What’s The Deal With Mike???

By Bob Ford
Updated: October 20, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — Almost as shocking as watching Andy Reid get outcoached Sunday by a man facing felony indictment was realizing that the Eagles’ coach might have been lying to us all along this season.

From the time Michael Vick hit town for his starring role in “Redemption Road,” with Tony Dungy co-starring as the kindly guardian angel and Jeff Lurie as the skeptical billionaire who finally opens his heart, right from the start, the company line was that Vick was going to be part of some “special” packages that would spice up the offense when needed.

That was the reason he was here, to become the central point in what developed as the “Spread Eagle” package, a whole chapter in the playbook devoted to joining the NFL’s Wildcat craze and to taking advantage of Vick’s impressive option skills.

That Vick couldn’t throw the ball very well before he went to jail for torturing puppies was sort of glossed over. He was a multimillion-dollar player available for a bargain, and the Eagles are nothing if not fans of value-added transactions.

The acquisition came at a cost that can’t be measured on the salary cap. A large portion of the fan base was outraged about adding Vick to the roster, and the organization has had to cough up a lot of money in executing a public-relations campaign about reducing animal cruelty that was transparently cynical in its timing.

If the organization really cares this much about puppies and kitties, why didn’t it start the campaign some other year? Some coincidence.

Beyond the appearance of the whole thing, Reid knew he was risking – somewhere down the lane – a potential quarterback controversy if Donovan McNabb didn’t play well, and a potential problem with the sensitive McNabb if Vick took away some of his snaps.

They could downplay it all they liked, but when McNabb tired of the Wildcat interruptions during an exhibition game and told offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to cut it out, the coaches did so immediately, having gotten a foreshadowing of how McNabb would feel about it in a real game.

Since Vick has been eligible to play, he hasn’t been used much at all, and the Spread Eagle is little more than a funny-shaped curiosity stuffed into a corner of the offensive attic with a bed sheet over it.

There have been hints that much more is to come – could there somehow be less? – and that they have “only scratched the surface of its possibilities,” much as a dog tentatively investigates its ear with a hind leg.

One would think that Sunday provided a perfect opportunity to crank up the Vick plays and see what would happen. The Eagles were not moving the ball against a bad team.

Their offensive line was down to seeds and stems. Brian Westbrook was gimpy again. McNabb was taking a beating and not looking particularly mobile.

It was a situation that yelped for trying something different, and even those who have wondered if all the Vick upheaval was worth it – present typist included – figured this was what Reid had in mind all along.

Well, we’re still waiting.

Vick was on the field just twice, both in the first half. He lost 4 yards on a running play and was a decoy in his other appearance. For those keeping track, Vick has now run six times for 13 net yards this season and thrown five times with one completion for 1 yard.

Some of those plays came when he mopped up for McNabb in the win over Tampa Bay. That’s 11 plays in which he ran or passed and 14 net yards.

“We signed him as a backup quarterback,” Reid said yesterday. “We’ve probably gotten a little bit more out of him than we thought we would get from our other backup quarterbacks.”

Good Lord, how little did they expect?

Not using Vick against the Raiders leads to some questions, none of which Reid will like very much. But if that wasn’t the situation to put the new genius spread package on the field, then one doesn’t exist.

In no particular order, here are the salient questions:

Did Reid simply not realize the game was going to be lost unless he did something different? It did have the feel of one of those games that would end up as an ugly win, just because Oakland is so dreadful.

Maybe that fooled Reid, but it fooled him badly.

Were they worried about McNabb’s reaction if they yanked him, or about the precious flow of the game, which was nonexistent? Fair question. Or maybe Reid was so intent on passing (he dialed up 12 run calls and 54 pass calls) that he didn’t want Vick – who, by the way, can’t pass – in the game.

Is it because Reid has realized privately that the Spread Eagle stinks on ice and wouldn’t be effective? Yes, that could be, too.

There’s a lie in here somewhere for sure, starting with the sudden declaration that Vick was signed solely as a “backup quarterback.” Oh, really? Add to that the insistence that McNabb is totally cool with coming off the field now and then. If he didn’t come off on Sunday against the Raiders, then nothing we have been told thus far makes sense.

“Not a lot of bright spots,” Reid said of the game.

Dimmest of all, however, was the coaching.