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.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.