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Just Say No: The Eagles Should Stick With Vick, Leave Peyton Alone

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In case you hadn’t heard, All-World quarterback Peyton Manning is on the open market. He’s the most decorated free agent of all time, and is attracting attention from about half the league. So far Manning’s camp has heard from at least 12 teams.

Are the Eagles one of them? It’s tough to say. The Eagles generally don’t like to conduct business out in the open, a lesson we learned last season during the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes. But that hasn’t stopped seemingly every sports writer in town from suggesting the Eagles sign the longtime Colt.

The argument is compelling: in Manning the Eagles would receive one of the most gifted quarterbacks in NFL history. He would run the offense like a true field general and take control of the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in recent memory. Even at 35, his production in recent years makes it reasonable to believe that Peyton still has some game left in him.

This is assuming, of course, that his neck injury – you know, the one that sidelined him for all of last year – is fully healed. And for the Eagles, signing Manning also comes with the assumption that he’s okay with playing against his brother at least twice a year (he isn’t) and that the Eagles would be able to get enough back if they traded Vick (they wouldn’t).

Outside of a grainy YouTube video, Peyton hasn’t proven that he can regain even some of the form that made him the only four time league MVP. But even if Manning regained all, or even most, of the talent that made him arguably the best of his generation, he still doesn’t necessarily fit in Philly. For proof, take a look at the Super Bowl teams from the last ten years:

Year Winner Loser Winning QB
2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Oakland Raiders Brad Johnson
2003 New England Patriots Carolina Panthers Tom Brady
2004 New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles Tom Brady
2005 Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks Ben Roethlisberger
2006 Indianapolis Colts Chicago Bears Peyton Manning
2007 New York Giants New England Patriots Eli Manning
2008 Pittsburgh Steelers Arizona Cardinals Ben Roethlisberger
2009 New Orleans Saints Indianapolis Colts Drew Brees
2010 Green Bay Packers Pittsburgh Steelers Aaron Rodgers
2011 New York Giants New England Patriots Eli Manning

Notice anything? Over the past decade, the teams that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy have done it through consistency at the quarterback position. While you could argue that Brad Johnson and 2005 Ben Roethlisberger are exceptions to the rule, neither quarterback was being counted on to put up huge numbers.

The furor over Manning isn’t surprising in towns like Miami, which hasn’t had a franchise QB since Dan Marino was throwing passes to Hootie. But it is surprising to see here. Last year, Philadelphia was the primo destination for free agents. And other than Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, the Eagles new additions didn’t do much but give us cause to scream at our TVs.

Eagles fans watched (often with our hands over our eyes) as a Super Bowl contender collapsed under the weight of inconsistency on both sides of the ball. Too many free agents with too little experience in the system ended up being a major contributor to the dismal 8-8 record last season.

I know what you’re thinking: "Patrick, you’re an idiot/dope/moron. This isn’t Jarrad Page. This is Peyton freakin’ Manning."

Point taken, fair reader. But let’s also consider something we saw firsthand. Stop me when this sounds familiar: a highly decorated quarterback with over a decade of service under his belt leaves the only team he’s ever known. He ends up on a team with a new system, and isn’t quite able to grasp his new offense by year’s end. While I don’t think anyone would question Manning’s cardiovascular endurance, the parallels are too similar.

Head coach Andy Reid is widely expected to have one more year to turn his team around. Betting the farm on an aging quarterback with potential severe neck problems doesn’t sound like the best way to do that, regardless of who the quarterback is.

Shelling out the kind of money Manning will command and hoping the offseason is enough time to get him acclimated is a riskier move than all of last year’s signings. Vick likely isn’t good enough to carry the team to a Super Bowl berth, but he also hasn’t had a full offseason as the quarterback. The Eagles brass has indicated that they’re willing to give him that.

And with improvements likely coming through free agency and the draft, the Eagles are better off staying the course than rolling the dice again – even if they’re rolling them on Peyton freakin’ Manning.

For more Eagles news, humor and irreverence, follow Patrick on Twitter at @PatrickWall_NFL.