No double QB jeopardy in Philly

Posted Nov. 01, 2010 @ 3:41 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Coming off their bye week, the NFL standings would appear to indicate that the 4-3 Eagles are just another one of the many up-and-down teams currently dominating the landscape.

But their fluid QB dynamic involving Michael Vick — who has displayed league MVP-like flashes when healthy this season in the wake of his well-documented incarceration for his involvement in an unsavory dogfighting operation — and Kevin Kolb — the longtime heir apparent to Donovan McNabb who entered the season as the supposedly undisputed starter under center — makes the Eagles much more than your run-of-the-mill NFC playoff contender.

With injuries to both players complicating matters, Vick and Kolb have forced head coach Andy Reid to address his QB situation first and foremost in his daily exchanges with the local and national media.

There are some league observers who have been consistently hard on Reid for all of the gear-switching he has already made under center.

But most of the observers PFW talked to this past week agree that Reid's utilization of his "two-headed monster" at the QB position — which has become necessary in a season in which injuries already appear to have taken an unusually high toll on more than a few teams — could end up being a master stroke.

"You need a 1A and 1B any time you have a quarterback as athletic as Michael Vick running around," said one NFL talent evaluator. "He's like a running back, and we have seen how the league has shifted to more of a RB-by-committee approach. The days of having one workhorse back are gone. With how much Vick runs around and creates with his feet, you could contend that the next quarterback (behind Vick) is one of the most important positions on the roster."

This Sunday against the Colts, Vick moves back to the forefront after missing the last three games with a rib injury suffered against the Redskins in Week Four, when he got sandwiched between two Washington defenders on one of the scrambles that make him more susceptible to injuries than most of his QB counterparts.

Reid's decision to go back to Vick was no doubt greatly influenced by the way Vick performed after taking over as the starter in Week One for Kolb, who suffered a concussion after being brought down from behind by Packers OLB Clay Matthews.

The instant spark Vick provided in relief of a struggling Kolb carried over to the road victories he engineered the next two weeks against the Lions and Jaguars as he registered a 5-0 TD-interception ratio, as well as displaying his unique rushing dimension, which wasn't diminished at all by his prolonged absence while doing hard time.

But it wasn't as if Kolb had done anything to warrant the latest switch, considering the 2-1 record he rung up in the past three games in place of Vick while showing steady improvement with every exchange under center.

Truth be told, for an investment of a combined $17.45 million, the Eagles are benefiting from the double-barreled boost provided by Vick and Kolb, after previously having committed $24.5 million to McNabb alone in 2009.

And with the rash of injuries this season not expected to disappear any time soon, it's likely both barrels will continue to be on display in starting roles as the season progresses — for better or worse.

The way we hear it, it's a situation that makes the Eagles a lot better off than their NFC competition.          

"As long as Vick is there, I think they need Kolb as his wingman," the talent evaluator said. "What's really interesting is that Philly is starting to remind me of Green Bay, when Andy, Marty (Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) and Jon (Gruden) were there under (Mike) Holmgren. They were a QB factory. (Brett) Favre, (Matt) Hasselbeck, (Aaron) Brooks, (Mark) Brunell — they knew how to train and develop them.

"What the Eagles' coaching staff has always done so well is adapt to their talent. They take advantage of Vick's legs when he is in there. You won't see many designed QB draws or as much boot action with Kolb. They adapt to the personnel."

Mornhinweg, we hear, deserves a lot of the credit.

"I had real questions about Marty Mornhinweg after his stint in Detroit, but he does an excellent job with quarterbacks," said one NFL personnel executive. "He is so even-keeled and consistent in his approach. He does not get enough credit for handling the quarterbacks there.

"Mike Vick was playing at a Pro Bowl level when he was healthy. Kevin Kolb started slow — he looked like a deer in headlights in the opener — but he found his confidence. Andy Reid said it best — 'For a chubby head coach to have two starting quarterbacks is not a problem.'

"Philadelphia's media is as critical as any market in the country. That's just the way they are there. But I think Andy Reid has handled it about as well as anyone could. If you don't play the best player, the players see it, and you lose trust in your locker room."

Of course, there are other concerns facing the Eagles the second half of the season. While their "1A-1B" QB situation has been in the spotlight, their defense, under the direction of 36-year-old Sean McDermott, has also received intense scrutiny.

That was especially the case after the Eagles' Week Seven loss to the Titans, when McDermott's unit surrendered 27 fourth-quarter points in a 37-19 defeat.

It was the third time in the last six games that the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter (15 points against the Lions in Week Two and 14 points against the Niners in Week Five, in addition to the disturbing unraveling in Tennessee).

As a result, Internet rumors have recently sprung up, suggesting that McDermott could be in trouble, with former NFL head coach and current defensive assistant Dick Jauron looking over his shoulder.

What we're hearing, though, is that McDermott is being unfairly compared to the legendary ex-Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who died of cancer last July, and that he doesn't have to worry about his job security.

"(Sean) McDermott was not close to Jimmy Johnson last season," the executive said. "There are only a couple of guys who know how to create matchup havoc — Rex Ryan, Dick LeBeau. Having great players helps, but great coordinators will take you a long way.

"The Titans stole that game away. It's easy to criticize Sean McDermott, but the Titans only had 92 yards of total offense in the third quarter. Then they unleashed (WR) Kenny Britt — he was benched in the first quarter (for off-field transgressions). He was unstoppable. They were just chucking it up in the air and letting him go up for it. (The Eagles) were bracketing him with double coverage, and he still was getting it done. As a coordinator, I don't know what else you could do. At some point, the players have to execute.

"Sean McDermott is one of the most hardworking, most organized, most disciplined and detailed guys I have ever been around in life. He is very sharp and businesslike. He is a good 'people' person. I think it's just so hard to do well, week in and week out, in the NFL.

"Hey, it's not easy replacing a legend. Jimmy Johnson had such a knack for calling plays. He had a feel for overloading pressure — when to sic 'em and when to step back. That's not going to come overnight."

One more interesting thing about the Eagles' intriguing QB dynamic: Don't look now, but Philly is set to face three Super Bowl signalcallers in succession the next three weeks — Peyton Manning, McNabb and Eli Manning

Will two heads under center be better than one?

Stay tuned.