Andy Reid says he doesn’t believe in irony, but we do. And we think it’s ironic that Reid, a coach who loves to pass the ball, has never had a quarterback who was a skilled passer. Even when Donovan McNabb was going to Pro Bowls and leading the Eagles deep into the playoffs he was often criticized for his inaccurate passing. His successor, Michael Vick, also has a strong arm, but he’s erratic, too.
More irony – one of the best passers in NFL history will be available very soon and it’s doubtful the Eagles will show an interest in him. But they should. The Eagles should do everything they can to sign Peyton Manning.
That, of course, is assuming Manning is healthy after missing the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Colts will release him before March 8, when his contract calls for him to receive a roster bonus of $28 million. If Manning is released and he does pass inspection it will set up a unique situation – the man called by many the greatest quarterback of all time will be a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
If the Eagles are serious about winning a Super Bowl, if they’re really “all in’’ as team president Joe Banner said before last season, they should be one of the teams ready to negotiate with Manning even if, on the surface, they don’t need a quarterback.
But that’s the key – they do need a quarterback. Vick is talented and popular with his teammates and coaches, but there is serious doubt whether he can lead a team to a Super Bowl. That’s largely because nobody knows which Vick will take the field in 2012 – the efficient QB who took the NFL by storm in the first half of the 2010 season, or the turnover machine of 2011.
Another reason to doubt whether Vick can win it all is his durability. He almost never plays an entire season whereas Manning always played the entire season until 2011. And that’s because Vick holds onto the ball too long and/or tries to make plays with his legs and he ends up taking too many hits. Manning, on the other hand, gets rid of the ball quickly (and, of course, accurately) and rarely takes the pounding that Vick takes every week.
And despite all the jaw-dropping plays Vick has made with the Eagles, all the long bombs and exciting runs that could fill up several highlights reels, his defining moment as an Eagle is still the playoff game against Green Bay two seasons ago, when he threw a terrible interception in the end zone in the final minute that lost the game.
Even with his faults, Vick is still a valuable commodity and the Eagles could trade him easily enough and get a draft pick or two in return. Plus they would save a lot of money that they could give to Manning, instead.
Signing with the Eagles would be a good fit for Manning, too, certainly better than signing with Washington or Miami, the two teams to which he is most often linked. The Eagles have much more to offer than either of those teams. Their offense is loaded with young, dynamic players and an improving offensive line that, coincidentally, is coached by Howard Mudd, the man who previously coached in Indianapolis and was responsible for protecting Manning’s valuable hide with the Colts. And, of course, Reid loves to throw the ball, which is also something that should attract Manning.
Plus Philadelphia is a major market and since the Eagles play in NFC East, Manning could play against his little brother twice a season, every season. He should like that and the NFL and the television networks would love it.
There is no guarantee that signing Manning would give the Eagles that elusive Super Bowl trophy. And with Manning’s age and recent medical history there is risk involved. But it would be worth the risk, because the potential reward is so great.