In 2010, the Eagles finished 10-6, won their division and pushed the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers to the limit in the playoffs.
In 2011, the Eagles finished 8-8 and even though they finished strongly, they didn’t even make the playoffs.
There was obviously a big difference in those two seasons and the main difference was the quarterback, even though he was the same guy. In 2010, Michael Vick had the best season of his career and made the Pro Bowl and his statistics reflected that – he threw just six interceptions and finished with a quarterback rating of 100.2. In 2011, Michael Vick looked like he was lost much of the time and his statistics reflected that – he threw 14 interceptions and finished with a QB rating of 84.9.
That’s not bad, but it’s not good, either. And the big question for the Eagles this coming season – actually, it’s the only question that really matters – is this: Which Michael Vick will we see in 2012?
The preseason certainly didn’t give us any clues. Vick hardly played in the exhibitions because of a bruised thumb and then bruised ribs. So, we really don’t know what to expect on Sunday, when the Eagles open the season in Cleveland. Actually, that might not even tell us much, since the Browns weren’t very good last year and won’t be very good this year.
So, once again, the big question: Which Michael Vick will we see this season?
If it’s the 2010 Vick, the one who learned to be a pocket passer and ran the offense efficiently and error-free, then the Eagles will win NFC East and go deep into the playoffs.
If it’s the 2011 Vick, then this year’s Eagles team will look a lot like last year’s Eagles team and that is not good news for Eagles fans. Even the man who signs Vick’s big paychecks, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, acknowledges that.
“We expect him to have a terrific year,’’ Lurie said. “That’s why he’s the starting quarterback. That’s why he’s been signed for a number of years. I have to say that Michael has been everything we could have asked and more in terms of the intangibles. Now, we just need him to maximize that incredible God-given talent, stay healthy, and deliver the kind of offensive performance that great quarterbacks can.
“This is a quarterback driven league,’’ Lurie added, “and we will go as far as our quarterback play can take us.”
So, there it is. The Eagles added a bunch of new players and the ones who joined the team last year, like cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins, have had a full offseason and preseason to learn the Eagles’ system and each other. But none of that will mean anything if the quarterback falls flat on his facemask again.
And we’re not even getting into the constant injuries, which is always an important factor with Vick, who has played all 16 games only one time in his 10 years in the NFL.
“I think there are things that Michael can do to lower the chances of injury,’’ Lurie said, “but it’s a volatile game and that’s a rough and tough position.”
At least the way Vick plays it. Even though he keeps saying he’ll play smarter and not take the chances – and the big hits – that he’s taken in the past, it’s hard to see this tiger changing his stripes at this point in his career. And you can’t play well if you can’t play at all.
But even if Vick stays healthy for 16 games, nobody really knows how well he’ll play. Will it be 2010 or 2011? That is the question and the answer will determine the Eagles’ short-term future.
“I’m not into prognosticating,’’ Lurie said. “I’m just saying that we hope to see the elite Michael Vick that we saw the year before.”
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.