I was doing some research today and stumbled across a really interesting article from the NY Times back in the summer of 1995. The article takes a look at Randall Cunningham and his adjustment to life with Ray Rhodes and Jon Gruden. Rather than pick out some excerpts, go read the whole thing and then come back here and we’ll talk.
(heads over to Google to do a Megan Fox bikini search while you read)
Forget the names…does any of that sound familiar? Very familiar?
Okay, let’s talk about the piece and what we heard from the various parties. Randall said all the right things. His attitude was good. On the surface, anyway. The problem is that Randall didn’t change at all. He had a sense of entitlement from back when Norman Braman owned the team and put him on a pedestal.
I can’t say if Randall respected Rhodes or Gruden, but his actions would lead you to believe that he didn’t. Gruden was the same age as Randall. I’m sure having a young guy like Gruden shove the WCO in your face wasn’t easy to deal with, especially for someone with Randall’s history. He spent 1986-1990 hearing Buddy Ryan tell him to just make plays. Now some young punk wanted to tell him what to do on every play and wanted a highly structured offensive system? Good luck with that.
This wasn’t in the article, but the first thing Gruden did was put together a tape of all the sacks from 1994. He felt Randall took way too many. They watched the plays and Gruden pointed out what Randall should have done, in terms of dumping the ball to a RB, throwing it away or running. Sacks were a big time no-no to Gruden. He wanted to make this clear from the start, while also letting Randall know that there was freedom for him to make plays with his legs. Just don’t take sacks.
Randall started 4 games that year. He went 0-3. In Game 2, he was benched early and Rodney Peete led the team to a win over the Cardinals. Randall had struggled in the opener, only putting 6 points on the board. Then he got benched. The coaches hoped this would get his attention in a big way. He did respond with 3 TDs against the Chargers, but the offense still didn’t click as hoped. They scored 21 points, and one of those possessions started in SD territory. The next week the Eagles jumped out 17-0 over Oakland and then lost 48-17. Randall was handed a huge lead and still couldn’t get the job done.
In 3 plus games, Randall led his offense on 4 TD drives. He threw 4 INTs. He lost a fumble. He was sacked 13 times. Randall wasn’t playing well. The offense wasn’t scoring. And his teammates weren’t responding to him. QBs can get away with erratic play if they are great leaders and just have that vibe that calms the huddle and brings out the best in others. No such luck.
Randall never bought into the new offense. He was set in his ways and figured he could get the coaches to adjust, as had happened in the past. Other coaches gave in to his talent. Rhodes and Gruden were changing the Eagles. You either changed or you were going to be replaced.
Mike Vick is faced with some of the same challenges as Randall. Vick is a playmaker that is now dealing with a new coach that is a bit of a control freak when it comes to his offense. Like Gruden, Chip hates sacks. Like Gruden, Chip wants quick throws. Like Gruden, Chip wants to run the football.
Randall failed in his attempt to play in Gruden’s offense.
Vick is different and could have a different outcome.
Randall was hurt in 1991 and 1993. He got benched for a game in 1992 and a couple in 1994. That was the closest thing he ever got to humble pie. Vick went to Federal prison. He faced national humiliation. He spent a year as the #3 QB for the Eagles. Mike has had as much humble pie as I’ve had pudding (okay, maybe not that much).
Randall never understood that his career was on the line. He thought he was the one in a position of power. After all, he was the star QB…or so he thought. Vick understands that he’s in a very different situation. He’s competing for his job. Rhodes never made Randall do that during the offseason or preseason. It was only when he played poorly during the year that Peete became a threat.
Kelly did Vick a huge favor by letting him know from the start that he would have to win the job. Vick knows that he must do what Kelly wants or else he won’t be the QB. Kelly has been up front about what he likes and hates from his QBs. There are no secrets. Vick, and the other guys, have the answers to the test. Now it is up to them to use those answers on the field and give Chip what he wants.
Vick understands the situation. He’s talked openly about the QB competition. Mostly, he’s said the right things. The challenge is to put actions behind those words. Don’t just talk about good decision-making and quick passes. Let us see those traits when you’re on the field.
I would love for someone to get a copy of that NYT article to Vick. Let him see what was going on 18 years ago and learn from Randall’s mistakes.
It is up to Vick as to whether history repeats itself.
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Thanks for the good Foles discussion in the previous thread. I hesitated to address this topic, but felt the article was too compelling not to write about.
As with the previous post, let’s keep this from being us vs. them. We’re looking here at Vick and if he can adjust better than Randall did when faced with a similar challenge.