PHILADELPHIA -- The moment the game ended the campaign began. There is no quarterback controversy. That's what they said. Over and over. Then some more. Then again. Once more time just in case you missed it.
"Not sure we need to start that stuff this early," said lineman Winston Justice.
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The best story from the NFL's opening weekend took place in Philadelphia where a former prisoner at Leavenworth, the most infamous sports felon since Rae Carruth, resurrected his life and career in one half of football. In the process, he delivered the Eagles organization into a good, old fashioned quarterback controversy.
Green Bay 27, Philadelphia 20. Eagles quarterbacks: 2.
The controversy started with Kolb taking a heavy shot to the head late in the second quarter. The Eagles actually announced Kolb's jaw as the initial injury. At the time of Kolb's departure the Eagles were losing handily, 13-3, and Kolb had completed only five passes for 24 yards. His longest pass play was six.
Enter Vick. His last NFL start was December of 2006 and since then what's happened to Vick is well documented. He was out of football for two years due to his dog trafficking conviction and the Eagles took a large gamble signing him.
Most of what Vick has done with the Eagles until now has been freak show, Wildcat gimmickry. Not this time. The old, explosive Vick made a return. He rushed 11 times for 103 yards and completed 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards and a score. He finished with a 101.9 passer rating.
In a half.
"Well honestly I felt good when I was out there," he said. "I felt I could play three or four more quarters. So that's a good thing. My legs [weren't] tired. I felt like I'm in shape, in great shape. I felt like I [was] battling and that I fought and that I had the instinct and desire to win. I had the old feel back and that's a good thing."
"He was just being himself," Jackson said. "Everybody knows that he's a dynamic quarterback who can run and throw. He just let the game come to him. It's good to see him out there making plays. We actually had a chance to come back and win this game."
That's because after Super Bowl contender Green Bay jumped to a 20-3 lead, Vick's Eagles were able to cut the score to 27-20 with five minutes left in the game. It was close. He almost did it. The difference was a failed fourth down-and-one.
|Green Bay Packers|
|It might not look it from the final score, but the Packers actually struggled in this game on offense. The pass protection was not good and QB Aaron Rodgers was not his normal accurate self. A more experienced team than the Eagles would have taken advantage.|
|The Eagles had five starters leave the game with injuries, including new starting QB Kevin Kolb. His backup, Michael Vick, made some good plays and some not-so-good plays and the offense never got into a flow. The defense played pretty well against one of the NFL's top offenses, but one major breakdown killed them.|
|By Kevin Noonan|
The end result of Vick's metamorphosis is no matter how much the Eagles will try to deny, diffuse or disintegrate any notion of a controversy they have a bit of a mess on their hands. The team has invested heavily in Kolb, but the disparity in talent between Vick and Kolb was so striking it was jaw dropping.
That may not last and it's possible Kolb plays much better and over the weeks the controversy quells, but any Kolb misstep will leave fans and the media thinking about this game and asking for Vick.
Vick wasn't perfect. One pass went into the dirt with such force it kicked up a small mushroom cloud of debris. The intended receiver was wide open and only a short distance away. He still sometimes departed the pocket a second too soon.
But for much of the second half Vick looked like the same Vick who electrified the NFL before he electrified Fido. He averaged over 10 yards a carry and his throws, overall, were far more accurate than at any time in his past career. Yes, read that again. For those of us who've covered Vick closely since he came into the NFL he looked more accurate than ever.
This debate will continue in Philadelphia for weeks unless Kolb wins games. Considering he threw for only 24 yards in a half against a mediocre defense, it seems unlikely he'll win enough, soon enough to quell this small uprising.
Vick and Kolb are actually friends so when Vick gave the following quote he wasn't throwing Kolb under a green and white bus. The quote from Vick was nonetheless a great moment of candor.
"Hopefully, like I said I still feel like I can play at a high level," Vick said. "I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters maybe we would have had a chance to win the game. But it's all hindsight now."
It's all a quarterback controversy now. That's what it is.