February 15, 2011

So, the long-awaited prophecy of Michael Vick receiving the Franchise Tag will finally be fulfilled today… But it won’t be the only designation the team hands out. David Akers, the longest-tenured Eagles player, will be hit with the Franchise Tag’s lesser known cousin, the Transition Tag.

Now this may be a very unpopular stance – and may seem slightly outrageous to some Eagles fans, especially coming off a Pro Bowl season – but, why tag Akers?

Well, the Transition Tag protects the team by allowing them to match any offer Akers receives in Free Agency – you know, if that even happens. As it stands now, Free Agency may not occur until the summer (at the earliest) or not at all (the worst case scenario), so it would appear that the Eagles are currently hedging their bets. It’s been highly-publicized that Akers turned down a multi-year contract offer in December because he felt the team was low-balling him(*), and that contract negotiations – particularly after his two big misses in the playoffs and the fallout from the drama with Reid – are headed nowhere fast.

(*)Really?! The Eagles would never do that…

The Transition Tag will pay Akers the average of the top-ten paid Kickers and Punters for one season – a totally fair contract for a guy that has averaged the 12th best Field Goal percentage over the last four years. Sure, 2010 was one of Akers’ best seasons, but he’s never really been the same since his groin injury during the 2005 season. In fact, Akers completely dropped off as a reliable Kicker from 2005 to 2007 – when he averaged a 75% conversion rate, putting him in the bottom third of NFL Kickers – and hasn’t been reliable from 40-yards and beyond since.

In both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, 20 Kickers attempted at least 28 Field Goals. Akers ranked 6th and 7th in total FG percentage among them (86.5% and 84.2%, respectively) and was perfect on attempts from inside the 29-yard line and on extra points. Not bad.

But what about Field Goals from 40-yards or more? Over the past two seasons, Akers has made only 22 out of 30 Field Goals from 40-yards out, a 73% success rate. From 50-yards or more? Two out of six… a 33% rate.

Sure, he’s the most consistent Kicker the Eagles have had in my lifetime (and probably your’s)… But at what point does the team start exploring other options?

Just throwing it out there. I’m not saying it’s time to Fire The Kicker. Yet.

NOT-SO BREAKING NEWS: Eagles to Franchise Tag Vick

January 31, 2011

Duh. In other news, the sky is blue, snow’s annoying and Andy Reid looks like a walrus.

More to come.

The Curious Case of Michael Vick… Or, How I Learned to Admit I Was Wrong and Love the Quarterback

January 20, 2011

On July 6, 2010 I wrote the following (presented unchanged):

For the record, I was never a fan of adding the (once) phenomenal athlete to the team – and, unlike many people, my displeasure had nothing to do with the fact that he killed dogs(**). I’m not really sure what people ever saw in him besides his speed and agility, but “Earth to football executives…” he is NOT AN NFL QUARTERBACK!

**Though as a dog lover, I can’t say that didn’t play some role.

Has anyone ever seen Vick throw a legitimate pass under 60 yards? No, because he couldn’t execute a proper screen pass, cross pattern or out route to save his life. And he’s a left-handed quarterback to boot, which gives him an automatic handicap(***). I get that he has a cannon for an arm and can throw a tight spiral the length of the field, but how the hell is that supposed to work in Andy Reid’s dink-and-dunk west coast offense?

***Can anyone name the top-five left-handed quarterbacks in NFL history? Number one is obviously Steve Young – the model for all left-handed football players (and I would have called him the “gold standard,” but Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Satan Banner have forever tarnished the meaning of the word). But then it goes Kenny Stabler, Boomer Esiason and Mark Brunell. Number five? Detroit Lions great Scott Mitchell. That’s how pathetic the list of southpaw QBs is, and the number one reason why you should NEVER trust a left-handed passer (sorry to break it to you Arizona fans, but Matt Leinart ain’t the answer).

Wow, how’d that turn out? I’ll be the first to admit that I was horrifically wrong – except for the Matt Leinart/left-handed QB part – but I absolutely stand by the first paragraph. That was 100 percent my opinion on Michael Vick prior to Kevin Kolb’s brain being shaken violently by Clay Matthews, Jr. in week one of the 2010 NFL season.

And honestly – unless you were an out-and-out Vick fan and apologist for his entire career, claiming he was Superman – you probably thought something along the same lines. He was a glorified running back with an inaccurate cannon of an arm.

Then he came to the Eagles.

The Walrus gets very-little-to-no credit for Vick becoming the ultimate weapon he eventually became this season. Coaching-up Quarterbacks is one of Andy Reid’s that I truly appreciate, but let’s get one thing straight: He had no idea what Vick was(*).

(*)Copyright Mike Missanelli.

The Walrus convinced The Billionaire and The Devil to “take a chance” on Vick when nobody else would – partly because of the issues with his sons, but mostly do to the fact that Reid thought he could get a second round pick for him if he showcased him enough in the Wildcat. Add to that the insane amount of publicity and attention they received “rescuing” the polarizing, social-pariah Vick, and The Devil and Lurie were all-in.

They continued the charade by paying him a roster bonus of $1.5 million, guaranteeing his $5.25 million base salary, which they figured wouldn’t matter because they’d be dumping him, and, according to many sources, particularly ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, tried relentlessly to do. But they failed, and were on the hook for that money whether they released him or not – and we know how the Eagles feel about wasting money. And, if you recall correctly, they didn’t even give him a chance to compete for the starting Quarterback spot. He won it by default, when Kolb got concussed and Vick played like Vick.

Sure, you could argue that Reid and his coaching staff did wonders with Vick, turning him into the dynamic force he became this season. But how come they didn’t recognize that in the mini-camps or Training Camp? How come he was still being regulated to that Wildcat bullshit on the first two drives of the season? Because The Walrus thought he had re-invented football? Actually, yes. They had no idea what they had with Vick until Week 3, when he had a coming-out-party against the Jaguars, throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns (119.2 QB rating), running for another TD and no turnovers.

Mike Vick finally proved why he was taken 1st overall in the 2001 NFL Draft. His upside was something nobody had ever seen done on a football field, and he didn’t reach it in Atlanta. It took a total shakeup of his life – from his occupation and freedom, to his financial and social status, to his friends and loved ones, even down to his core beliefs and world-view – and then his subsequent devotion to change, be great and, ultimately, redeem himself – for Vick to finally reach his true potential. It’s been said a million times before, but it’s true… Hollywood couldn’t write that story.

He was phenomenal this season. In five games he had more comebacks than McNabb has had in his career:

  • Week 9 vs. Indianapolis Colts – Down 17-16 in the third, won 26-24
  • Week 11 vs. New York Giants – Down 17-16 in the fourth; won 27-17
  • Week 13 vs. Houston Texans – Down 24-20 in the fourth; won 34-24
  • Week 14 vs. Dallas Cowgirls – Down 20-17 in the fourth; won 30-27

And of course, the legendary…

  • Week 15 vs. New York Giants – Down 31-10 with 8:12 left; won 38-31

Vick almost pulled two other comebacks: In Chicago (Week 12), the Eagles trailed 31-13 in the fourth, before Vick willed them back to within five, but they simply ran out of time(**).  And you know what happened in the Playoffs against Green Bay.

(**)Of course, had the equipment manager given the players the proper cleats before the game stared, maybe they could have won the game in the first half.

What Vick said after the game really stuck with me: “I made a mistake, but I went down swinging.” I love that attitude. I’ve wanted to hear an Eagles Quarterback say that for so long I can’t remember. What a completely different feeling those words give you, as opposed to “I’m the captain of this ship. I need to do better” and “Some players showed their youth.”

Vick is a warrior. If you listened to Mike Missanelli’s interview with Vick yesterday on 97.5 The Fanatic, you heard Vick and Missanelli discuss how that attitude is a product of where he grew up, and was also embodied by another Virginia-native, Philadelphia-legend – and one of my all-time favorite athletes – Allen Iverson. Iverson epitomized the “Warrior” spirit that Vick exudes and their play, respectively, proves it: Reckless, selfless abandon; immense heart and pride; extraordinary athleticism; and absolutely no ability to play at less than one hundred-percent effort.

That’s the type of player that Philadelphia idolizes. That’s the type of player that this Eagles team desperately needs (considering he was worth at least two wins alone). That’s the type of player – and person – that I love.

I was wrong about Michael Vick. But I’m certainly happy to admit it.

Whisker Wednesday

January 19, 2011

  • Mike Missanelli hosted an Eagles Wrap-up Roundtable yesterday on 97.5 The Fanatic(*), featuring former-Eagles/current-Philadelphia media personality Vai Sikahema, ESPN Senior NFL Reporter (and South Philly native) Sal Paolantonio and Tim McManus, Eagles beat reporter for The Fanatic and (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already).(*)And will broadcast live with Mike Vick today at 3:30 p.m.

    The general consensus of the discussion leaned towards two conclusions: With the offseason in limbo, the Eagles will likely stick with the 4-3 defense, meaning Dick Jauron is the easy answer to the question “Who’s the next DC?”; and, it’s time for Andy Reid to go.

    To further that point, Sal Pal – who is well-known to be a lifelong Eagles fan and has been favorable of Reid in the past – openly ripped the Eagles management, even saying (to my delight) that The Billionaire Lurie and The Devil Banner are more concerned with counting their money than winning championships! Hmmmm… where have we heard that before?
    Missanelli also mentioned a comment made by Mark Schlereth, ESPN NFL analyst and three-time Super Bowl Champion. Per Schlereth, Andy Reid’s style of football will never win a championship. A member of the back-to-back champion-Denver Broncos, he points to controlling the game by effectively running the ball and playing a brand of smashmouth defense. Shit, maybe the Birds should just hire Schlereth.

  • As the Coordinator Position Turns… Yes, the Eagles Defensive Coordinator position is still wide open – which I view as a good thing, because there are some great defensive minds who’s team are still currently playing – but some new names were thrown into the mix yesterday. NY Jets’ DC Mike Pettine, Jr.’s name was being floated around, but just as I had suspected when researching potential hires, he is not looking to leave Rex Ryan’s side anytime soon. It was also pointed out yesterday (by I believe Sal Pal) that Pettine has never called plays – an integral role for the Eagles Defensive Coordinator, as Reid’s defensive knowledge is on par with his dieting habits… nonexistent.Mike Trgovac, Green Bay’s Defensive Line Coach, is another name that gained some momentum in the last 24-hours. You may remember Trgovac as the Eagles’ D-Line Coach under Ray Rhodes. He also manned the Carolina Panthers’ Defense from 2003 to 2008 and was rather successful.

    Sources also claim that the Eagles’ are in talks to bring in long-tenured Tennessee Titans Defensive Line Coach, Jim Washburn… as D-Line Coach. You might think that’s a move that puts the cart before the horse – securing a Line Coach before a DC – but Washburn is one of the best in the business and has passed up numerous chances to be a coordinator. For him, it would be a lateral move. For us, he’d be the best defensive assistant since Ron Rivera was on the staff.

  • John (Gonzo) Gonzalez, Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist, wrote a brilliantly scathing article about The Walrus, his propensity for lying and his brand of comedy. Lying to the media is something that has never bothered me about Reid – he’s a football coach, that’s what they do – particularly about the status of players and coaches. Reid simply won’t throw people under the bus, and that’s admirable.Not to keep plugging Sal Paolantonio, but during that Fanatic Roundtable, he suggested that the move to fire McDermutt came from the very top, over Andy’s head. It would make sense, considering The Billionaire and The Devil needed a fall guy, and they clearly aren’t going to answer our prayers by firing The Walrus anytime soon.
  • You know how the Eagles are currently lacking in playmaking Linebackers? Yeah, that’s nothing new. Reuben Frank, Eagles Beat Writer for CSN Philly and Burlington Courier Times, dredges up the depressing history of the Linebacker position under the Andy Reid-regime.God, I miss the days of Willie T…

    Look for a new Whisker Wednesday Poll coming later today!