Despite leading his team to a victory with a 91 - yard drive for a career high 56th pass, in all honesty this was a victory not born out of supreme resilience on the part of the Eagles, but by a shockingly inept all - round display from an opponent.
An opponent that through a Quarterback amassing a passer rating of 5.1, and a porous defence, conspired to gift a victory sealed by rookie Linebacker L.J Fort letting a chronically under-thrown pass intended for Jeremy Macklin hit the ground. Which makes his Sunday showdown with Joe Flacco's Baltimore Ravens all the more intriguing, as like Vick, his own standing within the game is up for debate.
But, let's begin with the curious case of Michael Vick, a man who for all his extravagance, never fails to polarise opinion as to whether he belongs in the upper echelons of greatness as far as Quarterbacking goes, or not.
Logic would say that statistical analysis is the most effective means through which to establish an individuals standing within the game, and if that were the case, it would seem that Vick though not being an unmitigated disaster, is hardly in the elite category.
As according to an article published on the 26th of August 2011 by The Bleacher Report, Vick doesn't even feature in the top six when it comes to career completion percentage, as he comes in a distinctly average 6th, with 55.3%, thus placing him some considerable distance behind the likes of Drew Brees, (65.2%), Payton Manning (64.9), Aaron Rodgers (64.4), Philip Rivers (63.7), Tom Brady (63.6), and Ben Roethlisberger (63.1).
However, in 2010 he did complete a respectable 62.6% of his passes for a total of 3, 018 yards, and an average of 8.1 yards per attempt, which ironically places him in the elite category, with the same as Philip Rivers.
But, this is where things begin to get interesting. In 2011 he amassed more yards (3,303), but scored three less touchdowns, made eight more interceptions, amassed a lower Quarterback rating of 84.9, a 15. 3% drop on 2010, and scored eight less rushing touchdowns. Hardly elite you may say. So, what's the causal factor, the reason behind this decline. The sort of decline that's caused such debate as to his status within the game? And could that reason go some way to explaining his performance against the Browns?
Part of the clue may lie in a recent interview given with NFL network, where Vick was quoted as saying "Two weeks in a row against Pittsburgh and against New England, my mindset was just to play cautiously and not to get hurt and get through the pre - season to get to the regular season. And I just told myself, I can't play like that. I can't play with so many different things on my mind." He continued: "If the good lord don't want you out there, and your going to sprain an ankle or tweak your thumb, that's what's going to happen. Go out there and play lights out, that's why we have back - up's".
So, it would appear that what we're essentially dealing with is an identity crisis, something ESPN First Take's Skip Bayless alluded to on ESPN radio's podcast last night - "I'm going to say this again. I'm feeling sorrier and sorrier for Michael Vick. Some people fear that he's going to wind up on the couch, because he gets hurt. I fear he's going to wind up on the shrinks couch, because he's turning into a mental basket case."
He went on to say - "Once again, worse than ever, he's suffering from an identity crisis all the way up to the age of 32, 'Am I a pocket passer?', 'Am I a passer?', 'Am I a runner?', 'Am I a slider, or a diver?, 'Am I a broken field touchdown waiting to happen, or should I just take 7 - yards at a time?'. He's talked and listened himself into oblivion. I've never heard such a stream of consciousness coming from one Quarterback, week after week, as I've heard over the last month from Micheal Vick. I don't know who he (Vick) is anymore, and I'm afraid he doesn't know".
What came next was telling, as Bayless opined that coach Andy Reid had only complicated matters by trying to mold Vick exclusively into a pocket passer, "He's stuck playing for a coach who wants him badly to be a pocket passer, and I'm not sure it's in his genetics to be that guy". An assertion that begins to carry substantial weight when coupling a direct correlation between the drop in accuracy and pass attempts.
Taking all the aforementioned into consideration, it would appear that Andy Reid has handcuffed his Quarterback by transferring a normally dynamic game into what threatens to be a one - dimensional one, to the detriment of the team, and Vick himself. Well, as things transpired, it may not have been to the detriment of the team in Cleveland, but it could well be, if as fellow ESPN broadcaster Steven A. Smith suggested - "If you allow him to drop back to pass 56 times, that definitely is a problem, and it's something that definitely needs to be alleviated".
Though some may argue that Reid's encouragement has come out of a concern for his Quarterbacks long - term health, and it's a valid concern especially when taking into account broken ribs and a succession of concussions. However, when afforded the chance to express the full range of his talents, Vick can be quite devastating, as evidenced by that 59 - 28 demolition of the Washington Redskins in week 10 of the 2010 - 11 season. A game in which he attempted a fairly modest 28 passes, which is of complete contrast to the 56 attempted against the lowly Browns, but tellingly resulted in 20 completions, accounting for an impressive 333 - yards, 4 touchdowns (two of which were rushing), and crucially no picks.
Whatever the case, in order to seriously silence the doubters and go onto establish himself as a Quarterback of elite class, Vick will need to be flawless from this moment on, and not allow for a repeat of the turnovers that so nearly cost him and his team in Cleveland, especially when much sterner examinations await.
So, with one of those sterner tests coming against a team, the Baltimore Ravens, led by a Quarterback in Joe Flacco that though not suffering from an identity crisis, does share the glare of scrutiny with Vick. As despite a career that to date, has posted two wild - card round wins, two divisional round triumphs, 82 touchdowns to 46 interceptions, a career pass completion percentage of 60.9, and the orchestration of a 44 - 13 annihilation of the Bengals to open this season, since he was drafted in 2008, he has yet to take his side to the promised land.
Despite this, he, his agent, and his organisation continue to insist that he is indeed of the elite status, and therefore deserved of a contract that reflects that. But is he? Well, this was on of the many topics discussed by former Patriot and Saint Heath Evans, and former Saints Safety Darren Sharper, on Wednesday's edition of NFL Total Access (Wednesday 12th of September, Sky Sports 4). When broached on the subject Evans stated - "I don't know, coach (Jim) Harbaugh said he was gonna be great, and then Joe Flacco told us he was great", to which Sharper, when referencing a graphic showing Flacco's pass to Anquan Boldin opined - "Well, I'll tell you what coach Harbaugh, I've been around a lot of great Quarterbacks, and this play right here puts Joe Flacco in a great play position, because this shows an experienced Quarterback against an inexperienced secondary. He does a great job pumping the ball to move that safety up top, that's Reggie Nelson, who bites on that fake and clears the area to allow Joe Flacco to fit this ball in.
"He sees the safety (Taylor Mays) is covering him (Boldin) off a blitz. Taylor Mays against Anquan Boldin is a miss - match all day long. Great job by Joe Flacco. Joe Flacco, knowing the defence, doing a great job of moving the safety off the spot to open up the space for Anquan Boldin to beat the safety with a seam route".
Ok, so a great demonstration from an experienced Quarterback in how to exploit an inexperienced safety, but surely not enough to cement Flacco as an elite Quarterback, as achieving the same feat against a more experienced and therefore tactically astute defence in the title game, is an entirely different and difficult prospect altogether. A notion shared by Sharper, who, when pushed again by Evans on Flacco's claim to elite status said - "That's going to take a little while, it's going to take more than making one great throw, a couple of great throws throughout a game to create the longevity of success." He continued - "Joe Flacco has lead this team to play - offs each year he's been in the league, but I need to see more".
Indeed we do, as is the case for many of his (Flacco's) contemporaries who haven't quite made the leap from play - off to Championship, such as Tony Romo, the previously discussed Michael Vick, Houston's Matt Schuab, Phillip Rivers (who somehow posts elite statistics, despite not winning the main prize), and Jay Cutler, to name but a few. However, one would be hard pressed not to take Flacco over Vick as the man to lead you to where so many greats such as Brady, Eli and Peyton Manning have been before.
Especially when taking into consideration how his risk - free game renders him less prone to turn - overs, and one fears that unless Vick eradicates this from his game to the degree where it's no longer to the detriment of his team, he'll cause an even bigger one, one that could have massive ramifications for the Eagles organisation and leave him and Andy Reid out of love in 'the city of brotherly love.
image: © Keith Allison