collapsed. Sure enough, he went into a mostly empty weight room and rode an exercise bike as his teammates showered.
"Before, I didn't want to overstep my boundaries," Vick said. "I just wanted [the competition] to be fair. I think after a while, I just had to look at it that way. In the spring, I was talking and talking, and I just felt like it was my team, but I had to get all that out of the back of my mind and start from ground zero."
Which he did. Now, Vick gets one more shot at leading his team, one more chance at trying to win. Kelly made the right choice, and realistically the only one he could.