Expect a QB Controversy
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Let me be perfectly clear when I say this, having lived in the Philadelphia market for most of my life. There will be a quarterback controversy by the end of the season.
Philadelphia fans love the backup quarterback more than any other city. The jersey is always greener on the guy holding the clipboard. Heck, the backup quarterback is so beloved in this city, we play a Thanksgiving football game every year and one guy shows up wearing an AJ Feely jersey.
Not only did they make AJ Feely jerseys, people in Philadelphia actually purchased them. And still wear them in public.
Philly loves the backup quarterback, and it might come from the fact that they've never been all that happy with the starting quarterback. Randall Cunningham had such a tumultuous relationship with the fans, he wore a hat that said "Let me be me" while sitting on the sidelines.
We all remember that a few morons drove up to New York to boo the Eagles drafting of Donovan McNabb when radio hosts convinced fans they needed Ricky Williams instead (they were wrong), but McNabb has used that day, and the many subsequent boos he's heard since that day, to distance himself from the fanbase. Sure, he says all the right things, but nobody is convinced he means them, least of all McNabb.
So the love for the backup quarterback in Philadelphia has often been more about the relationship with the starter than the skill and quality of the guy behind him on the two-deep. But no Eagles team has ever had a backup quarterback with the athleticism of Michael Vick.
Yesterday was just a glimpse of what Vick can do. He's the ultimate Wildcat. He can run, shovel pass to the running back, and as they say in the business, 'make all the throws.' While writers in Philly didn't think Vick did much in the way of scaring defensive coordinators, he didn't really get a chance to do that much. When he did get to throw, Vick hit Hank Baskett for a strike in the first quarter with the kind of zip on the ball that reminded people of what he can do on the football field, and Eagles fans' eyes opened wide.
Vick did do enough last night to whet the appetite of every Eagles fan looking for a championship. Vick, or at least the idea of Vick, is everything fans want in Donovan McNabb. A few years back, McNabb decided he wanted to focus on being a pocket passer, basically deciding that running is for suckers. Some thought it was a shrewd decision to lengthen his career. Some in Philadelphia thought it was a decision to 'conform' to the NFL model of a quarterback. In other words, McNabb was getting too white for some people in town.
While McNabb has remained elusive, including a few times last night adeptly escaping pressure, he's not the tuck-and-run quarterback we knew in his first few seasons. Or what we knew of Vick before he went to prison. So for some, Vick is everything McNabb used to be, and more.
Those sentiments came up this week when J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the Philadelphia NAACP was promoting a rally to support Vick at last night's game. The 'rally' completely fell short, according to reports. But not lost on people was the fact that Mondesire famously wrote a slam-job piece on McNabb (in essence making all the claims stated above) and now seems to be defending Vick. Could this be a theme echoed throughout the city, you know, after this whole dogfighting thing gets old to talk about?
Last night's 'rally' may have been more about the black community galvanizing behind Vick instead of McNabb than it was protecting Vick's right to earn a living from those few animal-rights protesters who showed up to voice their opposition to the signing. If the community turns on McNabb and puts its energy behind Vick -- and I'm not suggesting it has, yet -- could the locker room be far behind?
That's the thing about McNabb... he's a really, really smart guy. He's savvy. He's intelligent both on and off the field. And he's a politician. People blamed T.O. for dividing the Eagles a few years ago, but that was just as much the fault of McNabb. Each year he plays games with both management and the rest of the roster through the media. This year, he made it perfectly clear that he was responsible for bringing in Michael Vick. McNabb made certain we knew that he wanted Vick in Philadelphia and he will be Vick's mentor. I couldn't figure out why. But after last night, when Vick got cheers for simply running on the field, and the crowd went wild for his first-down pass to Baskett, it became more obvious.
Now reports are coming out that McNabb was unhappy with the flow of the offense because of Vick's involvement in the gameplan. And it's just the pre-season. If the Eagles get off to a 5-0 start, which is quite possible, there will be high-fiving on the sidelines. But if the Birds falter a few times in their first five games, there will be a clamoring for Vick to take the reigns in week seven. On Monday Night. In Washington.
The dogfighting controversy will subside when the season starts. But there's another controversy brewing.
August 28, 2009; 9:52 AM ET
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