Benching Vick Should Be Reid's Last Resort

Benching Vick Should Be Reid's Last Resort

Whatever your opinion of Juan Castillo and the job he did as defensive coordinator, that experiment has concluded. It seems to me Andy Reid had far bigger fish to fry, specifically as it relates to the Eagles' ghastly offense, but you can certainly find cause for Castillo's removal. If nothing else, firing your friend and associate of 14 years sends a powerful message.

Whatever the case may be, people were seeking blood over the club's turbulent 3-3 start, and blood they got. Like spectators at the Roman Colosseum however, the citizens of Philadelphia do not appear to be satiated by a singular display of cruelty. All eyes turn to Michael Vick now as a city asks: will Reid squeeze the trigger on his quarterback next?

Vick has been the poster child for the Eagles' woes since Week 1 in Cleveland where he threw four interceptions, including a pick-six that nearly cost his team the game. The excuse at the time was rust, as Vick had appeared in just 12 snaps during the preseason due to various injuries.

Today we know that doesn't even begin to tell the whole story. Vick has been able to rein in the foolish passes to some extent, cutting the number of INTs to four over the last five games, only he's coughed up the ball via the fumble an additional five times officially. (It's actually six if he is charged for Dallas Reynolds snapping the ball early on Sunday, which in fact very well may have been prompted by a slight twitch of the Vick's leg.)

That is 13 giveaways by Vick alone, 17 total for the Eagles through six games. That is pathetic.

With Vick accountable for over three-quarters of the team's turnovers, replacing him under center might seem like the easy fix. It's not. Where dismissing Castillo put the players and coaching staff on notice that everybody's jobs are on the line -- even profoundly loyal employees of 18 years -- sending Vick to the bench amounts to nothing more than a distress signal.

Yanking Vick would be akin to sounding the nuclear alarm on the 2012 season, while Nick Foles is the fire extinguisher tucked away under the "break glass in case of emergency" sign. Choose your own analogy, but making the switch at quarterback is Reid's absolute last resort, and everybody inside that locker room knows it.

Look, this isn't about whether Foles is ready or not. Simply put, there is no faster way for a head coach to convey the future is bleak -- both immediate and long-term -- than calling on a third-round rookie QB to save his bacon. If the kid doesn't produce instantly, that pessimistic feeling will trickle down to the players, and that's when your season is in danger of spiraling out of control. And this speaks nothing on the respect MV7 commands, which could further divide the locker room.

The day for desperate measures may soon be at hand, but it hasn't arrived yet. There are 10 games remaining. The Eagles are currently one game back of first place in the NFC East. They already own a win over the Giants. There is absolutely no reason for Reid to further overreact and come out of the bye week with any other starter besides Vick, even if the head coach's confidence in his signal caller is understandably shaken.

And the truth of the matter is Vick hasn't been quite as bad as his press clippings might indicate, minus the turnovers of course. His three comeback victories lead the NFL, while only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are responsible for more total yards of offense. This is behind an offensive line decimated by injuries, guided by frequently nonsensical play-calling -- not exactly an optimal situation for a rookie QB, oh by the way.

Do I believe Vick has what it takes to overcome his own flaws, let alone the flaws of others, to lead this franchise to a championship? Not at the moment, no.

Then again, I've never believed in Vick the way I did Donovan McNabb when he quarterbacked the Eagles. Heck, I didn't believe Vick deserved to unseat Kevin Kolb in 2010. I was literally in the process of writing the eulogy to Vick's career in midnight green as the Miracle in the New Meadowlands was beginning to occur. Throughout 2011, this past offseason, and the entire year, I wouldn't dare count him out, but my own reservations toward Vick's development at this stage of career were always clear.

Yet at this point, there can't be any doubt he presents their best chance at winning. That may not matter much to fans who "just want this regime to end," the folks who think rebuilding brings with it some guarantee Philadelphia's football club will quickly rebound as viable contenders. Ask the people of Cleveland who excitedly await the Joe Banner era how that's been going for them, uh... forever.

To Andy Reid, the 53 men who go to battle every week, and the rest of the masochists actually holding out hope for the improbable, the decision on who will be under center matters. Don't sound the alarm unless or until all hope is lost.

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

A day after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, Odubel Herrera is leading off for the Phillies in their series opener Friday night against the Reds (see game notes).

It's the first time Herrera is leading off since last Aug. 19, a span of 84 games.

Cesar Hernandez gets the night off, with Andres Blanco batting second and playing second.

Maikel Franco is back in the six-hole after going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot Thursday. Tommy Joseph bats fourth and Michael Saunders fifth.

Cameron Rupp, who walked three times in Thursday's win over the Rockies, catches Aaron Nola and bats seventh.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Andres Blanco, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Aaron Nola, P

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies (16-29) vs. Reds (22-24)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Following their first win in a week, the Phillies open a new series this weekend against a beatable team in the Cincinnati Reds, who are 3-9 in their last 12 games and 1-7 in their last eight road games.

Let's have ourselves a look-see:

1. Nola's turn
Aaron Nola is on the mound tonight for his second start since a month-long DL stint. He was extremely impressive his last time out, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Pittsburgh.

Nola's fastball reached as high as 95.5 mph against the Pirates, which is notable because he threw only two pitches faster than 94 mph all of last season. His velocity was up before the lower back strain and it's a great sign that the elbow injury which ended his 2016 season is truly in the past.

In Pittsburgh, Nola (2-1, 3.52) threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes. He got 11 outs on the first three pitches of at-bats. 

He's faced the Reds twice in his career and dominated them both times, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings with one walk and 17 strikeouts.

Current Reds have gone 7 fo 39 (.179) against him with just two extra-base hits. Joey Votto is 0 for 5.

2. What to do with Odubel
Pete Mackanin has an interesting decision to make this weekend with slumping Odubel Herrera, who on Thursday became the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in a game.

Herrera is down to .226 on the season with a .275 on-base percentage. In May, he's hit .194 with one walk and 28 strikeouts.

Mackanin could bench Herrera like he did with Maikel Franco for two games earlier this week. It would send a message to the player that poor at-bats and wild swings have consequences. And, quite frankly, sitting Herrera for a day or two might give the Phillies a better chance to win.

The issue, of course, is that there's a thin line between giving a player a chance to clear his head and ridding him of opportunities to get back on track.

Plus, the Phillies don't have great options in replacing Herrera in the lineup. They have a four-man bench at the moment and the only options would be putting Ty Kelly or Brock Stassi in left field and moving Aaron Altherr to center.

(Update: Mackanin is taking the opposite approach with Herrera, leading him off Friday night.)

Herrera just has not been himself this season and it's troubling. At this point last season, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. He's been an undisciplined hitter in 2017 and when you have two of them in the middle of the lineup in Herrera and Franco, it makes things really easy on pitchers at times.

Herrera started the year hot, hitting in his first eight games. Since then, he's hit .203/.239/.324 in 155 plate appearances with six walks and 42 K's.

3. Tommy time
Tommy Joseph has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this month, batting .329/.400/.671 with six doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games.

He's 148 games and 499 plate appearances into his major-league career and has hit .257 with 23 doubles, 28 homers, 69 RBIs and an .804 OPS. That's about 10 points higher than the league average OPS from first basemen over that span.

Had Joseph's April slump continued into May, prospect Rhys Hoskins might have already been called up. But Joseph has done enough so far to hold off Hoskins, who appears to have more upside because of his combination of power and plate selection.

Controlling the strike zone is the next step for Joseph. He has a .311 OBP so far with 33 walks and 112 strikeouts as a Phillie.

But over the last two seasons, he's been one of the few Phils who's taken advantage of this ballpark. Joseph's hit .276 with an .844 OPS at Citizens Bank Park compared to .240 with a .769 OPS on the road.

4. Scouting the Reds
The Phillies face 29-year-old Reds right-hander Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19).

You look at the ERA and think, OK, maybe the Phillies' bats will wake up tonight. But keep in mind that the Rockies' four starting pitchers this week entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA and the Phillies scored three runs against them in 27 innings.

There's nothing special about the 6-foot-5 Adleman. He throws his fastball and sinker in the 88 to 91 mph range with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. His opponents have hit .300 against his fastball and have eight extra-base hits with a .290 batting average against his changeup.

In six starts this season, Adleman's yet to go deeper than six innings. The Phils faced him last season and scored three runs in five innings. Cesar Hernandez went 2 for 2 with a walk and Franco went 1 for 3 with a double.

As for Cincinnati's offense, Votto is obviously the hitter you worry about most. He's hit .299/.422/.591 this season with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs, 35 walks and 24 strikeouts. A typical Votto season.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has been surprisingly hot these first two months, hitting .340 with 20 extra-base hits, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts. It's most surprising to see him walking this much because he never has. He's 15 walks away from matching his career high.

Leftfielder Adam Duvall has killed the Phillies over the last two seasons. He went 5 for 11 with two doubles and a homer in the season-opening series in Cincy and went 8 for 18 with four doubles against them last season.

5. This and that
• Over the last seven games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 22⅔ innings.

• Howie Kendrick started at third base for Lehigh Valley during his rehab assignment Thursday. He was hit by two pitches and removed from the game.  

• Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. He's 8 for 8 in save chances this season with a 0.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's struck out 28 and allowed just one home run in 24⅔ innings. His ability to go multiple innings is what makes him stand out — he's Andrew Miller-like in that regard. Iglesias has pitched more than one inning in 7 of his 19 appearances.