PHILADELPHIA — Andy Reid is sticking with Michael Vick, but for how much longer?
The announcement that came Wednesday morning in a blast text message from an Eagles spokesman — “Andy Reid confirms that Vick is the team’s starting quarterback” — suggested just how close the coach was to giving rookie Nick Foles the nod.
Under normal circumstances, Reid wouldn’t acknowledge a controversy with a confirmation, but he said after Sunday’s 30-17 loss to the Falcons that he would further evaluate the position.
He needed three days to come to a conclusion. Reid did not meet with the media Monday because of the storm, and he was not made available Tuesday or Wednesday, but an Eagles source confirmed that Vick came perilously close to losing his job.
“It’s great to know that I have the support of my coach,” Vick said in a text message. “It’s driving me to work harder and remain focused to help this football team win games.”
Vick and Reid will both address the situation Thursday, when the Eagles resume practice and begin their preparations for the Saints on Monday night.
It is unclear how much each will reveal, but it is obvious that Reid and Vick are under great pressure with the Eagles at 3-4 and a chance at the playoffs slipping away. With owner Jeffrey Lurie’s preseason ultimatum that he must “substantially improve” upon last season’s 8-8 finish, Reid needs a spark.
He fired Juan Castillo as his defensive coordinator over the bye week, but that did not provide the expected change. The defense, in fact, delivered its worst performance of the season with Todd Bowles in charge.
Reid, as methodical a coach as there is, really has only one move left without making wholesale changes. And that is to change the quarterback. If Vick was the lone reason for a current three-game losing streak, a switch might make sense. But the Eagles’ problems are manifold.
Still, Vick sensed that he could be next on the chopping block when he was asked to respond to Reid’s less-than-enthusiastic endorsement after the Atlanta embarrassment.
“Obviously, he’s thinking about making a change at the quarterback position,” Vick said after he completed 21 of 35 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Some interpreted Vick’s comment as a sign that he had thrown in the towel. A source close to the quarterback, however, said that Vick was only stating what he thought was evident, and that he still had every intention of continuing to lead the Eagles.
Vick has three years left on the five-year, $80 million contract he signed in August 2011. But he is guaranteed to earn only $3 million next season, a number the Eagles would accept paying if they decided to move on from the 32-year-old.
Vick has had an up-and-down season. He has accounted for 13 of the Eagles’ 17 turnovers and has yet to deliver what could be considered a clean game. He did not fumble or throw an interception against the Falcons — only his second game without a turnover — but he missed open receivers and again struggled against the blitz.
Vick has had his moments. He engineered three fourth-quarter drives to win games and had the Eagles ahead late two other times — leads the defense could not sustain. His protection, meanwhile, has been spotty. The offensive line’s inconsistency could be the No. 1 reason that Reid did not pull the trigger and promote Foles.
The rookie has yet to take an NFL snap, and aside from his solid play in four exhibition games, Foles remains a blank slate. Starting in his first game on the road in a dome in prime time may have been too much to ask of the third-round draft pick from Arizona.
Some have argued that the offense, which is tied for 29th in the league in scoring with 17.1 points a game, could do no worse with Foles under center. Foles’ supporters could get their chance to see if Vick delivers another subpar performance in New Orleans and the Eagles fall to 3-5.
If Vick struggles in the first half against the Saints, they could see Foles sooner.