Coming to Terms with Vick as the Eagles’ Starting QB… Again

Coming to Terms with Vick as the Eagles’ Starting QB… Again

There may not be a more outspoken critic of Michael Vick the football player than myself since his arrival in Philadelphia in 2009. It’s got nothing to do with past criminal behavior – he paid his debt to society. In fact, I kind of like the reformed Mike. He strikes me as a thoughtful and dare I say genuine person. I simply don’t think highly of his resume.

People often talk about Vick as if he’s accomplished a lot in the NFL. They often wonder aloud on TV or radio if we’ll ever see “the old Vick” from his Atlanta days, as if that one-read-and-take-off style made him a good player. Sure, the Falcons got a couple trips to the playoffs out of it, and Vick frequently made highlight reels, but he never grew as a quarterback during his six seasons there. People forget he might have been on his last leg in ATL anyway before it abruptly came to an end.

Then Vick joined the Eagles and ascended to franchise quarterback in about one year’s time. He was definitely a different player, actually trying to run an offense for probably the first time in his life. They smoked a few bad teams, and Vick’s flaws went overlooked for a month or two before the most predictable thing ever happened. Right as he was winning over some of his biggest detractors, defenses started catching up with him again.

2010 was not as great as people remember. That’s not to say Vick’s Comeback Player of the Year award wasn’t warranted. There were just so many times the season could have gone wrong earlier than it did. It could have been Week 2 when Detroit was blitzing the hell out of Vick in his first start, but the defense couldn’t capitalize on his mistakes and the Birds snuck out of there with a win. It could have been the night of the Miracle at the New Meadowlands, where Vick was about as bad as bad can be for 52 minutes before suddenly becoming Superman.

Eventually his luck did turn though, and glaring imperfections caught up with him much as defenses did. The Vikings embarrassed the Eagles on a Tuesday night in what was a clueless performance by Vick, and two weeks later he was heaving the decisive interception in a first-round playoff game at home. Since then, it’s been nothing but a cocktail of soul-crushing turnovers and devastating injuries.

Hey, don’t take my word for it. The numbers speak for themselves: a 56.3 completion percentage; 177 touchdowns to 121 turnovers (run/pass); a pedestrian 80.6 passer rating; an 8.6 sack percentage, which ranks 153 out of 196 all-time among qualifying players; appeared in 16 games only once; has just two playoff wins. Take those over a 10-year career, and they’re not very good. Kind of makes four trips to the Pro Bowl ring hollow, and if it was any player besides Vick, you’d be wondering how they still have a starting job in the league.

Yet here we are again. Vick will be the Eagles’ starter this season, and just like I had to come to terms with it in 2010, when I knew it ultimately wouldn’t work out, I have to come to terms with it now.

One way it’s different this time around is at least I agree he should be starting. Holding an open competition at the position was the right thing to do, and he won fair and square. It’s not like when Kevin Kolb was groomed to take over, was shuffled in and out of the lineup for two quarters until he got concussed, and then was replaced. (Why did they ever trade Donovan McNabb in the first place if they were going to do that?) Vick legit earned this.

It’s still difficult not to associate No. 7 with failure though. 30 preseason snaps no matter how awesome doesn’t change the fact that for 10 years this has been the type of quarterback who will always choose to freelance rather than play within the offense. He holds on to the ball far too long, gives it to the other team, then goes down with an injury once the season has already spiraled out of control. Why should we believe anything else will happen now?

Maybe you believe he is a fit for Chip Kelly’s offense, which promises to make the most of Vick’s athletic ability, while perhaps also simplifying the decision making. Maybe it’s because he’s in the best shape of his life, or that he was able to rekindle his passion for the game. Maybe a quarterback just can’t fail in Kelly’s system – it’s not like Nick Foles had any trouble moving the offense. Or maybe you along with many others will choose not to believe this story plays out it any manner other than the same as it always has until Vick proves unmistakably otherwise.

I can’t tell anyone how they should feel, because I’m undecided myself. I figured if accuracy and decision making and protecting the football were all virtues, Vick would lose an honest quarterback competition almost anywhere, probably would have a long time ago. But he didn’t, and I saw that with my own eyes. To top it all off, what he managed to showcase in two preseason games was nothing short of tantalizing. It was almost like a movie trailer for a comedy where I know they showed me all of the funny parts, but I kind of still want to see it anyway.

With Vick it’s never been a question of talent, he’s just never been able to play the position the way the NFL demands. Of course, Chip Kelly might be on the verge of bucking a lot of league trends this season, so maybe he can with Vick, too.

There’s no denying Vick has evolved. He’s a leader now, not just in the sense that he was in Atlanta where he was a celebrity and guys looked up to him. He’s an inspirational leader, a dedicated worker and teammate, a locker-room guy, a tone-setter – somebody who demonstrated change is possible both on and off the field. But if he’s going to find success again or ever eclipse the somewhat modest accolades compared to his star, he will have to continue evolving.

If he can do this Chip’s way, Vick has a chance to be the best he’s ever been. Yeah, for the very first time I honestly believe that. And I’ll clutch that belief firmly while I once again prepare for the worst if you don't mind.

Watch: Pokemon players ignore Phillies game to catch 'em all

Watch: Pokemon players ignore Phillies game to catch 'em all

The700Level Show's video gurus (nerds) took a trip over to Citizens Bank Park last week when the Phillies were promoting Pokemon Go lures at all of the PokeStops inside of the stadium. 

Some random quotes from the Pokemon fans, in their own words:

"There's like a million lures right now, so I might not actually sit down. I might just walk laps so I can catch like a million Pokemon."

"I'm kind of fighting the urge to walk around the stadium instead of watch the game right now."

"My egg just hatched."

"I'll be playing Pokemon Go at Wawa."

"People are like, 'get a life!'"

"I walked directly into a car, that was interesting."

"Constant loss of my dignity for being an adult and playing a children's game."

There you have it. Catch 'em all!

NFL clears Peyton Manning of HGH allegations

NFL clears Peyton Manning of HGH allegations

NEW YORK -- The NFL says it found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning was provided with HGH or other prohibited substances as alleged in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America last fall.

The league said the quarterback and his wife fully cooperated in the seven-month investigation, providing interviews and access to all records sought by investigators. Manning vehemently denied the allegations when they were made late in the season.

Manning retired from the NFL a month after Denver's 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

The NFL is continuing its investigation into allegations made against other NFL players in the documentary, which the league said involves "different lines of inquiry and witnesses."

Eagles CB Jalen Mills rocks a green hairdo, says he kind of likes it

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Eagles CB Jalen Mills rocks a green hairdo, says he kind of likes it

Seventh-round draft pick Jalen Mills was one of the standouts of the Eagles' offseason program, quickly climbing the depth chart and impressing on the field. But on the first day of training camp, the rookie cornerback stood out for a far different reason.

As you can see, Mills' hair is green.

The LSU product turned some heads and even got a few chuckles from onlookers. Don't expect that to persuade him to go back to a more conventional look anytime soon though. Mills said he got the color done about a week ago and thinks he'll stick with it.

"Just joking with one of my friends," Mills said of how the new hairdo came about. "Then the joke, I actually came through and I actually kind of like it a little bit, so I'm gonna keep it for sure."

As for Mills' teammates, well, they've got jokes too. Let's just say the green hair has inspired some new nicknames for the first-year defensive back.

"Green Goblin. The Joker. I've heard Lime Green Skittle. Starburst," Mills said, rattling off some of the nicknames going around the locker rom. "I've been getting an earful."

Of course, Mills isn't the first Eagles player or even defensive back to sport team pride by changing the color of his locks. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie showed up to training camp with a green stripe in his hair back in 2012.

Hopefully it works out better for Mills than it did DRC, who went on to have a disastrous season. Fortunately, the 22-year-old seems to have his head on straight and is not merely vying for a roster spot, but perhaps serious playing time this season.

Mills opened up the first day of training camp with rookies and selected veterans by breaking up several passes, building on a strong offseason that saw him working with the first-team defense as the nickel corner. As for how he's gone from late-round pick to in the mix so fast, Mills credits hard work, along with his coaches and teammates.

"Just being focused and being determined," said Mills. "We've got a great coaching staff helping me, great players in the defensive back room as well, just everybody being able to help me put my first step forward.

"I'm really trying to give my all for this team and it's showing through."

It's showing through quite literally at the moment.