Sometimes rooting for the Eagles feels like holding a losing hand in poker. All of the time spent following them and all of the emotion expended living and dying on their fortunes, gives you the sense that you are pot-committed—like when you have invested so much capital in a poker hand that you just have to stay with it until the end to see what happens. Yet, just like a crummy hand of cards, you know in the back of your head it is not going to turn out well.
That, sadly enough, sums up the relationship most of the Delaware Valley has endured with its favorite football team of late. However, much of that melancholy minimized with the hiring of new head coach Chip Kelly. The brash and innovative thinker was supposed to serve as a badly needed shot in the arm to an organization that desperately needed a change.
For the first few weeks of his tenure in Philadelphia, Kelly was hailed as a fresh start by most Birds fans. He was not Andy Reid, and for most fans that was enough to get their stamp of approval. He was tangible proof that the organization was moving forward.
Then came Monday, which may well be known from here-forward as the day when Kelly’s honeymoon with his fan base came to a close. That’s because the head coach decided that his fresh start would include a familiar face. And not just any familiar face, but an incredibly unpopular one.
The Eagles renegotiated the contract of quarterback Michael Vick on Monday. He will be in Philadelphia for at least one more season. No one I have spoken to is pleased about this news—at least not any Eagles fans.
The best reaction I saw to it came from a writer for the Wall Street Journal, who said Vick released a statement on his restructured deal, but it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
It is hard to understand why an organization, which so desperately needed to turn the page on its recent past, decided to retain its most polarizing player, especially considering how mediocre that player’s performance has been over the last two seasons.
Vick is nowhere near as fast as he used to be. He is turnover prone and his picture is located next to the term “injury-plagued” in the sports-terminology glossary. And so of course, he is coming back for another season.
Kelly said he and second-year quarterback Nick Foles will compete to be his 2013 starting quarterback. The coach felt an open competition would bring out the best in both men and that their play in practice would fully determine who will lead the first string.
All that may well be true, but almost no one wanted to hear it. And it deflated a fan base faster than anything I could imagine (other than the words ‘Andy Reid is returning for one more season’). Kelly had better hope bringing Vick back pays off tangibly, because he wasted an awful lot of precious capital with his fans to make it happen.
My biggest gripe is the fact that Vick will trap the Birds in no-man’s land. He is not good enough to make them a championship contender, but not bad enough to allow them to bottom out again. If the Eagles can’t win the Super Bowl, or even a round or two in the playoffs, they might as well stink enough to get the kind of high draft pick they’ll need next year to land a quarterback that can take them that far. In other words, Vick makes them the least fun kind of team to root for- a mediocre one.
I may be too pot-committed to fold my fandom at this point, but I sure do feel like I’m drawing to an inside straight right about now. Sometimes I think I ought to give blackjack a try.