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.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

As the Eagles prepared to face the Green Bay Packers last week, rookie Wendell Smallwood readied himself for a big role.
 
Then he got just nine carries. 
 
It wasn’t that those carries went elsewhere, it was that the Eagles got away from the run game early in the 27-13 loss to the Packers despite being down one score for most of the game. Ultimately, he had half of the team’s carries. 
 
On Friday, head coach Doug Pederson said the disparity in play-calling didn’t have anything to do with having Smallwood as the lead back instead of Ryan Mathews. 
 
“Not really,” Pederson said. “Again, that's something – when I go back ask evaluate after the game – it's something I have to consider more of: Did I run the ball enough or throw the ball enough or not enough or did I do it too much, one way or the other. 
But no, that did not dispel anything, run or pass.”
 
For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks. 
 
Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier. 
 
“I think I'm very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”
 
Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood's average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 
 
While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood. 
 
Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore? 
 
“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, 'we need you to play, we don't need you to be a rookie right now.' So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”