One of the most intriguing aspects of the upcoming Eagles season is which version of Michael Vick will show up. He had an outstanding stretch for most of 2010, but followed that up with average-at-best play for most of 2011.
Vick's regression was troubling. Offensive turnovers were the biggest reason the team had such a disastrous campaign and Vick was the main culprit.
More than any other statistic, turnover margin indicates the success of an NFL team. In 2010, the Eagles won the division while finishing in the top five in the NFL in turnover margin. In 2011, the team finished tied for last in the league in that category and, predictably, had a terrible season.
From 2010 to 2011, Vick lost nearly twenty points from his QB rating. He went from being the fourth-ranked passer in the NFL to fourteenth, primarily because he threw more than twice as many interceptions in 2011 than he had in 2010.
In addition to his interception woes, Vick still ran effectively, but his rushing TD total decreased from nine in 2010 to one in 2011.
The reason this decreased production from Vick is so troublesome going forward is because in 2010, the NFL had not seen Vick in a starting role since 2006. Fans have to worry that Vick’s decreased effectiveness was due to other teams adjusting defensively to his unique style of play.
Vick’s performance in his first seven or eight games in 2010 was nothing short of miraculous, as he confused the opposition routinely. There was a sharp decline thereafter.
Then in the 2010 postseason, the Eagles were one-and-done. They lost a home playoff game in which Vick was pedestrian. The season ended, fittingly, on an ill-advised heave from Vick that was intercepted in the end zone.
The 2011 season saw a sluggish Vick struggle through the first half of the season, throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns. Then he got injured and missed three games. By the time he returned, the remaining four games were effectively meaningless.
So was it just a down year for Mike Vick? Was it a down year because he was plagued by injuries? If so, will he be able to stay healthy this upcoming season? The answers to these questions will determine if the Eagles made the right choice to give him a $100 million contract and hand the franchise over to him.
Some conflicting remarks from Vick himself have also clouded the issue. Ominous is Vick’s lack of recognition of his responsibility for the Eagles' lost 2011 season. He noted that he had to cut down his turnovers, and then said he didn’t think the Eagles fell short as a result of his turnovers.
Vick also said he knew he had to be more cautious in order to avoid injury, while at the same time noting that he only knew one way to play.
Andy Reid and the coaching staff have their work cut out for them to drill it into their quarterback that he has to stay healthy and protect the ball.
In a January 31, 2012 press conference, Andy Reid noted that Vick needs to stay healthy and limit turnovers.
Reid said at that time that Vick needed to study this offseason to accomplish these goals. Fans can only hope Vick has the work ethic to do just that. The Eagles' success in 2012 is more dependent on Vick’s health and ball security than anything else.