MMQB Mail: Protecting Vick has to be top offseason priority for Eagles
Michael Vick's relatively small stature makes limiting hits on him paramount
Changes on offensive line, and Winston Justice's poor play, hurt Eagles
Mailbag questions on the Rooney Rule, Plaxico Burress and Tucson
Before we spend the rest of the month on the playoffs, I want to take a moment to do one thing on Mike Vick. Not about what the Eagles are going to do about his contract; there's little doubt in my mind that Philadelphia will have him back. In fact, barring a wildcat strike by Kevin Kolb, expect the Eagles to bring both back for at least one more season to be a two-headed quarterback monster in 2011.
The reason Philadelphia has to bring back Kolb is because of what we saw the last two games Vick played. Vick was beat up, missing game 16 with a deep thigh bruise that also affected him in the wild-card game, and the offense around him was beat up too. DeSean Jackson was a shell of himself by the playoff game against Green Bay. And without all his weaponry, Vick couldn't be the player he wanted to be without the help he had earlier in the season, when he was such a sensation.
I spoke to Vick on Monday about another story I'm working, not about him or his season. But I did say to him: "I just hope for your sake what happened to you in Atlanta doesn't happen here -- where every game, everyone was looking at you to make all the plays.'' He acknowledged it without complaint. But clearly, what's standing in the way of this relatively small man -- 6-feet, 212 pounds -- becoming a long-term fixture at quarterback for the Eagles is the amount of abuse he takes. Look at it from the last two games alone, versus Minnesota and Green Bay:
Rushing attempts: 16.
Pass attempts: 88.
Sacks taken: 9.
Exposures to being hit in two games: 113.
In addition, Vick was hit 10 times on pass-drops. If you project that number, 113, over a 16-game season, that's 904 potential exposures to hits.
With the changes on the Eagles' offensive line all season long, and with tackle Winston Justice getting yanked for poor play in the second half last weekend, that's a big problem going forward as well.
This is not going to be an easy offseason for any team in the league, with the labor issues surely affecting every team's preparation for 2011. But if the Eagles are serious about making Vick their long-term answer at quarterback, their biggest priority this offseason will be in building a better line and making sure he's less exposed to the kinds of hits he's taken all season. I don't propose putting him in a suit of armor or max-protecting him half of the offensive snaps. But you cannot think this 6-foot man is going to survive a full season if defenses have 904 chances to knock his block off. Philly has to get a better line and one more threat in the receiving game to make sure they're not overly reliant on Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
The answer to the question I teased on page 4 of MMQB is Jonathan Babineaux. The Falcons veteran is one the two defensive tackles on my all-pro team. Babineaux grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, the same hometown as Jimmy Johnson and Janis Joplin.
Now onto your e-mail:
NOT EXACTLY. "Any thoughts on Ray Sherman not being retained by Jason Garrett after interviewing for the head coaching job a week earlier? It looks like another example of window-dressing by an NFL organization to abide by the Rooney Rule.''
-- Buck, San Antonio
Well, maybe. But remember: The Cowboys also interviewed Todd Bowles, an African-American assistant for the Dolphins, before hiring Garrett.
HIS NAME IS TAJ SMITH. "How come nobody is ripping the Colts defensive player for running into the punter of the Jets that gave them (the Jets) new life at the end of the game. He should have been the Goat of the Week. People can say what they want about the horrible timeout that the Colts coach called but if the punter doesn't get hit, the timeout doesn't get called and the Colts win the game.''
--Bob Lowey, Bonfield, Ill.
My apologies for originally answering this question incorrectly, the first hour the column was posted. That's my fault. While it was a grievous penalty by Smith, it turns out that the Jets had to punt again anyway and the time that was used between the running-into-the-kicker call and the punt that counted would have been run off the clock by the Jets before attempting the winning field goal anyway. Remember, when Sanchez completed the 18-yard pass to Braylon Edwards before the Nick Folk field goal, that made it first down with 29 seconds to play. The Jets just went ahead and kicked the winning field goal. If they had to, the Jets could have run off 90 seconds or more because the Colts were out of timeouts. So it turns out that Smith's penalty actually was not significant to the outcome of the game.
I DON'T THINK SO. "Didn't Manning and Wayne already have some frost on their relationship after Wayne pulled a Randy Moss on that slant in the SB? I've seen a few Colts games this year and it looked to me like they were struggling to stay on the same page, let alone communicate.''
-- Travis, Scottsdale
Not that I know of, but I wouldn't be surprised if Manning did think Wayne should have run through the corner a little better to try to break up the play.
VERY INTERESTING QUESTION. "Now that we've seen Vick's comeback season come to a close, is the same resurgence (but to a lesser extent) possible with Plaxico Burress when he is released?''
-- Ben Schneider, Tampa, Fla.
Great point. I think Burress, who I've known as a decent guy in my experiences with him since he left Michigan State, will definitely get another chance when he gets out of prison. I think Vick's post-prison play and public rehab will help a team look at Burress as a possibility.
TUCSON PRO. "I appreciate your words about the shooting. Also, I realize that many others do not agree, but I think you have every right to insert your opinions on the real world in your column. You have earned that right after the esteemed career you have had and if a topic is deemed worth discussing, football or not, and someone does not want to read about it, they can skip that section or stop reading you. A large reason for your (and many other writers') success is that you write in collaboration with your personality, not in spite of it. Great column this week. Looking forward to football next week.''
-- Eric, New York
Thanks, Eric. I appreciate your thoughts. All I wanted to do was to say we all need to calm down and stop yelling at each other so much.
TUCSON CON. "I have enjoyed your column for years. I will never read it again after the political BS you printed today. The incident on Saturday is a tragedy. But for you to quote a politically biased individual is wrong. You are taking sides, which is unacceptable in a sports column. Pure and simple.''
-- Mark St. Michel, St. Paul, Minn.
What side did I take, exactly? And how was it political? I simple asked America to put civility back in civilization. I've had a lot of reaction to quoting a sheriff who apparently is a hot-button guy politically in Arizona, but what exactly did he say in my column that was so heinous?