When Kevin Kolb rolled out to his left on a 3rd-and-14 from the Eagles 18-yard-line just 22 minutes into the 2010 season, it profoundly and fundamentally altered the course of the Eagles franchise.
You remember the play.
Clay Matthews, whose kid brother now plays for the Eagles, slammed Kolb to the ground over by the left sideline. The ball rolled out bounds, Kolb rolled out of bounds, and although Kolb returned on the next series, the Eagles soon realized he had suffered a concussion and shut him down.
Just like that, the Michael Vick Era began.
Vick took over, dashed 23 yards on his first snap, and played so well in his first couple games that he left Andy Reid no choice but to bench Kolb and make Vick the permanent starter.
Kolb wound up getting traded to the Cards, Vick got a massive new contract, and who knows if Kolb had just tossed the football away instead of scrambling against the Packers on a hopeless 3rd-and-long deep in Eagles territory last Sept. 12, maybe none of this would have happened.
None of it.
Some of these things, theres a fate to them, Eagles President Joe Banner said after Vicks press conference Tuesday. Theres a luck to them. Theres maybe a meant-to-be part of it. Who knows?
But theres no question If Kevin hadnt gotten hurt, we may not be standing here today.
Hard to believe that a year ago this week, the Eagles were trumpeting Kolb as their Quarterback of the Future. He had a new contract, Donovan McNabb had been shipped to Washington, and the stage was set for a new era in Eagles football.
It didnt last till halftime.
We had a plan with Kevin that went in a different direction, but I think its good that we were flexible enough to see an opportunity and be able to move instead of just going, Oh, this is our plan, were doing this no matter what, Banner said. Now weve made this investment and we feel good about it.
Theres a little bit of irony here, because the way Kolb placed himself at risk in on that second-quarter play against the Packers is exactly what the Eagles fear about the way Vick plays.
It was against the Redskins in early October that Vick, battling for an extra few inches down by the goal-line, found himself blasted simultaneously by Redskins defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and Kareem Moore. Turned out he had suffered rib cartilage damage that cost him three games and gave Kolb a chance to play well enough to convince the Cards that he could be their quarterback of the future.
This is Vicks Achilles heel. He plays the game fearlessly and recklessly and although hes spoken half-heartedly about being more careful in the future, making smarter decisions, anybody who saw him lower his helmet on Troy Polamalu after an interception in the Steelers game at Heinz Field two weeks ago knows nothing has changed. Vick will continue to play quarterback like a linebacker, and he cant help himself. Thats who he is.
So as brilliant as Vick was last year, the reality is that Eagles just gave the richest contract on franchise history to a 31-year-old quarterback who has played 16 games once in his career and is still risking season-ending injuries ... in preseason games.
Which is why a six-year contract essentially, a five-year, 80 million deal for somebody like Vick, who hasnt won a playoff game in seven years, is an enormous risk.
The Eagles are gambling 80 million that Vick can stay healthy.
The nature of his play certainly does create an extra few holding of your breaths, Banner said Tuesday. Thats both the best part of him and the scariest part of him.
If he didnt play that way, with a reckless abandon and a fearlessness and a determination to win, he wouldnt be great. At the same time, that causes you to hold your breath a bunch of times, and hes missed some games and thats kind of the risk-reward there.
But whats the alternative? Vick gives the Eagles a chance to win a Super Bowl every year. Especially surrounded by people like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and Jason Avant.
Who else does that? Nobody.
When we looked at the plusses and minuses for us, this was a clear person we wanted to commit to, that we feel comfortable to as a leader of the organization, and somebody who wanted to be here, too, which is always important to as we look at who to invest in moving forward, Banner said. So it was a fairly clear decision, but not without some concerns.
A year ago this week, the Eagles were trumpeting Kolb as their Quarterback of the Future.
Now, McNabb is a Viking, Kolb is a Card, and Vick is the Eagles newest and greatest hope to achieve the only thing thats eluded this franchise since the AFL-NFL merger in 1967.
And if not for one decision Kolb made to scramble to his left on 3rd and 14, maybe none of this happens.
To be honest, not until Kevin got hurt and Michael went on the field and you saw what he had did we think this day would be possible, Banner said. I think from a character perspective we were starting to see that, but from an actual taking charge and handling all the pressures and everything that comes with it, sustaining the performance at that level?
He actually had to get on the field and deal with all the things that come with that as a team leader -- dealing with the media, dealing with the public, dealing with the charity work that he was doing. And at that point you feel like, you know what? Maybe this day is possible.