Sports

Time for Michael Vick and the Eagles' Wildcat offense

So now we will see what this Michael Vick thing was about all along.

After the initial shock, there was a lot of talk from the Eagles about second chances and social change and, oh yes, perhaps some football-related benefits as well. But two weeks into the season, with Vick's NFL suspension behind him, the picture is clearer.

This was and is about Andy Reid's fascination with the Wildcat offense and his belief that Vick can make it into truly effective. The Eagles did not sign Vick in order to facilitate his Tony Dungy-led return to the league. They did not sign him because Andy Reid has been changed by his sons' difficulties with drugs and the law. They did not sign him to groom as a replacement for Donovan McNabb or to flip him for a draft choice in an offseason trade.

This was about Reid's infatuation with the Wildcat. Period. That was clear from how vehemently he defended his use of the formation last week against New Orleans. He intends to use this thing a lot, and Vick is the centerpiece of his plans.

"I was the Wildcat originator," Vick said Wednesday, "so you know it's not foreign territory to me. ... I think it's evolving all across the league. You see seven, eight teams running the Wildcat now, and it's productive, and they're running it, and it's efficient."

Reid is gambling this entire season - and maybe his job security - on the proposition that the Wildcat plus Vick will equal the Super Bowl championship that has eluded the Eagles for so long.

Part of the gamble is success on the field will make fans forget about the crimes that landed Vick in prison for almost two years. It is human nature to forgive, after all. Outrage fades. Let a little time pass, and most people will let go of their initial anger. Mix in some touchdowns, and only the truly passionate will remain appalled by the Eagles' signing of Vick.

But that calculation raises the temperature even more for Reid. If he runs Vick out there in the Wildcat and the Eagles do not win, the opposite is going to happen.

Tying all of this to a novelty offense like the Wildcat makes the entire enterprise especially curious. The Wildcat derives from the sort of option offenses college coaches run because elite quarterbacks are too hard to come by. It seems to work best when defenses are not prepared for it or simply are not very good, which makes it pretty much the same as every other offensive strategy.

Vick remembers his experience with an option-style offense in Atlanta as being more effective before defensive coordinators caught on.

"It really helped our football team reach a certain plateau that we wanted to reach," Vick said. "Down the stretch, it kind of wore itself out, and it wasn't as productive as it was in the first half of the season. It can be a part of your offense, but not a major part of your offense."

Either Reid believes otherwise, which seems to be the case, or he has created considerable controversy and upset a lot of people over a handful of plays per game.

Beginning today, when Vick plays against the Chiefs, we will see what it is that Reid has had in mind all along. For his sake, it had better be good.

  Comments