Coaches are creatures of habit, masters of the repeated phrase. Some prefer the mundane — "It is what it is." Others lean toward cliché — "Keep chopping wood."
But Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg chose his words carefully and with a purpose when it came to helping re-form Michael Vick into an NFL quarterback.
" 'Bend your knees and throw,' 'Bend your knees and throw,' " Vick told PFW. "Day in and day out, that's all I heard. All year."
Vick might have rolled his eyes once or twice along the way, but pretty soon he realized that Mornhinweg was onto something.
"I got into the habit of practicing that part of my game on my own," Vick said. "It paid huge dividends for me. It slowed me down, loosened me up. And I see how much it helped change my game.
"Bend my knees and throw," Vick said with a laugh. "You know what? It really worked."
Mornhinweg is one of the key men responsible for turning around Vick's career, and for that he was named Pro Football Weekly/PFWA Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Eagles were in rebuilding mode — although they never believed that — with Kevin Kolb slated to take over for Donovan McNabb at the start of the 2010 season. It was all systems go until Kolb got knocked out in Week One against the Packers and it appeared all the coaches' hard work was wiped out with one hammer-blow sack from Packers LB Clay Matthews.
Enter Vick, who gave his team a shot in the arm from his first snap in that Packers game all the way through the playoff loss to that same Green Bay team. Vick went from trick-play specialist to MVP candidate almost overnight.
Of course, it wasn't that easy. Mornhinweg and Andy Reid worked together to get Vick ready for more than a year before Kolb went down — time well spent, it turns out. A rebuilding season turned into a division title and a 10-6 record with the league's second-ranked offense and the third-highest-scoring team. Vick says a lot of the credit belongs to the work of Mornhinweg.
"Marty has been great," he said. "A huge part of my success. Very understanding coach but very authoritative at times. He makes sure he gets the most out of his players, and he's a big reason why I played at such a high level."
Mornhinweg won't take the credit. He's the first to deflect the attention elsewhere.
"We've got some darned good talent here," he said. "Darned good. Michael worked so hard to be an elite quarterback. We've had so many young guys — DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek — so many first-, second-, third-year guys who have had to step in right away, it's amazing.
"You look at our offensive line. Our center goes down (in) Week One, and Mike McGlynn steps in and does an excellent job. (OLG) Todd Herremans fights through some stuff. So this was a total team thing here, everyone on offense."
An offense that Mornhinweg oversaw, featuring great balance with the run (first in yards per carry) and pass (ninth in yards per game), and one that didn't kill itself with turnovers or a poor time of possession, as was the case with prior Eagles units. So, with the improvements on offense and with all the youth on that side of the ball, perhaps those old, tired sayings had a newfound purpose. Vick would seem to think so.
Pro Football Weekly's annual awards issue (dated Jan. 23) is on sale now, featuring All-NFL, All-Conference and All-Rookie teams, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Executive of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year — all selected by PFW editors and contributors along with members of the Professional Football Writers of America — as well as a Golden Toe Award selected by PFW editors only. The print edition also contains a preview of the draft outlook for the first four teams to make selections in April, as well as previews of the two conference championship games. The print edition is available at retail outlets around the country and also online at PFWstore.com, where you can purchase a print copy or an electronic (PDF) version.