By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sunday and the Chris Murray Report
On the surface, Andy Reid’s firing of now former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is a move to let fans know that he is willing to do anything to right the Eagles 3-3 ship that seems to be on a collision course with last year’s 8-8 effort which kept them out of the playoffs.
And to quite a few fans it will probably seen as a panic move for a coach who will be fired this year if the Eagles don’t make the playoffs. Some folks will see it as a warning shot to Reid’s players that say this could be YOU if you don’t deliver on the field.
What you’re really wondering if Reid’s next move is to bench his turnover-prone starting quarterback Michael Vick.
“As I sit here today, he’s the starting quarterback,” Reid said 24 hours after saying the same thing about Castillo as his defensive coordinator. “Right now Michael Vick is the starting quarterback. I’ve told you that I’m going through and I’m evaluating.”
If you’re thinking or even hoping that Vick is going to get benched, it’s not going to happen and nor should it happen at a point in the season while the Eagles are a long way from being mathematically eliminated playoff race.
More than anything else, the firing of Castillo is Reid’s way of detracting attention from him facing that question publicly. One would even say that the change in defensive coordinators was a passive aggressive endorsement of Vick and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
As frustrating as Vick’s 13 turnovers has been in terms of preventing the team from putting more than 24 points per game on the board, the Eagles, who ranked 31st in points per game, have won three games and could have won two more.
In the Eagles three wins, Vick somehow overcame his foibles and helped win the game in the end for his team. After committing some costly early turnovers in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions, it was Vick who brought the Birds off the mat and put them in position to win.
If the Eagles were 1-5 or 0-6 at this point, Vick would be on the bench faster than Usain Bolt running the 100-meter dash. But at 3-3 and knowing they could be 5-1 if the defense could have made stops in the fourth quarter of games, Reid has an interesting dilemma on his hands when it comes to the idea of benching Vick.
Another complication is the Eagles injury-riddled offensive line which is missing an All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and a rising star at center in Jason Kelce. Vick has spent much of the season getting beat up and knocked down more times than former heavyweight boxing contender Chuck Wepner. It’s a wonder that he hasn’t been down for a 10-count in some of these games.
Of course, Reid and Morhinweg’s play-calling hasn’t helped Vick’s situation. Early in games this season, the Eagles have tried to pass the ball on virtually every down and the offense has struggled.
When they decide to balance the offense with the running LeSean McCoy, Vick is a lot more comfortable in the pocket because defensive linemen aren’t expecting pass on every play. Vick has managed to move the team down field and tends avoid turnovers for the most part.
In a real sense, I don’t think the Eagles are going to bench Vick because if for nothing else that line is not going to be able to protect backup rookie quarterback Nick Foles. Outside of a couple of preseason games, the Eagles really don’t know how the former Arizona star is going to perform under regular-season conditions. With that patchwork offensive line, I wouldn’t put a rookie back there to get beat up like that.
Since the Eagles are still legitimately in the playoff race, benching Vick would be a signal to fans that the Birds are waving the white flag for the season. It hasn’t come to that point, at least not yet. That’s up to Vick on the field.
If Vick can cut down on his interceptions and fumbles, the Eagles will score points and win games by huge margins where they don’t put it on their defense to make a big stop late in the game. The Birds will be in the playoff chase. If he doesn’t, Vick days as a starting quarterback and Reid’s days as a head coach in Philadelphia will be numbered.