Dropping the Ball: There Are No Good Guys in the Ray Rice Domestic Abuse Saga

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Janay and Ray Rice's press conference to explain spousal abuse incident in New Jersey.

Janay and Ray Rice’s press conference to explain spousal abuse incident in New Jersey.

PHILADELPHIA—As I observe the reaction to running back Ray Rice’s release from the Baltimore Ravens and indefinite suspension by the NFL , I’m left with the feeling that there are no heroes and nothing but villains in this sad drama.

The thing that brought about Rice’s termination from the Ravens was the video from that “paragon” of journalistic integrity—TMZ– that shows the former Rutgers star hitting his then fiancée Janay Palmer with a left hook that knocked her into a rail on the elevator and onto the floor unconscious. Rice then coldly drags an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator and shows no concern about her well-being.

I don’t care what the circumstances are. No man should ever hit a woman at all and definitely not with the kind of force that Rice used. You just can’t do that. He probably should have been arrested for felony assault.

I hope that Rice is undergoing some serious counseling and he should be thankful that he doesn’t have to behind bars, thanks to a pretrial intervention program. Rice’s record will be expunged after a year.

While I don’t think he should be out of the game forever, Rice should have been suspended beyond the two games suspension he was given. He should have been suspended anywhere from eight games to a year, similar to what New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick got for dog fighting.

If and when he ever gets back into the league, Rice should be made to speak to young men about the evils of domestic violence and make a contribution to help shelters that house battered women. He should want to do that himself.

Actually, the most aggrieved victim in this whole thing is Janay Palmer, who wound up “apologizing” for being a part of this incident as if she did something wrong. I don’t care what she did or said, she didn’t deserve to be hit. The worse thing we do in this society when it comes to domestic violence and rape is to blame the victim. That has to stop.

But there are a lot of things that bother me about this incident beyond Rice hitting his girlfriend and it involves all the people who are now distancing themselves from the now former Ravens star.

For one thing, didn’t the NFL have access to the full video? Didn’t NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell see that Palmer was out cold as Rice dragged her out like an overstuffed trash bag? How could he have given Rice just a two-game suspension after seeing even a little bit of that tape?
As they say in social media, I’m SMDH….(Shaking my damn head.)

You would think with all the resources the NFL has to investigate incidents like this that they would have found this video before TMZ. Atlantic City casinos have cameras everywhere. That the League and law enforcement officials somehow missed or overlooked this is simply astounding.

The outrage at Goodell and the NFL is justifiable because players had gotten longer suspensions to guys smoking marijuana and taking fertility drugs. For a lot of women, the slap on the wrist that Rice initially received spoke volumes about the NFL and its attitude toward domestic violence.Many said that it showed that hurting a dog would get you in more trouble than hurting a woman.

The outrage from women groups and bad PR for a league trying to appeal female sports fans forced Goodell to apply stricter penalties to players who commit acts of domestic violence.

Now with the latest video, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens gave him his unconditional release. But don’t think it was all about the Ravens or the league’s concern for women and domestic violence. The spin machine that is the NFL cares about one thing: “Protect the shield.”

I contend that Goodell, the league and the Ravens knew about this video and looked the other way. When it came out, both the NFL and the Ravens went into spin mode, cutting ties with Rice in order to cover their own asses in the face of mounting public criticism.

I am not surprised the NFL was in denial about its handling of domestic violence among its players. Remember this is the same league that was in deep denial about effects of concussions on its former and current players and had to be dragged, kicking and screaming to face this reality.

As for TMZ Sports releasing the video on the first week of the NFL season, Bleep you, too because there was nothing virtuous or heroic about the release of this video, especially from a media outlet that has the journalistic integrity of a plagiarist.

I wonder who TMZ paid off to get a copy of the video?

All TMZ Sports did was exploit human suffering to get higher ratings. They don’t give a rat’s ass about domestic violence unless it’s celebrities and they can get it on video. Spare me your fake outrage, too as you sip on your vanilla latte while stalking athletes and movie stars.

This Woman’s Worth … The Ray Rice Suspension and What the NFL Really Thinks of Women

Janay and Ray Rice's press conference to explain spousal abuse incident in New Jersey.

Janay and Ray Rice’s press conference to explain spousal abuse incident in Atlantic City last February.

By Denise Clay

of the Mad (Political) Scientist

Over the last few years, the National Football League has been trying to attract women by having breast cancer awareness games, and fun events, like my friend Tashyra Ayers’ “Female Football Frenzy” benefit for the American Heart Association.

But it’s going to take a lot more than a bunch of guys wearing pink gloves and shoestrings in October and an appearance from a hunky wide receiver at a benefit to get the taste of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s latest move out of women’s mouths.

On Thursday, Goodell announced that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would be serving a two-game suspension for abusing his fiancee’, now wife, Janay in an Atlantic City hotel in February. He’ll also be paying a $58,000 fine and getting some counseling. He’ll also lose more than $500,000 in game checks.

(Or as I like to call it, his Petty Cash…)

“This league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,” Goodell said in a letter he sent to Rice telling him of his suspension. “This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

This is a strongly worded letter…for a two-game suspension..


But in some light of some other punishments meted out by the league on a few other, not as blatant offenses, I’m a little confused.

So let me get this straight.

In the NFL, killing dogs as part of a dogfighting ring, the offense committed by New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick, gets you first suspended indefinitely, suspended for four games once you’re reinstated, and earns you the permanent enmity of a whole lot of misguided pet lovers.

Shooting yourself in the leg at a nightclub, the offense that put former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress on the hot seat, gets you suspended for four games.

Taking a fertility drug in hopes of helping your wife get pregnant, the faux pas that has Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis riding the pine, gets you suspended for four games.

But decking your fiancee’ in a casino hotel, dragging her into an elevator and making her sit through a press conference that probably made Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa say “Damn! That sucks!” costs you two games and about $500,000.

No wonder Janay Rice looks like she hasn’t got a damn left to give. If I don’t stop scratching my head so hard, I’m gonna need stitches.

Now from everything I’ve read about Ray Rice, the whole “beating the snot out of my significant other” thing is out of character.

But my guess is that it’s not as much “out of character” as it was “finally got caught”.

According to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, one-third of all women who have experienced a severe instance of domestic violence will experience another similar event in the same year. African Americans also make up one-third of the intimate partner homicides in the country.

I would be willing to bet my last dollar that Goodell took none of what I just mentioned into consideration when he made his decision.

Now let’s be honest here. The NFL has got a whole lot of issues. In addition to the whole “One of our teams is named for a racial slur” thing, the NFL has a culture of sexism bordering on misogyny.

There, I said it. And I meant it too.

From the cheerleaders for my beloved Oakland Raiders being forced to sue for their pay to the rather ridiculous hygiene rules placed on the Buffalo Bills’ pom-pom wielders, what women have to put up with to be involved with football makes my feminist skin crawl.

And don’t even get me started on the beer-and-testosterone-soaked shenanigans in the stands. Or the way that players use women like napkins. Or the fact that the marriage vows for most of the players should have written on an Etch-A-Sketch.

But if the league is serious about getting women (and their money) into the stands to keep the billions flowing in, it can’t afford to add “tolerance for domestic violence” to that mix.

Because like a woman who’s had enough, we’ll get up and walk away.

Denise Clay is a columnist with the Philadelphia Public Record and writes for her own blog, The Mad (Political) Scientist.  You can check out her columns at denisethewriter1.wordpress.com.


Fond Farewell: Michael Vick Unlikely to Return to Eagles in 2014

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick shares a light moment at his locker  with teammates  wide receiver DeSean Jackson (left) and running back LeSean McCoy (right). Vick will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Photo by Chris Murray.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick shares a light moment at his locker with teammates wide receiver DeSean Jackson (left) and running back LeSean McCoy (right). Vick will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Photo by Chris Murray.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—As Eagles quarterback Michael Vick went about cleaning out his locker, his teammates stopped by to pat him on the back, offered words of encouragement, and some had him sign his autograph to a pair of sneakers.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy spent the most time laughing and joking with Vick and telling him not to pack his things.

“I think Mike Vick has meant a lot to our team,” Jackson said. “He’s done some great things since he’s been here. He’s been a mentor and a brother to me. He’s a professional. He’s still a great quarterback.  I think he has a lot of upside for being a starting quarterback in this league.

“Regardless, if he’s here or anywhere else, he will do a great job. A lot of people have turned his back on him and really don’t think he can still do it. In my eyes, I think he’s still a top player in this league. He’s very dangerous. ”

With Vick at the end of his current one-year contract with the Eagles, the various gatherings at his locker was more like folks were saying one final farewell to a guy that has been a team leader throughout much of his time with the team.

Wide receiver Riley Cooper, whose offensive comments about African-Americans at a country music concert got him suspended during the training camp, said Vick has been a supportive teammate from his arrival in Philadelphia and during the time he was facing criticism from fans and teammates in aftermath of his him using the N-word.

“He went out of his way when I first got here to talk me and so I followed his lead. He’s a great guy, great player. If I’m back here, I hope he is, too,” said Cooper, who 47 passes for 837 yards and eight touchdowns.

While the team hasn’t officially said if they were going to re-sign him or not, it is highly likely Vick will not be back with the Birds for the 2014 season. Vick said he still believes he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL and is also open to possibly staying with the Eagles as a backup.

“My desire to start will be the same even when I’m 38, 39-years-old,” Vick said. “I’m still 33, I still feel good and like I’ve said before the way that I’ve been able to take care of my body this year. I feel good. I still know that I can play.

“I’m just confident in what I can do based on what I do every day, whether it’s running the scout team in warm-ups or just understanding what our game-plan and concepts are, so I feel like I’m built to do this. I just want to keep it going because I’m not finished yet.”

Since the Eagles loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card Playoff, Vick said that no one from the Birds front office has approached him or spoken to him about coming back to the team in 2014.

Eagles General manager Howie Roseman said he was proud of Vick’s contribution to the team this season as a backup to Nick Foles, but also said he understands that the former Virginia Tech star wants to have an opportunity to be a starting quarterback.

“For a guy in his situation to take on the leadership role and be supportive of his teammates was incredible,” Roseman said on Monday. “Mike obviously feels and deservedly so that he’s a starter in this league, I’m sure that’s going to be his first choice. I feel like every year we have this conversation about Mike not being back. We just don’t know how things are going to work out. We all really like and appreciate Mike Vick.”

That sentiment was shared by team owner Jeffrey Lurie after the Eagles loss to the Saints Saturday night.

“Michael has been impressive to us, I’m sure to you guys, but also to us internally,” Lurie said. “Incredibly mature as a teammate, a leader, somebody who helped Nick tremendously, he has been a joy to have.  He represented the team always with class.”

This season, Vick won the starting job during training camp after a competitive battle with Foles for the top spot. He started seven games this season, but a left hamstring injury forced him to miss several games. He threw five touchdown passes against three interceptions.  In Vick’s absence, Foles got hot and wound up with 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

In a situation that could have been potentially difficult, Vick worked with Foles and did everything the coaching staff asked of him.

“Unfortunately, he got hurt and that gave an opportunity to another guy,” said Eagles head Chip Kelly.  “I think sometimes for a lot of people, you put yourself in those shoes, that’s hard to wrap your arms around because it’s not like Michael was wrong and got benched.  It was just a unique situation and I think how helped Nick through the  process, it just tells you the type of person he is and I think that didn’t go unnoticed by me and I appreciate everything he did my first year here.”

Going back to when he got out of prison in 2009 and was signed by the team, Vick said he is appreciates the Eagles organization for allowing him to rehabilitate his career as a football player and as a man.

“They’re a lot of good things to talk about,” Vick said. “There have been a lot of things that I have accomplished on and off the field, especially off the field and that supersedes everything.

“That’s one of the goals I set coming out of prison and being incarcerated, I’ve accomplished that more than anything I did on the field”

Vick Handles Move to No. 2 Spot Well, Supports Foles

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Michael Vick said Foles deserves to be the starter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Michael Vick said Foles deserves to be the starter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It’s easy for an athlete to sulk and bemoan his situation when he loses his starting position. This is especially true when a guy has been a long-time starter. In some cases, that long-time starter is usually demanding to be traded elsewhere.

That can’t be said of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. After witnessing the rise of Nick Foles, the NFC’s offensive player of the month for November, Vick has been supportive of the guy he competed for the starting job with since minicamp. Foles said Vick has been helpful throughout his time on the field.

“Mike’s been tremendous throughout this whole thing,” Foles said. “The best thing about Mike is that he’s a great team player. He’s been nothing but helpful to me throughout this whole thing whether it’s me on the sidelines and telling me what he sees out there. It’s been great for me to look up to an older guy to see how he’s handled this whole situation.”

But that’s the approach Vick has taken all season. Remember this was the same guy who took a pay cut, signed a one-year contract, and competed for the starting job. At the same time, he was working with Foles and rookie Matt Barkley to help them to get better.

“Mike wants to contribute any way he can and that’s the type of guy he is,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “He’s a great teammate, great leader. He’s been great for Nick over the games he’s been out in terms of helping him to develop. We’ve got a good situation.  I think we have two quarterbacks that win games in the NFL.”

Wide receiver Jason Avant said Vick is still a leader in the Eagles locker room even though he is not the starter.

“He’s not focusing on himself, he’s been focusing on his teammates and putting God first,” Avant said. “That’s leadership to me more so than someone saying this or saying that. Leadership is about what you do in your daily life, but also in adverse times. What do you do? Does pressure break you or does it reveal that you’re a champion on the inside …(Vick) is a champion.”

Before he got hurt in the first Giants game, Vick wasn’t having a bad year. He led the team to the win over the Redskins in the season-opener. He passed for 203 yards and threw two touchdown passes. He also had 54 yards rushing with one touchdown.

In the Eagles 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers, Vick passed for a career-high 428 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown.  But he struggled in the Kansas City game, throwing two interceptions including a pick-six.

Against the Denver Broncos, Vick was merely ordinary compared to an incredible performance Peyton Manning. Vick passed for 248 yards on 14-of-27 passing, but had a few drops along the way.

By the time he left the game with his injury, Vick had led the Eagles to a 16-7 lead before Foles replaced him. Vick said he’s not disappointed by the demotion to second string because of how well Foles has been playing.

“It’s all about support,” Vick said on Tuesday. “I’ve been playing in this league for a long time, and it’s great to see guys who I know can play and spend a lot of time with go out there and have success, and I enjoy watching it. I enjoy watching my team go out there and do the things that Coach Kelly asks them to do and see it turn over and correlate into wins. It goes to show that what we’re doing is working and we’re all on the same page, and it’s exciting to see.”

I can’t say that I know how Vick will be remembered in this game as a player because I think his book still has a few chapters left.  On one level, I wouldn’t be too worried about whether or not he’s put up all the requisite numbers to get a bust in Canton. But if there was a Hall-of-Fame for growth as a human being, Vick would definitely be on the first ballot.

The way he has handled being relegated to the backup role is proof positive of that. Since coming up from the depths from his imprisonment, Vick has proven that being a man and handling adversity without wincing or crying out loud is far more important than his passing statistics.

Stuck in Reverse: Eagles Offense Dismal in Loss to Giants

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley (left) looks up at Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams, who recovered his fumble late in the second quarter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley (left) looks up at Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams, who recovered his fumble late in the second quarter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The first half of the Monday night season-opener against the Washington Redskins seems like a distant memory for the Eagles offense.

Chip Kelly’s high-scoring, fast-paced offense that transformed the Oregon Ducks into a national powerhouse at the collegiate level, has simply not worked game in and game out at the pro level.  While it has compiled yardage, it has been inconsistent.

The Eagles 15-7 loss to the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday was another example of an offense that is stuck in a quagmire and going nowhere fast.  The Birds offense has scored just three points in their last eight quarters and could only muster 201 yards against the Giants defense.

The only points came via special teams late in the fourth quarter when Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie sailed the ball over the head of punter Steve Weatherford.  Eagles reserve linebacker Najee Goode recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense had another solid outing while the offense struggled. The Birds did not allow a touchdown and held the Giants (2-6) to five Josh Brown field goals.

For the second straight week, the Eagles offense could not generate points. They lost starting quarterback Michael Vick who re-aggravated his left hamstring and was ineffective when he was on the field.  He was 6-of-9 passing for 31 yards with one interception. Vick left the game for good early in the second quarter.

With backup quarterback Nick Foles recovering from concussion symptoms, rookie Matt Barkley was pressed into service as the Birds quarterback for the rest of the game.  Although he showed flashes of brilliance, Barkley played like a rookie quarterback.  Good on some plays and terrible on others.   He completed 17-of-26 passes for 158 yards with an interception and a fumble. Barkley was sacked three times.

Ironically, it was when Barkley was at his best that he made the most egregious mistake of the game for the Eagles.  The former USC star drove the Birds from their own 20 to the New York two-yard line. On first and goal, Barkley was sacked at the Giants 14 by cornerback Terrell Thomas, who jarred the ball loose.  New York linebacker Jacuian Williams recovered the ball at the Giants 12.

“I saw (DeSean) Jackson first and it looked too close to throw it to him, so I was going through my second progression and was about to throw it away and (Thomas) just got there a second too early,” Barkley said.

That was as close as the Eagles (3-5) would come to scoring an offensive touchdown for the rest of the game.

Barkley’s fumble had folks questioning why Kelly would pass the ball that deep in Giants territory with a rookie quarterback when they have running back LeSean McCoy in the backfield.

Granted, McCoy gained just 48 yards on 15 carries for the game. You would think with a back as good as McCoy the Eagles would be able to get two yards on two carries deep inside the red zone even on a day when he was struggling.

“That was the play I called,” Kelly said. “It didn’t work. So obviously, it didn’t work. But we know in that situation, we’re first and goal and we talked about it.  If we don’t have it, let’s throw it way and we’ll go the next time.”
The only thing Barkley threw away in that sequence was a golden opportunity to put points on the board.

Kelly said inconsistency at the quarterback position, among other things, has been the reason the team has struggled offensively in the last couple of weeks.

“Yeah I think we’ve had some instability at the quarterback position,” Kelly said. “It starts with me. I’m the play caller. I’m the guy calling the plays. In the last two weeks, I haven’t done a very good job of it.  Until we can get that straightened out, the disappointing thing is I think our defense played a really, really good football game again today. They’ve really come along.

“But offensively, we haven’t done what we need to do to win two football games and we need to get that fixed.”

















Vick Says He’s Close, But Not There Yet

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Michael Vick says he's close to being ready to play in Sunday's game against the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Michael Vick says he’s close to being ready to play in Sunday’s game against the Giants.  NIck Foles is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the Eagles quarterback situation for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants would be clearer, it is still up in the air.

Earlier in the day, Philly.com reported that a source close to the team said Michael Vick, who is recovering from a sore left hamstring, would be ready for Sunday’s game against the Giants.  At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Vick said he wasn’t sure about starting on Sunday.

“I wish I could give you a definite answer on that, but I can’t right now,” Vick said. “At some point this week, I’ll test it out and see what it feels like. But I have to give it a go, but I just don’t want to do it this early in the week.”

Vick said his left hamstring was getting better with each passing day, but he didn’t want to rush the healing process.   He said the knot that was in the hamstring is gradually going away.

“It’s progressed quickly and it’s gotten better each and everyday,” Vick said. “I just don’t want to lose sight of what’s gotten me to this point. I don’t want to re-aggravate it. I want to continue with my progress. I don’t want to regress.

“Whenever I can do things without thinking about it, that’s when I’ll be able to make that determination.”

Teammate DeSean Jackson said Vick has been really pushing hard in the last few weeks to get back on the field to help the Eagles offense.

“I feel that Mike is doing a great job of preparing himself to play a game,” Jackson said. “As far as he’ll be ready or not, I can’t answer that question. He’s been out here practicing and he’s been practicing last week as well, too. I think he’s ready, sooner or later, we’ll find out who the quarterback will be.”

Oddly enough, Vick said it was third-string quarterback Matt Barkley took the first-team reps during Tuesday’s practice. That might be a smoke screen to confuse how the Giants prepare the game-plan to attack the Eagles offense.

“We put together a plan that fits all the quarterbacks, so it’s not like we’re all the way over here if we say Nick’s playing or all the way over here if Mike is playing. We put together a plan that fits all our quarterbacks,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

With Nick Foles going through the NFL’s concussion protocol, there is the possibility that he won’t play on Sunday as well.

Vick said Foles condition doesn’t mean he’s going to rush his healing process just to regain the starting position.

“It’s a very delicate situation, you want to get back out there, you want to play and you want to help your teammates,” Vick said. “That’s what’s eating me up on the inside right now. I wish I can tell you that it’s going to speed up the recovery process. I just got to put it all in God’s hands.”

Later in the press conference, a reporter asked Vick if the game were on Thursday, would he be on the field in uniform, ready to start.

“We’ll see. I’m optimistic about it,” Vick said.

One of the things Vick said he would like to do differently this week if he does start is to focus on his stretching routine.

“I understand that stretching more than anything gives your muscles more endurance,” he said. “Sometimes, you’re so eager and so excited to get out to the game that you forget the small things and you can’t forget about the small things that’s gotten me to the point to where I am now as a 12-year veteran.”





Health Will Determine Who Starts at QB For Birds Against The Giants

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said he has to see where his quarterbacks are in terms of their health before naming a starter. Photo by Webster Riddick

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said he has to see where his quarterbacks are in terms of their health before naming a starter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—At his weekly day-after game press conference, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn’t name a starting quarterback for next Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

It all depends upon who comes up healthy. As it stands now, Nick Foles was diagnosed with a concussion after taking a hard sack from Cowboys defensive ends George Selvie and Jarius Wynn. He is currently undergoing the NFL’s concussion protocol.

“I saw Nick after the game last night,” Kelly said. “He seems like he’s doing well. There is a protocol and a system that you have to go through before he’s cleared.”

Meanwhile, Kelly gave no indication as to whether or not Michael Vick, who has been rehabbing his sore left hamstring, will be ready to start this Sunday. He said Vick told him before the Dallas game that his hamstring was progressing.

“Mike did workout before the game and said he feels like he’s moving in the right direction, so it will be interesting to see where he is from the standpoint of coming in here and running around a little bit (Tuesday) morning in terms of warm-up with the strength and conditioning staff and how that goes,” Kelly said.

“It’s all based on what his health is. I’m not going to put Mike out there if Mike can’t be productive. We’ve listened to Mike the whole time so we’ll continue to listen to Mike. Just because someone else gets hurt that doesn’t make another guy get healthy quicker. Hopefully, we can get Mike back. Just because of Nick’s injury we’re not going to force that.”

If Vick or Foles are unable to play against the Giants, it is likely that third-string quarterback Matt Barkley could get his first start as a pro.  The team will also have to bring in another back-up via the waiver wire. In Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, Barkley was thrown into the wolves after Foles left the game and was 11-for-20 for 129 yard with three interceptions in a space of nine minutes.

“It’s Matt first time getting in the game, we’re down 17-3, we’re going to throw it every snap to see if we can somehow make it a 17-10 game and see if we can get an onside kick,” Kelly said.  “A difficult situation for him to come in. I’m sure he wants those throws back.”

Looking back at the loss to Dallas, the offense simply was not in sync at all and could not find any kind of rhythm. That was due mainly to poor execution by the offense.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles struggled in the loss to Dallas. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles struggled in the loss to Dallas. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Before leaving the game with a concussion, Foles struggled big time. He completed just 11 of his 29 passes for just 80 yards. He was missing open receivers and held on to the ball too long at times.

“There were a lot of throws where he just didn’t set his feet the way he set his feet,” Kelly said. “You drop, set your feet, throw the ball and get the ball out.  When we get a chance to visit with him and Bill Lazor (quarterbacks coach) gets a chance to visit with him, we’ll sit down, watch the film and go through what was going on with him at that point in time.”

Kelly said while Foles was off in the game, it was a combination of other things as well.

“There were times when guys were open that we didn’t get the ball on him,” Kelly said. “There were other times when we didn’t get off coverage and there was a couple of times that we gave up too much leakage pressure, so he’s not being able to set his feet.”

To be sure, the Eagles offensive woes weren’t all on the quarterback. The Birds running game definitely wasn’t very good either. LeSean McCoy struggled to find running room. He gained just 55 yards on 18 carries while averaging just 3.1 yards per carry.

“I don’t think, as offensive weapons, we gave him much of a chance,” McCoy said after the game. “There are plays that we should have made, there are plays that I should have made, to help him out. If you look down the line, I bet guys would say the same things about themselves. We just didn’t give him a shot. I think that Nick is a heck of a player. He’s a good leader. We just let him down.”

Vick’s Mobility Gives the Eagles a Better Chance to Win

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Nick Foles gets sacked by Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber in the Birds loss to Dallas.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Nick Foles gets sacked by Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber in the Birds loss to Dallas. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Coming into Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, things seemed to be tailored-made for Nick Foles to make an argument to be the Eagles permanent starting quarterback.

After two solid performances over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants, fans and a significant segment of the local media were convinced that it was Foles’ time to be the starting over Michael Vick, who missed Sunday’s game still nursing a sore hamstring.

Against Dallas, Foles had perhaps the worst game of his career. He was 11-of-29 for just 80 yards against the league’s 30th ranked defense. He was a sacked three times and had a quarterback rating of 46.2. Granted, the sacks came from an offensive line that struggled to block a Cowboys defense that was minus DeMarcus Ware. The receivers also dropped a few balls, too.

Foles also missed his share of open receivers. The biggest miss came early in the fourth quarter when he short-hopped a pass to a wide-open Jason Avant in the end zone. The ball bounced into the hands of Cowboys safety J.J.Wilcox for an apparent interception that was overturned by the replay officials because the ball touched the ground and was ruled incomplete.

The Birds 17-3 loss to the Cowboys tells me is that while I think Foles will eventually be a good quarterback in this league, Vick still gives this team the best chance to win in the here and now.

I say that mainly because Vick is a duel threat quarterback that makes defenses have to account for him because of his running ability.  Vick’s scrambling ability gives him the chance to make plays downfield with his arm. In Kelly’s read-option offense,  Vick’s mobility opens things up for LeSean McCoy in the running game.

McCoy, who rushed for 55 yards on 18 carries, faced a Cowboys defense that had focused its energy on making sure he didn’t gash them in the running game.  It was a scheme that worked because McCoy averaged just three yards per carry.  The way Dallas stifled McCoy, it looked like they took a page from what the Giants did in the second half at MetLife Stadium two weeks ago.

“Well we knew the first thing we wanted to do was shut (McCoy)down,” said Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. “Then we wanted to get pressure on Foles and I thought we did combing both.”

I just think at the end of the day even when the Eagles offense is struggling, Vick’s penchant for running just to get something going as he did in the first half of the Giants game is an intangible that Foles doesn’t have just yet.

More importantly, I don’t think the starting quarterback should lose his job because of an injury. Up until the time he got hurt, Vick wasn’t struggling and for the most part was having a decent year. He had cut down on his turnovers and kept the Eagles in games when the defense was struggling.

Vick’s biggest challenge is his fragility, which is why he needed to take as much time as he needs to get through his hamstring issues and let it be completely healed without it being a lingering problem, especially for a guy who likes to use his feet.

I still think Foles is a good quarterback and I don’t think that Sunday’s game is an indictment of his skill-set. He had a bad game and he will no doubt get better.

For right now, the difference between the two is that Vick can be struggling during a course of game, but still has the ability to make plays with his mobility-whether it’s running for a first down or buy time to find an open receiver.  I also believe that threat of Vick’s mobility opens things up for Eagles running backs.


Not a Two QB League Just Yet, But You Need a Solid Back-Up When No. 1 Gets Hurt

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Flash back to the 2003 NFC Championship game between the Eagles and the Carolina Panthers.

 Nick Foles will likely start in Sunday's game against the  Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Nick Foles will likely start in Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Early in the second quarter of that game, Birds quarterback Donovan McNabb gets hits by Carolina linebacker Greg Favors and suffers badly bruised ribs that eventually force him to leave the game.

With Koy Detmer in the game in relief of McNabb, the Eagles really had no chance to come back and win because there was a huge drop off in talent when you compare those two quarterbacks.

And so in the here and now, the Eagles have two guys who are capable of starting and winning.  When Michael Vick pulled a hamstring in the win over the New York Giants, Nick Foles came off the bench and threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes to lead the Eagles to the win.

With Vick unable to go against Tampa Bay last week, Foles passed for 296 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the Birds win over the Bucs.

Now, of course, you have a full-blown quarterback here in the City of Brotherly Love. There are some rooting for Foles to be the starter and others rooting for Vick, who will apparently be on the shelf for another week rehabbing his injured hamstring.

In an NFL where there has been a rash of quarterback injuries, you would think that teams would have backups that are just as good as their starters.  But the reality is when teams lose their starting quarterback, the back up guy is someone not as talented as the starter or who has little game experience.

“But typically, your starter is better than your backup ‑‑ in our situation, we’ve got two guys that have gone in and won a game, so ours is a little bit unique,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.  “But in a lot of places, there’s probably a drop‑off between their first and second guy. “

Michael Vick will probably miss Sunday's game against the Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick

Michael Vick will probably miss Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick

Will NFL teams ever evolve to the point to where you need two guys who are capable of being starters?  I don’t know.  In some situations, you’re lucky if you can get one guy to do it. And if you do have two capable starters, someone’s going to want to emerge as the No. 1 guy.

Every team finds themselves one season-ending injury away from having to start their back up quarterback. Foles said even as a backup, you work with the mentality that you’re going to be the starter.

“I’m going into this week like I always do,” Foles said. “I work everyday like I’m the starter, nothing changes. No matter what happens if I’m not getting reps, I’m mentally getting reps. What throws I didn’t get if I’m not getting first-team reps, I’m going to throw after (practice).”

During his press conference after the Birds win over the New York Giants where Vick got hurt, Kelly said he enjoys the luxury of having two quarterbacks capable of starting.

“No matter where you are in this league, you have to make sure you have two quarterbacks that’s just the nature of this league,” Kelly said. “We’re fortunate that we do.”

More often than naught, the loss of a starting quarterback means the season can take a huge nose-dive in the win-loss column, especially when you throw in a rookie or player who gets very little playing time. In 2011, the Indianapolis Colts lost Peyton Manning for a season and their record plummeted to 2-14.

Along with the Eagles, the Cleveland Browns (Brian Hoyer), the Buffalo Bills (EJ Manuel), New York Jets (Mark Sanchez), the Jacksonville Jaguars (Blaine Gabbert) and Tennessee Titans (Jake Locker) have seen their starters miss a significant amount of time and in some cases, like Hoyer, they are out for the season.

But throughout the history of the game, some teams have successfully managed long-term injuries to their starting quarterbacks better than others and some have been quite successful.

When McNabb had a season-ending knee injury in 2006, Jeff Garcia came in and the lead the Eagles to wins in five out of their last six games en-route to an NFC East title.

Back in 2008, Tom Brady had a season-ending knee injury in the Patriots first regular season game. Matt Cassel led New England to 11 wins, but did not make the playoffs.

Brady, a sixth-round draft pick, was Drew Bledsoe’s backup at the beginning of the 2001 season before being pressed into service when Bledsoe got hurt.  Of course, Brady went on to win three Super Bowls as the Patriots starter.

In 1990, New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms went down with a foot injury in week 14. Backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler led the Giants to a victory in the Super Bowl.

If there was one coach in NFL history that seemed to have a knack of finding a back up quarterback good enough to win when his starter got hurt, it was Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.

During his coaching days with the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins, Shula saw legendary quarterbacks in John Unitas and Bob Griese go down with injuries. In 1968, when Shula was coaching the Colts, Earl Morrall filled in for an injured Unitas and took them to the Super Bowl and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

In 1965, when Shula lost both Unitas and another backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo, he turned his halfback Tom Matte into a quarterback. It was Matte who helped the Colts clinch a berth in a playoff-tie breaker against the Green Bay Packers.

When Shula was coaching the Dolphins in 1972, it was Morrall, who took over for  Griese and led Miami to an unbeaten regular season.  In a 1981 playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, Miami was down 24-0 and brought in backup quarterback Don Strock to who replaced an ineffective David Woodley.

Strock completed  29-of-43 passes for 403 yards and four touchdown passes to get Miami back in the game. The Dolphins eventually lost an overtime classic.

I don’t know if the NFL will eventually go to a two-quarterback system, but there is need to make sure your No. 2 guy is ready to go out and win games in case your top QB goes down. You can’t take that position for granted.

“I think it’s important that we continue to develop quarterbacks and that’s probably a discussion for the off-season, when you talk about how your rosters are structured,” Shurmur said.



Quarterback Controversy? Vick Has Little Margin For Error or Injury

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has very little margin error as the Eagles starting signal caller. Photo By Webster Riddick.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick hopes to be ready for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.  Photo By Webster Riddick.


PHILADELPHIA—When Michael Vick limped off the field with a pulled hamstring late in the first half of Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, you knew it was coming.

With Vick possibly out for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we now have a “quarterback controversy”—at least in the eyes of those of us who cover the team.

The former Virginia Tech star did participate in individual drills at Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice, so there is a possibility that he may start. He said he’s taking it a day at a time.

“I feel a lot better than I did on Sunday,” Vick said. “It was kind of agonizing. It was tough to deal with. I’m glad I’m where I’m at today.”

But because backup quarterback Nick Foles came off the bench and tossed a couple of touchdown passes to defeat the hapless Giants, there are some who think he should be named the permanent Eagles’ starter. He was 16-of-25 for 197 yards and to be fair, it was a great relief performance.

During his day-after game press conference, Eagles coach Chip Kelly was asked what Foles could do to keep the starting job. To his credit, Kelly answered the question in the manner in which it deserved.

“Yeah, there’s always open competition. So if Nick goes out there and throw 100-for-100 and throws 27 touchdown passes, then yeah,” Kelly said.


One thing that makes Philadelphia unique to other football towns is that it’s the only place where pulling a hamstring should cost you your starting job. At least to the group that refers to itself as “the nation’s smartest sports fans.”

Now granted, the rest of the country hears this and thinks that the notion of a pulled hamstring costing you your starting job is just absurd, but this is the prevailing narrative, especially among a Delaware Valley media that appeared at times to be openly cheering third-string QB Matt Barkley as a starter over Vick.

Some observers have said the Eagles might as well bench Vick because he’s going get hurt anyway.

Yeah. Right. Okay…

When asked about the possibility that Foles could take his job, Vick responded with as much as class as he could, considering he’s probably tired of this crap.

“I can’t worry about that. I hope Nick plays well,” Vick said. “That’s my teammate. He’s a great friend of mine, somebody that I root for whether it’s now or down the road.  I just got to take it one day at a time and enjoy football everyday.”

For me, the real issue here is that in the eyes of the Philadelphia media anything short of 27 touchdown passes in a game while avoiding any injury…including the common cold…is the only way for Vick to remain the Eagles signal caller. Folks call for Vick to be replaced anytime he finds himself sidelined with an injury or has an average day throwing the ball.

Granted, some of this is Vick’s own making. His history of injuries and his tendency to not take care of the football certainly gives his critics plenty of fodder.

But in the eyes of a mostly white Philly media, Vick is pretty much on double secret probation—which means he can ill afford any slip ups no matter how minor.

If he gets sacked three or four times, it’s Vick’s fault because he didn’t make his pre-snap reads even if his rookie left tackle or veteran right guard misses a block.

When his receivers drop a pass or they don’t get separation from the defense, he’s holding the ball too long.

When Vick runs out of the pocket for big yardage and gets a first down to keep a drive going, it’s because he didn’t go through all his progressions and it’s also because of that time-honored stereotype of Black quarterbacks not being able to read defenses.

Ever since Vick won the starting job over Foles back in training camp, it seems like folks have been trying to find a reason, any reason to say that Vick should ultimately lose the job.

Whether it was a lackluster performance during the third game of the preseason or the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs where the offensive line couldn’t block anybody, it becomes a reason why he shouldn’t be the starter.

When you look at Vick’s season so far, he hasn’t played badly.  He hasn’t turned the ball over as much as he did at this time last season. In the Giants game, Vick had his worst passing game of the season, going 6-of-14 for 105 yards.

But at the same time, it was Vick’s mobility that helped the Eagles take a 16-7 late in the second quarter. He gained 79 yards on seven carries. But once he got hurt, the talk of a “quarterback controversy” began.

Whenever Vick heals from this hamstring injury, he’s going to have complete damn near every pass, throw five touchdown passes a game and not get as much as a hang nail or a runny nose.

Because no matter what else is going on, Vick still  has to be twice as good.