Amongst Philadelphia Eagles' fans, there are two schools of thought when it comes to who the masses want to see under center on Monday night when the Birds face the New Orleans Saints in the Big Easy. There are those who think Michael Vick gives the Eagles the best chance to win. There are those who simply want to move on from this era now, and that would mean the introduction of rookie Nick Foles as the starting quarterback.
Strangely, both schools of thought likely center around the individual fan's opinion of head coach Andy Reid. As the weeks move on through the 2012 season, less and less of those fans are getting Reid's considerable back side. Reid has decided not to push another panic button this week, announcing that Vick will remain his starting quarterback -- for the time being. A loss to New Orleans may signal the beginning of the Foles era, and it may not matter how Vick plays.
Michael Vick or Nick Foles? It's not a question that Eagles' fans remotely contemplated before this season. This was supposed to be an all-in campaign. They had established a superstar running back. They filled holes at linebacker. The defensive line depth was like the Mariana Trench. The corners were playing their preferred style. The petulant wide receiver got his money. The rookie offensive linemen would have another year behind them. If the quarterback was a problem, which he shouldn't have been, the talent surrounding him would help carry them through.
But this season has been the antithesis of our hopes. It's been all-in, but with rags. The superstar running back doesn't get the ball enough. There's still one hole at linebacker that hasn't been fixed and a rookie on the other side that is loaded with talent but not with maturity. The defensive line is as deep as that trench, but it's suddenly filled with mediocrity. The corners are playing their preferred style, but with maddening inconsistency. The paid wide receiver still runs awful routes and his ability to stretch the field has been rendered moot by a league-wide plan to play the safety position in another zip code. One of the rookie o-linemen was lost for the season and the other seems to want to take the road to bustville. And the quarterback has been a problem in that he has been completely unable to save this team from its other flaws, like he did for the most part in 2010.
Vick has always been a guy who thinks he can put the team on his back and fix everything by himself. The only problem is he's simply not good enough to do that anymore. In fact, he was never good enough to carry the ineptitude of this current Eagles' team. But let's be clear, neither is Nick Foles. The rookie third round draft pick was a flyer by the Eagles, and his preseason performance was excellent. No preseason performance ever guaranteed career success. Foles was 11-14 in his final two seasons at the University of Arizona. He never won a bowl game. Of course, the crux of the blame for those facts likely does not fall all to Foles. Many would say he simply did not have the talent around him to win there. Guess what sports fans? Right now, neither does Vick.
Never has there been an anointed quarterback controversy so tied to the coach's fate than the 2012 Eagles. Of course, all QB controversies arise out of that first inquiry to the coach about a change at the position. Snow rolls down the hill and the next thing you know there's an avalanche when no one from the organization ever intimated change. This week, Reid hinted that there could be change, which is unlike him, and it showed a frustration not often seen from the grizzled coach. This is now a man who is visibly fighting for his job, and unfortunately for Eagles' fans, he's not a great coach under pressure.
Philadelphia Daily News scribe Rich Hofmann suggests that Reid's only chance of keeping his job may be to insert Foles and hope that he succeeds enough to prove to owner Jeffrey Lurie that he's the man to shepherd the young quarterback forward. There may be some validity to that, but I don't agree with it. I think Reid's only chance to keep his job is an improbable turnaround, a playoff appearance, a playoff home game and a playoff win. That's it. That's what keeps the big fella in Philly.
There just has to be an end somewhere. Lurie called last season's 8-8 performance unacceptable. I would imagine he considers the first seven weeks of this year's slate much the same. There simply must be change at the end of 2012 or Lurie will lose the respect of the fan base. Even if you're a Reid fan, it would be hard to respect a man, as a Philadelphian, who talks hard and doesn't back it up.
There are possible rays of sunshine on the horizon. The Saints are the league's worst defense, and although there's no doubt Drew Brees will come out slinging, trying to save his own season, the Eagles "should" be able to put up points in NOLA. The combined record of the Eagles opponents to this point is 31-21, and that includes the 2-6 Cleveland Browns. The combined record of the Eagles remaining opponents is 21-30, and that includes the 6-2 New York Giants.
It could very well be time to start a new era in the Philadelphia Eagles organization. After 14 years, this engine could use an overhaul. But Andy Reid isn't going to give up the ship without a fight. He knows his offensive line is hurting. He knows he's got a ton of problems outside the quarterback position. He knows the clock is ticking and he's running out of affordable notches in the loss column.
Reid's back is against the wall for sure. But as far as quarterback, he's going to play the same hand one more time.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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