Andy Reid has made his fair share of shocking coaching decisions since he was hired before 1999.
He benched Donovan McNabb in 2008 and then traded him within the division just two seasons later. He let Brian Dawkins, the heart and soul of the city of Philadelphia, walk in free agency. And he promoted an offensive line coach to defensive coordinator.
Vick had just been released from prison, and there was league-wide speculation as to which team would sign him. It’s safe to say Reid’s Eagles were not at the top of the list.
But Reid saw something he liked in Vick, more than just a redemption story. The Eagles offered Vick a one-year deal worth $1.3 million with an option for the following season at $5.2 million.
As a first-year Eagle in 2009, Vick played sparingly, being utilized similar to the way the New York Jets have used Tim Tebow this year. Vick came on in running situations and was allowed to throw the ball a little, turning in his season highlights when he ran for a score and threw for one against his former Atlanta Falcons.
Vick even added a 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Jeremy Maclin in the 2009 Wild Card playoffs loss to the rival Dallas Cowboys.
Following that season, Reid traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins and promoted 2007 second-round pick Kevin Kolb to the role of starting quarterback.
When Kolb was nearly decapitated by Clay Matthews in the opening week, Vick came in and nearly led a spectacular comeback. He finished the game against the eventual Super Bowl champions with 175 passing yards and a touchdown pass plus 103 rushing yards.
Vick started two more games before he got hurt, then Kolb too over again, and then when Kolb got hurt, Vick took over again. From that point on, Vick played as arguably the MVP of the league down the stretch.
He finished the season with 21 touchdown passes to just six interceptions, and he posted a 100.2 passer rating—nearly 20 points higher than any other year of his career. Vick led the Eagles into the playoffs, where they nearly knocked off the Packers in the NFC Wild Card Round.
Would Kolb have led the Eagles to the playoffs? Maybe. Maybe not.
It depends on whether you think Kolb would be a good quarterback had he stayed with the Eagles. His numbers that year were mediocre, as he tossed seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he posted a 76.1 passer rating.
And there’s no way Kolb would have beaten the New York Giants in the Miracle of the Meadowlands II comeback that Vick pulled off. He probably wouldn’t have beaten the Indianapolis Colts (a team Vick beat by two). Kolb likely wouldn’t have edged out the Dallas Cowboys by three (30-27 in Week 13) as Vick did.
Kolb probably would have played better against the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday Night Football, a contest in which Vick was off his game. But it’s doubtful that the Eagles would have actually fared better with Kolb than with Vick.
Last year, Vick digressed to the tune of a career-worst 14 interceptions and a drop in his passer rating of over 15 points. The Eagles stumbled to an 8-8 season, and reports say Reid even wanted to bench Vick when Vince Young took over.
Young, however, proved to be completely inept in his three games, and Vick kept his job.
Simultaneously, Kolb was playing his first season in Arizona, where Reid had managed to ship him for a second-round pick and a Pro Bowl cornerback. Kolb has struggled with injuries since day one in Arizona, and he’s put up mediocre numbers: 58.5 completion percentage, 7.2 yards per attempt, 17 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 83.2 passer rating.
He’s taken a ton of sacks, partly because he holds onto the ball too long and partly because the Cardinals offensive line is arguably the worst in the business.
Kolb has struggled once again in 2012, and John Skelton is now starting for Kolb while Kolb recovers from a chest injury. Kolb has also had his toughness questioned, which is never good for a starting quarterback making $63 million over five years.
Both Vick and Kolb are probably in their last seasons as NFL starters right now. Vick may not start next week against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, and the Cardinals can’t possibly put up with Kolb too much longer, especially considering what he’s earning.
So did Reid make a mistake when he signed Vick?
If he had never signed Vick, the Eagles would have gone with Kolb in 2010, and they would have been forced to give the job to Mike Kafka (or a veteran backup) when Kolb got hurt for a brief stretch. That team probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs.
And it’s difficult to envision the Eagles making the postseason in 2011 with Kolb, considering they didn’t make it with Vick.
That probably would have cost Reid his job. After all, he went from an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2008 to an NFC Wild Card loss in 2009. Two straight seasons missing the playoffs would have gotten him canned, that’s for sure.
So ultimately, it’s likely that signing Vick actually extended Reid’s tenure with the Eagles.
And the six-year, $100 million deal Vick signed? It’s essentially a two-year deal worth about $16 million per season, followed by four years of options. That’s too much money to pay for the performance Vick turned in last year and the one he’s giving the team this year.
He doesn’t seem to have learned how to read an NFL defense yet. He struggles against the blitz. He can be painfully inconsistent and erratic.
But the Eagles probably would have been squeezing the last year out of Kolb anyway to see what they have in him.
So who would you rather have had—Kolb or Vick?
I’ll go Vick.