Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Vick Or Not To Vick

So with the Green Season behind us, the town is more or less engaged in the full-time pastime of every season... what happens next, and to whom?

Erstwhile starter and Wally Pipp QB Kevin Kolb is 26 years old. He's mobile, accurate, and good enough to have made the franchise give him the car keys over Donovan McNabb six months ago. His college statistics were impeccable, he competes, and he's never caused anyone on the coaching staff a moment's grief. And he wants to start. If not here, then somewhere else.

Mid-season MVP and late-season turnover recidivist QB Michael Vick is 30 years old. He's the most mobile player to ever play his position, reasonably accurate given his other gifts, and good enough to have made the franchise throw Kolb under the bus after watching him play two games against weak opponents. He might be the biggest single draw in television, he led them to some of the most enjoyable wins in the history of the laundry, and he's such a comeback story that even the President had comment about it. And he wants to start, and given the reason why he's here in the first place, needs to get paid, and paid lots. If not here, then somewhere else.

From a pure vacuum standpoint, it's simple. Keep both and have them fight it out for the job. Trusting the franchise to Vick with his past and injury issues is foolhardy, and giving the job to Kolb until the line gets better more or less ensures that he'll have, well, Vick's injury history. And from a cap and talent standpoint, having two credible starting QBs when you can only use one at a time and have so many other needs (my short list: offensive line, linebacker, cornerback and safety)... well, it just isn't done. The Eagles are like a one-income middle class family with two new cars and a roof that's caving in. That second car is nice and all, and you may really love it and totally feel that it's worth the expense for the piece of mind and flexibility. But, um, dude? You need a roof. Now.

From a trading standpoint, Kolb certainly seems worth more than last year's price for Donovan McNabb, who fetched the team a second round pick that turned into promising rookie safety Nate Allen. A small word about second round picks; in the right draft, they might be worth more than first rounders, especially if they use the slight over their draft position to show those that were drafted ahead of them who is boss. You aren't on the hook for the same signing bonus issues, the talent gap between them and the later round picks isn't as obvious, and he can usually develop in relative peace and quiet, since the first round guy is the one that's getting all of the stink-eye from the fans if he isn't a start out of the blocks. If the price for Kolb is a first rounder or two seconds, take the seconds. This team's got too many holes for starts everywhere as is.

But there's also this... the team that traded for McNabb last year, the Redskins, ain't exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer. There's no telling what Kolb's trade value is outside of town. Here, he's fairly well thought of; out in the world, he might just look like AJ Feeley II, Electric Boogaloo. We know that Vick's value is high, but we also know that Vick might be the only QB in the world that can win 10+ games with this line, assuming that it plays like it did last year. (And, um, Jason Peters? Just give back the Pro Bowl plane ticket. It's embarrassing to all involved.)

If it's my team and decision... I do the visual thing and move Kolb for picks, and try to build the franchise the way the Patriots did, with armies of high round picks that seem to gel at the same time. I trust that my coaches are going to keep Vick upright and on the path, knowing that if he goes under, my team has worked out replacement level value out of the Feeleys and Garcias of the world before. And I know that, no matter what happens, my team is going to be one of the most watchable and interesting teams in the league, due to the presence of Vick. (And I'd also roll the dice and sign DeSean Jackson, because watching him play for another team would break my heart in several pieces.)

This may not be the best football decision. There are all kinds of reasons to think that, say, Kolb and WR Jeremy Maclin are actually your better bets for long-term value. But football is not a math equation, and winning games is not a matter of accumulating the most Value Over Replacement Player and then heading off to bed, secure in the knowledge that your calculator just figured out a championship.

Choosing Vick is about art, and the moment, and the hope that what we saw in the Redskins and Giants game can happen again, while kind of hoping that they won't need it. Going to Kolb is about following the system and building a team that looks like other teams. And well, Andy Reid has coached this team for over a decade without a championship, and on some level, I don't expect him to ever get one.

So we might as well see art, and a team that runs the ball because the QB does it by himself, and a roster of athletic defensive players that give them options when the front-line players fail or get hurt, because at least that was useful this year. As bad as the defense was, especially in the red zone, it didn't get any worse when many starters went down with injury.

With one caveat -- send the man out of the conference.

Because if Kolb is the real deal, and he turns out to have a decade of top-line play that makes all of us regret not give him the the gig? Well, I don't want to see it from close up, or in the NFC playoffs every year. Send him to Oakland, or Miami, or Tennessee, or Cleveland. That would be a lot easier to take.

And in the final analysis, none of this matters, because my laundry does whatever the hell it wants to do, and is right more often than not. But just not enough to make us really trust them to make the right decision. Such a mixed bowl of fun, my laundry...

1 comment:

Dirty Davey said...

Also, none of this matters because of the CBA situation. At this point, it appears that there will be no free agency or player trades until there is a new CBA, which is likely to mean August or September.

Although there will be a draft, it is likely that there will be no opportunity to trade players for picks in this year's draft.

So "trading Kolb for picks" means making an August/September deal for picks in the 2012 draft, not making a deal in the near future for picks in this year's draft.

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