Only part of the reason for Michael Vick’s likely benching by the Philadelphia Eagles has to do with on-field strategy.
Not saying that his play isn’t a significant part of the problem. Vick’s been bad in 2012 even before you take into account his turnovers, with a sub-60% completion rating and a measly 6.2 yards per attempt. When you throw in the 8 interceptions and 9 fumbles (7 lost), he goes from bad to disaster. Let me put it this way: there are only three teams in the NFL that have more turnovers than Vick does BY HIMSELF.
This is made all the more remarkable by how good Vick was only two years ago. Remember the guy who, in 2010, after spending years out of the league, threw for 25 scores and rushed for 9 more in only 12 games? Who threw only 6 interceptions? Yeah. Last season, his production dipped, but not to the degree it has in 2012.
Clearly, 2010 Vick is not median Vick. The funny thing is, even 2012 Vick is an improvement over pre-jail Vick, a player just as prone to turnovers and even less productive as a passer. If the Eagles didn’t think that stretches of frequent turnovers were a likelihood when they signed Vick, they were deluding themselves, and he’s actually gotten the interception problem under control: after throwing 6 in the first two games, he’s avoided being picked in four out of five. (The fumbling? A different story.)
The bigger issue is that the rest of the Eagles deserve their 3-4 record, which probably should be worse. Their three wins were by a combined four points, and they’re on a three-game losing streak, capped off by last week’s blowout against the Falcons. All their victories were decided by a field goal or less, meaning that they could just as easily be 0-7 right now as 3-4. Philly, a team with Super Bowl aspirations in the preseason, is searching for someone to put the blame on. Their first stop was Juan Castillo, the team’s much-maligned defensive coordinator, who was surprisingly retained in the offseason; the team replaced him with Todd Bowles, then promptly gave up 30 against Atlanta.
Going from Vick to a rookie will only make the situation more unsettled. If you’re putting the ball in backup Nick Foles’ hands, you’re saying that the Eagles can win without relying heavily on their quarterback. About which: look at their defense. At 3-4, Philly isn’t out of the playoff race, not yet; they would have to leapfrog the Packers, Vikings, Cardinals, and Seahawks. But considering the talent in Philadelphia, that isn’t inconceivable — unless they bench their best quarterback. So by benching Michael Vick, the Eagles are giving up on the 2012 season, sacrificing the immediate future as a signal to their fans and the rest of the league that they understand they need a different plan for the long term. They’re announcing that this is Vick’s last season in Philly, and they’re testing Foles to see if he’s a potential 2013 starter or if the team will need to go out and get a guy in the offseason.
Is this the right move? No, firing Andy Reid is the right move. But that’s been obvious for a while now.