The Philadelphia Eagles will likely only go as far as Michael Vick can carry them this season. This makes Eagles fans like myself a little nervous, since Vick can't seem to carry a team for a full 16 games anymore - and has never carried a team to a Super Bowl regardless. But this hasn't stopped the quarterback from going all in this year, as he's talked about starting dynasties although he - and Philadelphia - doesn't have a Super Bowl on his resume.
This only means that 2012 is the make or break year for Vick in more ways than one. If he starts delivering on his promises and the Eagles reach the top, he will become a legend who called his shot. If he fails, he probably won't play in Philadelphia again after this year and his very career may be in question. Either way, this is the season that will define his legacy - at least on the field.
Vick isn't backing down from his controversial predictions, in spite of how Vince Young paid the price for calling the Eagles a "Dream Team" last summer. But although the fear is that Vick is tempting another disappointing season, he still believes - publicly anyway - that the Eagles can build a perennial champion.
He told WIP that he doesn't see how we can take "so much negative out of something so positive" but that is our skill set in Philadelphia. This city, above most others, knows that teams who can look so ready for championships on paper can crash and burn in reality - especially Eagles teams. And after the way Donovan McNabb lost championship after championship when he could have formed a dynasty of his own, we have to wonder if Vick can really do better.
2012 may be his one and only chance to prove he can do it for the Eagles, however. Philadelphia has the option of getting rid of him after the season, and if he is hurt or sloppy or can't win, the demand will be great for him to go. And now with the "dynasty" talk hanging over him, Vick will bare the vast majority of the blame - at least the blame that doesn't fall on Andy Reid - if he can't deliver.
With his turnover and injury history, it's hard not to be skeptical that he can. If he can't fix that and the Eagles wind up having enough of him, who else will take him in for the 2013 season? Many teams would likely sign him for his star power alone, of course. But if those teams really want a Super Bowl capable quarterback, Vick really wouldn't be the right choice, presuming he took another step back in 2012.
Still, a Super Bowl run or an actual Super Bowl berth would answer a lot of skeptics and keep him in Philadelphia for some time. Even if the Eagles don't win it all, coming close would buy Vick and Reid more time to get even closer, and give us more faith that it could be done.
But if they don't even come close, both of them could find their days in Philadelphia numbered. However, since Reid is pretty much unkillable in this town, Vick would likely be the easier option for the Eagles to dump. Either way, this is the season that will define Vick's career in one way or another.
If 2012 really does jumpstart him and the Eagles towards a championship - even if there's just one of them - all his past on-field failures will be forgiven. Yet if Vick and the Eagles are further away from glory than ever, the failure will define his on-field legacy in a way even he might not come back from.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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