Reid answers critics questioning his integrity
AP Pro Football Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The decision to make Michael Vick the starting quarterback means Andy Reid wasn’t fibbing about one thing: the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t in rebuilding mode.
After insisting all along that Kevin Kolb would start when he returned from a concussion, and one day after saying Vick was going back to the bench despite two dazzling performances, Reid changed his mind.
Vick gives the Eagles (1-1) a better chance to win in a division that lacks a dominant team. A three-time Pro Bowl pick with Atlanta, Vick is playing at an even higher level now, even though he missed two years and saw limited action last season.
The Eagles play at Jacksonville (1-1) on Sunday.
“There’s not a thing that changed with Kevin Kolb,” Reid said Wednesday. “This was all about Michael Vick and the way he has played the game. It’s that simple. He has played as outstanding as any quarterback in the league to this point.
“He exceeded even my expectation. Kevin Kolb has a bright, bright future. My feelings about Kevin haven’t changed one bit. But Michael has surprised all of us with his play.”
Vick has thrown for 459 yards and three touchdowns, run for 140 yards, and posted a completion percentage of 63.8 and passer rating of 105.5 in 1 1/2 games.
Still, Reid’s reversal stunned the football world because he was so adamant about his support for Kolb. The veteran coach dismissed any suggestion of a quarterback controversy, and never wavered each time someone asked if Vick had a chance to win the starting job.
“Let me say it again. I know I’m using poor English. Kevin Kolb is the No. 1 quarterback,” Reid said on Sept. 13.
He reiterated that point several times until switching to Vick on Tuesday, about 30 hours after telling reporters that Kolb would start at Jacksonville on Sunday. Reid then mulled it over and made the move after discussing it first with Kolb and then the front office.
Even Vick was taken aback.
“I was surprised,” Vick said. “But at the same time, I’m grateful for the opportunity and very humbled by the opportunity.”
Critics are questioning Reid’s integrity because it appears he wasn’t being forthright with the media, though it’s possible he simply changed his mind overnight after carefully studying his options. His reputation has taken a hit publicly, and some of his players may lose trust in him because he went back on his word.
“If I’m the bad guy, I’m OK with that,” Reid said. “I think it’s important the players know I’m going to do what I think is right for them. How I’m perceived outside of them, that’s not my concern.”
Kolb called Reid a “trustworthy” guy on Monday. He said his opinion hasn’t changed.
“I want to be out there, but Andy always does what he feels is best for the team and so far to this point he’s done what’s best for my career, and I trust him,” Kolb said. “I still have faith it’ll work out here.”
This was a difficult decision for many reasons.
The Eagles have invested a lot of time and money grooming Kolb to be their quarterback of the future since selecting him in the second round of the 2007 draft.
They traded six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb to Washington in April to clear the path for Kolb, and gave him a contract extension that guarantees him $12.25 million this season.
The move also goes against a standard belief that starters shouldn’t lose their job because of injury.
But Reid is treating this as a unique circumstance.
“Kevin lost his job because of Michael Vick’s accelerated play,” Reid said.
Reid flatly denied suggestions by conspiracy theorists that someone higher up in the organization told him to start Vick.
“There was nobody that influenced this call,” Reid said. “I made the decision, and then I clued in the other people involved with it.”
Vick has come a long way in his development as a quarterback, and in his maturation off the field after spending 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation. He demonstrated that he no longer has a run-first mentality, and can be effective as a pocket passer.
With Vick leading the way, the Eagles have scored 62 points in six quarters. Kolb and the rest of the offense were awful in the first half of a 27-20 loss to Green Bay in Week 1. Vick came in after Kolb got hurt, threw for 175 yards and one touchdown and ran for 103 yards, nearly rallying the Eagles from a 17-point deficit.
Then Vick was spectacular in a 35-32 win at Detroit. He had 284 yards passing and two TDs, ran for 37 yards and had to escape a relentless blitz throughout the game.
Though Reid denied it, Vick’s remarkable ability to escape pressure could be a factor in this switch because Philadelphia’s offensive line is struggling. Kolb is less mobile and putting him behind a poor line right now could be dangerous since he’s already sustained one concussion.
In just two days, Kolb went from starter to someone who could be on the trading block. There were reports that Cleveland already inquired about Kolb, and Reid wouldn’t commit to him being here beyond the Oct. 19 trade deadline. Browns general manager Tom Heckert held that position in Philadelphia when Kolb was drafted.
“I can’t predict anything down that far,” Reid said. “Nobody in this league can do that. That’s ridiculous.”
So what’s McNabb to think about this circus?
“Well, that’s Philadelphia,” he said. “Things like that happen. I’ve been a part of that for 11 years. Obviously, as you said, it just doesn’t stop.”
And, it’s only Week 3.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this report.