Michael Vick earned himself a starting job by being – of all things – a pocket passer.
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Vick will take over as the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 1 quarterback, coach Andy Reid said Tuesday, a day after he announced he would go back to Kevin Kolb.
”When someone is playing at the level Michael Vick is playing, you have to give him an opportunity,” Reid said. ”This isn’t about Kevin Kolb’s play. You’re talking about Michael Vick as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now.”
Vick is considered the greatest scrambling quarterback in NFL history, but he won the job over Kolb by demonstrating he no longer has a run-first mentality.
Kolb missed the last six quarters because of a concussion, and Vick played well in his absence. Kolb was cleared to practice and was expected to run the first-team offense on Wednesday.
”Kevin is fine. It’s not an injury-related issue,” Reid said. ”It’s not about judging him. He’s going to be a championship-caliber quarterback.”
Vick threw for 175 yards and one touchdown and ran for 103 yards in a 27-20 season-opening loss to Green Bay. He had 284 yards passing and two TDs in a 35-32 win at Detroit on Sunday.
Kolb started two games in his first three seasons before he became the team’s No. 1 quarterback after Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington. Kolb struggled in the first half against the Packers in the season opener, but he became the first QB in league history to throw for 300 yards in his first two career starts last year.
Though the Eagles have been grooming Kolb to be the starter since drafting him in the second round in 2007, Vick forced Reid to make a difficult decision by playing better than he did when he was a superstar in Atlanta.
”Michael did an exceptional job and my job is to evaluate the players,” Reid said. ”It’s my obligation to make the proper decision.”
Vick’s start against the Lions was his first in nearly four years. A three-time Pro Bowl pick during six seasons with the Falcons, Vick missed two seasons while serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation. He signed a two-year contract with the Eagles before last season, then played sparingly behind McNabb and Kolb.
Vick has completed 63.8 percent of his passes and has posted consecutive games with a passer rating above 100 for only the second time in his career.
”His accelerated play was brilliant,” Reid said. ”This is what I think is right. He’s back and maybe even a little better.”
The knock on Vick used to be that he moved too quickly through his reads and took off running. He clearly benefited from watching McNabb operate the offense last year, and has excellent teachers in Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Vick proved against the Lions that he can be effective in the pocket. Despite getting sacked six times and being under constant pressure, he scrambled enough to buy time and find open receivers.
Given Philadelphia’s struggles on the offensive line, Vick’s speed and quickness is vital. Kolb has a quick release and can escape pressure, but few quarterbacks have are as elusive than Vick.
In 2006, Vick set a record for QBs with 1,039 yards rushing. His 10 career 100-yard rushing games are the most by a QB, and he ranks third behind Randall Cunningham and Steve Young with 4,094 yards rushing.
”I think his play has even exceeded expectations over the last two weeks,” Reid said. ”Very few quarterbacks can go out and play the way he played the last couple weeks and do the things that he did.”