It's hard to believe it's April already, but with the coming of spring showers and the NBA Playoffs means the 2011 NFL Draft is also on the horizon. Also, April is slated to be a huge month for the future of the NFL with the Brady v. NFL case to be heard on April 6 which could ultimately decide if teams are able to resume normal transactions and business procedures under the old, expired CBA. If the lockout is lifted many teams approach towards the NFL Draft would change drastically, including the Eagles.
The Eagles may have the biggest trade commodity this offseason in backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Many teams are without the services of a capable quarterback and may be unwilling to put their hopes and jobs on the line by starting a rookie quarterback. Thus, as a result, Kolb's trade value has rocketed through the roof and the Eagles have to decide whether to retain his services for another season with the possibility of losing him in the 2012 offseason with no compensation, or strike while the iron is hot and trade a player that enabled the Eagles to have one of the most envied quarterback situations in the league.
Kolb and starting quarterback Michael Vick are two drastically different type of players that Andy Reid has molded to fit the team's system and each player has shown the ability to excel and possibly play at a championship-level.
Vick started 12 games last season and put up MVP-like numbers, but statistics only tell half the story and the value each player has to the team. Fellow B/R writer Rob Sirpless, in his article Sly Dog: Andy Reid is Playing the NFL, Kevin Kolb, and Michael Vick Like Puppets, made a few interesting points and led to the formation of this article. Andy Reid and Co. have a heavy decision to make in these upcoming weeks before the draft, which could affect the franchise for the next decade. His decision is essentially not a choice between Kolb and Vick, but determining whether his stated starting quarterback is worth the risk of letting his protege go, without the chance of proving himself.
Certain players have the ability to perform in ways others only dream of. There have been ways to document a player's intangibles, but this ability can never truly be quantified or measured. It is the player's heart, desire, and will to win. His ability to push his talents to the next level, to not accept defeat no matter the odds.
Vick has all the athletic talent in the world and his desire to win has never been questioned, not even by his biggest naysayers. At times, and sometimes to a fault, he has shown the willingness to sacrifice his own personal safety just for a few extra yards, just because he believes every yard counts.
His never-say-never attitude inspires confidence in not only himself and his abilities, but also in his teammates. Realistically, last season Reid could not remove Vick from his starting position even if he wanted to, at one point Vick had the team's confidence soaring and to pull Vick would have most likely divided the locker room. His new found dedication to studying game film and trying to improve not just as a player but also as a quarterback has raised his value even further. The New York Giants are very familiar with Vick's will to win and he led them to one of the most exciting and jaw-dropping comebacks in league history.
Throughout the entire offseason prior to last year, Andy Reid touted Kolb as the franchise's quarterback of the future. Was this just a play to inspire confidence in his quarterback? Possibly. Did Reid actually believe Kolb was the man for the job? Most likely. But as we all know, Kolb looked like a deer in headlights during the season opener versus Green Bay.
Maybe it was the game lights or the intimidating Clay Matthews on the other side of the ball, most likely yelling obscenities that shook Kolb to the core. Whatever the reason was, Kolb's confidence directly affected his level of play. But fast forward to Week 6 versus the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons and Kolb looked utterly amazing. Reading the defense in an instance, throwing a seemingly perfect mix of bombs and intermediate plays that left the Falcons confounded. Looking back, you would not think that the quarterback starting during the season opener was the same man directing the offense in Week 6, the only indication common factor being the name and number on the back of the jersey.
His intangibles are unwavering. With number seven behind center, the fans, the players, and the coaches felt that every game was winnable. Kolb's confidence and ability to inspire his teammates and raise his level of play is not as set in stone as Vick's. We have seen glimpses from Kolb that would make you wonder what is he doing out there then other times he looked totally comfortable and the type of quarterback Reid has always envisioned running his West Coast offense. But honestly, would you trade a sure thing for a possibility...not if you value your livelihood.
Athletically speaking, Vick is the epitome of what you would want as a football player. He has otherworldly speed, quickness, elusiveness not to mention a cannon for an arm and the ability to make almost any throw ala Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers. But Vick had these same abilities when he was the quarterback of the Falcons and if he was that same player today, Kolb would most likely still be the starting quarterback.
The major difference between the player then and the player today is Vick's dedication to improve. With the help of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Reid, Vick's drop step, progression, and throwing mechanics have been cultivated and developed, transforming him into an Pro Bowl, MVP caliber quarterback. Vick's throwing accuracy leaves something to be desired but that is a skill that can be improved through practice and repetition so aside from that and his size and relatively small frame, Vick has the type of abilities on par with the previous three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
Honestly is the type of quarterback that should be running Reid's version of the West Coast offense. His arm strength may not be at the level of Vick's but his other abilities are perfectly suited for this type of offense. One point that the receivers labored, after the trade of former quarterback Donovan McNabb, was Kolb's ability to led the receivers and enable the receiver to make a play after the catch as opposed to McNabb who would throw the ball towards the ground, making it more difficult of a catch.
Even though Kolb is the type of quarterback that should be running this offense, Vick is a type of talent that does not appear often. To say once a decade would be an injustice to Vick and his abilities, a type of player of Vick's athletic caliber is once in a generation. Obviously Reid noticed this and adjusted the offense to suit Vick's style of play, which resulted in the Eagles setting franchise records in points scored and average points per game.
Vick was born on June 26, 1980, making him 31 years old at the commence of the 2011 NFL season. Typically quarterbacks can play into their mid-30's and still perform at a high level, but the dreaded 3-0 is an age that their skills usually start to slowly decline. Vick's case is unique being that he served 23-month sentence and was away from football for two full seasons. Many experts argue that Vick's absence from football ultimately extended his playing career because his body did not have to go through the typical wear and tear from playing in the NFL. Thus experts say is on-field playing age is closer to 29 than it is to 31.
Kolb was born on August 24, 1984, making him a newly minted 27 years old at the start of the 2011 season. While 27 years old is the age players usually start solidifying their name in the league, Kolb has not gotten the chance to do so because of lack of playing time, but he does have the experience of being under the tutelage of Reid for four years. Teams recognize Reid's ability to develop quarterbacks and highly value the knowledge Kolb gained from his apprenticeship, but they also recognize that he is still considered a young quarterback. As a result, Kolb's suitors have the pleasure of knowing they can bypass the sometimes dreaded learning curve a quarterback typically goes through, and throw him directly into the fray and expect at least average results.
In a league that's always looking for young, new fresh talent, Kolb being 27 years old is technically four years Vick's junior. Teams love to acquire players that are young and ones they are able to mold into the type of player they desire and fit their team's game plan. Truthfully, the advantage Kolb holds over Vick in this category is that he is at the age where a player typically is beginning to enter his prime, while Vick is more towards the back end of his prime years. In a similar situation, Matt Schaub, also formerly a back-up of Vick, was traded to the Houston Texans from the Atlanta Falcons at the age of 25 (three months shy of his 26th birthday) and blossomed into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
An NFL season may be the shortest season of all professional sports but I doubt if anyone would argue against it being one of the most gruesome. It takes time to adjust to playing a full 16 game season and weathering through the bumps and bruises, not to mention the occasional losing streak and all that entails. Keeping that in mind, Vick can be considered a hardened veteran in this league despite missing two full seasons of football.
In all of his eight seasons in the league, he has started every game, not including his rookie season and the season he returned to the league from prison, which amounts to over 70 starts and that's not counting his playoff experience. Also remember Vick and the Eagles have a prior relationship before they acquired his services. Vick met the Eagles in the 2004 NFC Championship where the Eagles handily defeated the Falcons 27-10 to earn that elusive Super Bowl berth they had been chasing the previous three seasons. Although Vick played horrible in that game, which proved to be his last playoff game as a Falcon, he was able to see what it takes to make the big game from a veteran Donovan McNabb.
Kolb was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft and since then his total career playing time has consisted of 19 games played with seven career starts. Despite his lack of playing time, remember Kolb does hold the record of becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in each of his first two career starts so he has shown the ability to perform as a starter but as expected with any young quarterback, that is suffering through life as a NFL starter, Kolb has been inconsistent.
His inconsistency is in no way a reflection of his ability as a quarterback but blame can be placed more on the fact that six of his seven career starts was as a back-up quarterback replacing an injured starter. In his one game as the team's official starter Kolb looked unconfident and unwilling to throw anything more than short passes and as a result did not make it through the first half, but in retrospective this was against the eventual Super Bowl champions.
This is the one area that can be either viewed as a positive or a negative depending on a team's situation. The Eagles, namely their offense, are built to win now and anything less than a Super Bowl berth would be viewed as a disappointment.
To have a quarterback that has not yet completed a full season as a starter captaining their ship is not a desired situation as opposed to a quarterback has the experience of playing under the big lights of playoff football and knows what it takes to win in the postseason. Notice how at the start of the season, the general perception of the Eagles were that they were in "rebuild mode", but after Vick was named the starter and began winning games that label faded and was replaced by talks of the Eagles being a contender.
On the other hand, if a team has no playoff aspirations and are in a rebuilding mode, then a veteran quarterback that might be set in his ways could prove to be detrimental to the team's rebuilding process, as proven by the McNabb and Washington Redskin situation last season. This is the difference an experienced quarterback can have on a team and its outlook.
There has always been a risk at having Vick as your team's starting quarterback due to his style of play, but now after his imprisonment, for felony dog fighting, his risk extends beyond the playing field and into personal matters.
A quarterback may have detractors in the form of fans and football experts and Vick has his share, naysayers complain Vick is not a typical NFL quarterback and his style of play will never merit a championship. Despite their negativity, they have statistical evidence backing up there claim in that Vick has only started a full 16-game season once in his entire career.
The same abilities that make Vick unique and sometimes downright unstoppable are the same ones that could ultimately lead to his demise. Despite his athletic prowess and abilities, by no stretch of the imagination is Vick considered a large man, measuring out to be a meager 6'0'' 215 lbs. Although Vick has proven in the past to be injury-prone, this problem could be easily remedied with Vick taking a smarter approach to the game and becoming more willing to slide or make use of the out of bounds. Aside from his play, Vick off the field issues play a big part in his risk factor.
No organization in the league would willingly feel 100% comfortable having an ex-convict as the face of their franchise.Regardless of how you may personally feel about Vick and his crimes, past incidents (Ron Mexico anyone?) dating back to his early NFL days have led up to the moment of his incarceration. Although many of the issues with Vick were in his younger days and he has appeared to mature as a result of them, having a wildcard as your starting quarterback and not knowing whether he will relapse at any moment is a huge risk for any franchise to take.
Kevin Kolb was born in Victoria, Texas and graduated in four years from the University of Houston with a degree in business entrepreneurship. He was married to his wife Whitney Huddleston in 2007 and since then has fathered two daughters, Kamryn June and Atley Rose. Given his past and no prior run-ins with the law of any kind, Kolb is what many like to view as a good ol' all-American Texas son. Although despite his squeaky clean image, many people do not know Kolb participates in his own form of animal slaughter. He willingly admits to hunting and killing wild hogs, but the main difference between Vick and Kolb in this aspect is that hunting hogs is well...legal.
It seems Vick truly regrets his crimes, not because of its consequences but because he knows what he did was wrong but despite his efforts of trying to rebuild his image and atone for his past mistakes, he will always be viewed as a risk. This is something he will have to deal with not just during his playing career but his entire life.
Any organization or persons that deal with Vick for now on will have to endure through possible harassment, loss of revenue, and constant complaints from his objectors. In contrast, Kolb has no smear of any kind on his record. With no added controversy or risk involved, an investment in the abilities of Kolb would bring no form of negativity or scrutiny outside of his on-field performance.
Vick has always been a dynamic and exciting player but this past season he took a step towards the next level and became a productive player also. Vick's previously mentioned intangibles is initially what made him hard to contain but soon defenses began to devise schemes to counter his strengths. So, while Vick still proved to be dangerous, his effectiveness was severely limited and impacted his ability to win games.
This season Vick added another weapon to his arsenal, the ability to stand in the pocket and pick apart the defense with his passing. Even after being in the league for six prior seasons, Vick has shown the ability to continue to improve and progress his game. The combination of former Eagles quarterback coach James Urban, Morhinweg, and Reid have done a great job in further unlocking the potential of Vick but realize he has only had one season in this system, so in spite of his excellent play last season, it is scary to think, he still has room for improvement.
Vick's extraordinary season was still marred by late recognition of blitzes, interceptions, and injuries but these are all areas Vick can easily improve and a full offseason as the starter should do just that.
Kolb has shown glimpses of being a very good quarterback when given the opportunity. In his seven starts as quarterback, Kolb has earned the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award twice by posting a passer rating of 120.6 and 133.6 in each respective game.
Even in the Eagle's pass-happy offense, for a back-up quarterback to post those kind of numbers and beat out 15 other NFC quarterbacks to win the Player of the Week award...twice...is unheard of and has teams drooling at the mouth. Kolb has all the physical tools to become a successful quarterback in this league and combined with the fact that he has had several excellent games leads one to believe that his performance was not an aberration but a preview of what is to come.
Like Vick, Kolb is still an unfinished product and his skills need to be refined and honed to enable him to perform at an elite level on a consistent basis but, as mentioned before, Kolb is still considered a young quarterback therefore he still has to weather the learning curve but his curve is not as steep as some others may be and his ceiling is nowhere in sight.
Potential is a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed and last season both quarterbacks showed the ability to take their excellence to the next level, in Vick's case it is improving his game while in Kolb's case it is proving his game. Each quarterback has the potential to consistently become an all-Pro player and possibly even attain a championship due to their play.
In Vick's case, his potential is defined as adding another facet to an already stellar skill set and in opposition Kolb's potential is defined as learning the ins and outs of the game and delivering dominant performances on a consistent basis. Whether your preferences reside with Vick or Kolb, both quarterbacks have the potential to be great players and that is something that you do not see everyday on the same team from a vital position like quarterback.
Vick's play has always been known to fill the seats of any stadium due to his weekly SportsCenter highlights and his ease at defying the laws of human nature. To have a player guaranteed to generate fan interest is a valuable commodity.
For example, my uncle was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and grew up a fan of the Eagles but after the days of Randall Cunningham and Ricky Waters he began to lose interest in the team and stopped watching them play altogether. But when Vick was officially named the starting quarterback he began to ask me of the Eagle's and Vick's progress then slowly this limited interest progressed to him watching every game like it was must-see TV.
This is an impact only a handful of players in the league have attained. Vick generates the kind of excitement that brings fans to their feet every time he touches the ball because they are afraid they might miss the next highlight. In the eyes of the Eagle's management Vick is a cash cow despite his character flaws and image concerns, his play is the only thing the Eagle's brass needs to market and it is guaranteed to bring money not only to the organization but also to the city itself.
Kolb's value to the franchise may not be quantified in monetary means, as the case with Vick, but his value is viewed more as what he can net the team.