The Importance of Struggle

Posted: March 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »

We live in a results oriented world.  People often forget what led to the results.  Tom Brady is arguably the greatest QB ever.  So is Joe Montana.  And Johnny Unitas.  We saw those guys do amazing things in the NFL.  They set records and won titles.

Brady had to fight at Michigan just to keep his job.  He went 20-5 as a starter, despite being there for 4 years.  The staff kept trying to give the job to prep phenom Drew Henson.  Brady won out and his reward was a 6th round selection by the Patriots, where Brady sat behind Drew Bledsoe.  Once Brady got on the field, he wasn’t about to let anyone take that job away.

Montana was a backup for his first 2 years of high school football.  He started the final couple of seasons and earned a scholarship to Notre Dame.  Montana was the #3 QB on the depth chart at the beginning of his Junior year.  Think about that for a second.  The starter got benched.  The backup got hurt.  The starter got another chance and then they turned to Montana.  He led ND to a great season as he started the final 9 games and they went 11-1.  He then started as a Senior.  Montana was drafted by SF in the 3rd round.  He sat on the bench for a year and a half before getting the starting gig.  Football history hasn’t been the same since he took over.

Unitas had an up and down college career at Louisville.  They had a terrible program at the time and the QB position was very different back then.  He threw for less than 600 yards in his Junior and Senior seasons.  That’s just mind-blowing.  Injuries were a big factor.  Unitas was a 2-way player, seeing time at S and LB as well as QB.  He missed games due to the beating he took.  Unitas was drafted by the Steelers in the 9th round and then cut.  He played semi-pro football and worked construction in 1955.  The Colts gave him a tryout in 1956 and he made the team.  He was the regular starter by 1957 and football history hasn’t been the same since then.

Donovan McNabb was a 4-year starter at Syracuse after redshirting his Freshman season.  He was drafted by the Eagles and sat for the first few games.  He then was the starting QB for the next decade.  Donovan didn’t have to worry about being the starting QB from 1995 until draft day in 2007 when Kevin Kolb was taken in the early 2nd round.

Michael Vick had a similar situation to McNabb.  Vick only played 2 years at Va Tech, but the team was built around him, the star QB.  He got drafted and sat for part of the season before getting mixed in on a regular basis.  Vick then was handed the keys to the franchise.

It is interesting that his best year as an NFL QB came in 2010, when Vick was projected to be Kolb’s backup.  Did he play better because teams weren’t prepared for him or was it because he played with an edge?

Even highly drafted QBs can benefit from struggle.

Terry Bradshaw had to battle for the Steelers job over the course of a couple of years.  Jimmy Johnson spent the #1 pick of the 1989 draft on QB Troy Aikman.  A few months later he spent the #1 pick of the Supplemental Draft on QB Steve Walsh, his old QB from Miami.  Jimmy wanted them to battle it out and figured he would trade the other guy and get something back.

Phil Simms had to battle to win the Giants QB job.  Steve Young had to battle Joe Montana to get the Niners QB job.  Ben Roethlisberger didn’t start at QB until he was a Senior in high school because the coach’s son had the job.  Is there any wonder he is so willing to play hurt?  He doesn’t want to lose his job.  Aaron Rodgers couldn’t get a college offer so he had to go to junior college and then Cal.  He got to GB and then sat behind Brett Favre for 3 years.

Chip Kelly wants a QB competition.  I honestly don’t think he cares who wins it.  He just wants someone to actually win it.  He wants Nick Foles and Michael Vick to battle and show that one of them deserves the job.

Struggle can help a QB.  It can help a coach.  As Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross.  “You think this is abuse?  You think this is abuse, you *&%#?  You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?”

If a QB can’t win a battle for his job, how the hell is he supposed to win in Green Bay on a cold day?  How is he supposed to deal with Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith?  How is he supposed to win a shootout with Drew Brees?

Great QBs need to fear failure more than desire victory.  They need to be so scared to fail that they will themselves to do whatever it takes to be successful.

I don’t know if Vick will be the 2013 starter.  I don’t know if Foles can be the long term solution.  I do know that Chip Kelly will make someone earn the QB job.  He loves competition.  Just last summer a Redshirt Freshman beat out a more experienced player for the Oregon QB job.  And let’s not forget that Johnny Manziel was originally supposed to be there as part of that competition.  He de-committed from Oregon.

Andy Reid loved to talk about competition, but not so much with his QBs.  He was very patient with QBs.  He let them play their way out of a slump.  Donovan McNabb was only benched once that I recall…the infamous game at Baltimore in 2008.  I don’t think Kolb or Vick was ever benched in a game.  The one time Andy did make a shocking QB decision is when he let Vick keep the QB job in 2010.  Last year Foles stayed on the field when Vick came back, but that was due to the awful season and circumstances.  If the team was close to .500, Vick would have gotten that job back.

Chip won’t have guys coming and going due to a bad pass or a bad game.  No smart coach would operate like that.  The point is that QBs won’t be given a lifetime pass.  They have to earn the job and then earn the right to keep the job.

Some QBs are self-motivated.  Peyton Manning is that way more than anyone else I can think of.  Others use their past to drive them.  Every summer Tom Brady looks in the mirror and says “Remember, you’re just a 6th round pick.”  That keeps him wired tight, despite tens of millions of dollars in the bank and a supermodel wife.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Vick and Foles handle the competition.  And I’ll admit I’m curious about Dennis Dixon.  Trent Edwards and GJ Kinne…be sure to pick up a parting gift on the way out.

* * * * *

Jason dug up a great nugget over at BGN.  This involves Chip Kelly and the 2007 Sun Bowl. Oregon has put up big points and won a bowl game with a statue at QB.  Is this proof that Foles can handle the system?

* * * * *

I am a busy beaver these days.  I’m working on an offseason plan that will be posted this week.  I spent the weekend researching and studying free agents.  Ever try watching a Steelers game to check out their backup NT, only to find that he barely played?  Torture.  Death to the Steelers.

I’m also working on lots of draft stuff.  I’ll be posting a Top 50 soon and a mock draft.  Had to focus on FA this weekend since that semi-starts on Saturday and definitely gets underway on next Tuesday.  I don’t just talk about FAs.  I go watch them play.  Stats can be deceiving.

Please save the FA questions for now.  I’ll be posting on them in the next couple of days.  Lots of guys to like…if the Eagles are interested.  That’s the biggest question of them all…will we be active?


45 Comments on “The Importance of Struggle”

  1. 1 micksick said at 12:12 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Glengarry Glen Ross? never heard of it lol

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 1:55 PM on March 4th, 2013:


  3. 3 micksick said at 4:27 AM on March 5th, 2013:

    seriously, maybe ill check it out if its good

  4. 4 Iskar36 said at 12:14 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I really hope you’re right about the QB competition. My biggest concern there is that the pressure of benching a $7 Mil QB will be too great to allow it to be a true competition. In addition, when you are working with Vick and Foles, you have to tailor the offense fairly differently for the two different QBs. You’re obviously not going to be expecting Foles to do the athletic stuff that Vick can do while you will not have Vick sit in the pocket and try to be an accurate passer the same way you would Foles. Because of that, the “competition” is not entirely dictated by the players. At some point, you will decide there is an offensive scheme design that you prefer, and because the two QBs are so different, you end up favoring one QB over the other simply because they are a better scheme fit and not because one beat out the other. It will be very interesting to see how Kelly tries to manages designing his offense while also maintaining a true competition at QB in my opinion.

  5. 5 Mr. Magee said at 1:07 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Well said Iskar.

    Even if you do have a completely ‘fair’ competition between Vick and Foles, what do you do with the one who looses out? These guys come from opposite ends of the skills spectrum, and as such I can’t see either guy being a back-up to the other. And if Vick wins the practice field battle and becomes the starter, you’ve essentially lost your opportunity to get any value for Foles in a trade. The whole thing makes no sense to me..

    Maybe Tommy can shed some light.

  6. 6 TommyLawlor said at 1:54 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Jim McMahon was RC’s backup. Koy Detmer was Donovan McNabb’s backup. Foles just backed up Vick. Did the offense look completely different from week 4 to 14? No. 90 to 95 percent of plays are generic. They are pocket passes and RB runs.

    What you guys are talking more about is gameplans. If I have Vick in the game, I’m more likely to call a QB draw. With Foles, that play is going to be a RB draw. Vick had a stronger arm so I would have more deep balls for him. Foles worked better with Avant so I would adjust that part of the gameplan.

    You only have a handful of plays that involve a QB needing to run. You call them or you don’t depending on who is in the game.

    I cannot stress this enough. Kelly doesn’t need or focus on a running QB. Tim Tebow ran 200 times a year at UF. Kelly’s QBs ran half of that or less. One year almost 3/4’s less.

    Kelly feeds the RBs the ball. His QBs must be able to throw. The read option stuff isn’t the key to the offense, but rather simply a weapon to help the run game. With the right OL and RBs, you don’t need it.

  7. 7 Iskar36 said at 2:18 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I don’t disagree with you at all about Kelly needing a QB who can run the ball, but with a guy like Vick, you are going to run an offense where the threat of running with the QB is real while with a guy like Foles you are going to run an offense without that. Sure there will be lots (probably the majority) of plays that both guys will run, but you would be asking for different things from the two QBs, so in many ways you are comparing them using two different scales. That makes the comparison difficult and takes some of the competition out of the hands of the two players.

  8. 8 TommyLawlor said at 2:26 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I don’t know how much read option would get run in practice anyway. QBs wear the red jerseys and can’t be hit. Maybe that means you definitely run it. Maybe that means running it in live drills is a waste of time.

    Kelly is going to judge the guys on how they perform overall. The style of plays shouldn’t affect that angle too much. Do what you do and do it well. Simple as that.

  9. 9 Iskar36 said at 2:38 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Defensively though, regardless of how often you run a read option, with Vick, you have to account for his speed, so you have to play him differently than you play Foles. To me, that translates to you have to also design offensive plays differently to account for how the defense will react to the QB. Whether or not you can hit the QB, Vick still can take off and run on any given play. It would be silly to ignore that part of his game in practice, both offensively and defensively. As for Foles, the defense will not have to account for him running very often, thus it will be designed differently. you have to create a different kind of mismatch then to account for how the defense plays. That has nothing to do with practicing the read option. It is simply taking advantage of the different skill sets of two very different QBs.

  10. 10 Ark87 said at 3:05 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    We better practice the read option….there’s this dude they call RG3 in Washington and we better not even think about scouting him with Marvin Mcnutt. It would be worth dedicating the entire training camp to the read option just to see RG3 or some other read option QB get obliterated.

  11. 11 Malcolm Jones said at 1:55 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Vick’s contract is incentive based, it only gets to as high as it is if he fullfills all parts….he has to make the team, be the starter, start a number of games, get a certain amount of wins and it also has certain bonuses for playoffs and a superbowl. He isn’t paid anything until he earns it. I do think Vick wins the job but not because of the amount of money but because he not only has to earn his money back, but he has to prove he can still play for a new contract here or somewhere else and prove he can still start.

  12. 12 Iskar36 said at 2:13 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    This is only partially true. He is guaranteed 3.5M of his contract regardless of what happens if I understand things correctly. So only half of the possible money he could earn is dependent on how he plays.

  13. 13 Malcolm Jones said at 3:51 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Yeah I know he gets something,just figure 3.5 mil doesn’t make him appear as much as a guaranteed starter as 7 mil does.

  14. 14 Iskar36 said at 4:14 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Actually, now that I looked at it again, I think (please someone with better cap knowledge correct me), Vick is due to earn 3.5 Mil plus a 3.5 mil base salary that he is due to earn before TC. So actually, he will earn the full $7 mil. The incentives are in addition to that and could end up being as much as 3 mil more depending on if he hits all of them (several of the are unlikely to be earned).

  15. 15 A_T_G said at 7:16 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    That is how I understood it.

  16. 16 Neil said at 1:43 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Well, I don’t think we can know for sure either way at this point, but from what I’ve watched of Chip Kelly what a player makes will have no effect on his position on the depth chart.

  17. 17 Iskar36 said at 2:09 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Chip Kelly has never dealt with players who make money. The only information we can work on is how he dealt with younger players versus older players which is not entirely the same. Money creates a significantly different incentive. My guess is that if it were entirely up to Kelly and he were not taking any insight from anyone, sure, he would go with the best player. I would also guess that is largely true for most coaches. The issue is that he will be talking with multiple people including Roseman and guys that are more involved in the financial side of the players and their input will have a factor in Kelly’s decision (just for clarity, I am not saying that HR necessarily will be advising Kelly who to play or not, or even favor the more expensive guy versus the cheaper one, just that his opinions will matter and it is hard for anyone to pay 7 MIL to someone that will sit on the bench).

    So to me, as of right now, we have no idea which way Kelly will act, and I’m not sure anything in his past truly gives us a clue into that just yet.

  18. 18 Neil said at 8:51 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I definitely agree it could go either way. Chip Kelly says he’s going to put the best team on the field, but you never know. But looking at his history of handling starting competitions at Oregon, it would be a huge about-face and really surprising to me. And everything I’ve read about Chip’s philosophies are completely counter to playing a guy because of his salary too. The fact that players have salaries might change the way he handles competitions, but Chip strikes me as so precise, self-aware and resolute that I think if anyone can play Foles over Vick because Foles is the better qb it is Chip.

  19. 19 Ark87 said at 1:59 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Great point. At some point Chip will have to ask, which offense works better, the option type attack with Vick or a more traditional look with Foles (would we still spread?). There will be an element of which QB operates their offensive scheme better, but it will be very much comparing apples to oranges.

    I have mixed feeling about the competition. While I enjoy the merits of competition, it just screams: “we don’t have a QB, can’t wait for the 2014 draft”. It feels like no matter who wins, they are a stop-gap until Chip gets his guy.

  20. 20 Iskar36 said at 2:20 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    From what I read, we will probably still spread the defense out and give them different looks in order to create mismatches for the RBs to take advantage of, but those mismatches will be different (notice the word choice, as opposed to “less effective”) depending on if you will also utilize your QB as a running threat.

  21. 21 Ark87 said at 12:52 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    “That’s the biggest question of them all…will we be active?”
    Howie’s loading up for bear if our cap space means anything….or maybe he’s just a baller on a budget, who knows.

  22. 22 Mac said at 4:09 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I kinda doubt we’ll see a Nnamdi or Asante type signing this year, but man it would be weird if they weren’t active at all. My wish list is 1 solid starter DB, 1 interior O-line, and some camp bodies.

  23. 23 Ark87 said at 4:54 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I don’t….well I definitely could see us putting up big money for a CB. But I’m thinking we will be seeing a lot of FA’s all over the D, all lower-mid level to load up on players that fit the new scheme.

  24. 24 Mac said at 6:41 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Yeah, I hope there are at least a few guys out there that Chip likes and that Howie can acquire for reasonable prices.

  25. 25 A_T_G said at 7:14 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    That’s what I would like to see. Bring in some guys who haven’t become big names, but could. Guys stuck behind stud starters, guys miscast on their teams, guys that are hungry to prove themselves.

    I don’t want to win the offseason in March. I want to win it in a few years when people look back and shake their heads at the gems we found.

  26. 26 T_S_O_P said at 12:56 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    If there is one bright side to watching a Steelers game to see the few snaps the back up NT played is that at least it change your opinion of them. Death to the Steelers indeed.

  27. 27 nopain23 said at 1:44 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Why is Nnamdi still on this roster? I keep checking out every online football site to see if that bum has been released. What’s taking HOwie and Chip so long? He’s done and way TOO expensive. Time to cut the cord.
    As far as FA:
    I would like the eagles to take a look at Landry. He may be a liability in covaerage but at least he can tackle. cant’t wat for Tommy’s post on safeties in the draft.
    I like Elam. Some one referred to him as baby ‘dawk”. i like the sound of that.

  28. 28 Iskar36 said at 2:23 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    My issue with Landry is that he is 28, likely has already reached his peak and will soon be on the decline, and has had a history of injuries. I would have loved him last year, but now that we are rebuilding our secondary, I would rather find someone younger that can progress on our team and will be hitting his peak as our team improves over the next couple of years.

  29. 29 nopain23 said at 3:57 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    He’s 28 that’s true. But he’s a physical freak and I’m hoping this new sports science/navy seals trainer that Chip hired can work miracles and we could get 3-4 solid years out of Landry. In two years if we draft right I see the iggles as SB contenders. But definitely not this year.

  30. 30 Iskar36 said at 4:43 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I certainly wouldn’t be upset if we ended up with Landry, I just don’t know that he is someone I would be particularly excited about. The issue with that is, I would guess he would likely demand a big contract, so at that point, is he worth it? My opinion would be no, but like I said, I wouldn’t be upset about getting a guy who is a clear upgrade over what we currently have.

  31. 31 TommyLawlor said at 2:28 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    I can only guess about Nnamdi’s non-release. Honestly, it isn’t really a big deal right now. We don’t need the cap space. We can cut him at any time.

    Like you, I do wish we’d go ahead and get rid of him.

  32. 32 A_T_G said at 4:21 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    If we get him, hopefully baby Dawk emulates his namesake more that baby Jordan did.

  33. 33 Alex Karklins said at 7:23 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Quintin Demps is available: I like the cut of that kid’s jib.

  34. 34 ACViking said at 1:48 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Re: Ultimate QB Competition?

    Cowboys coach Tom Landry — the human computer (so-called) — had the most striking competition between his QBs.

    In game 7 of the ’71 season, in a road loss to the Bears, Landry alternated on every play future HOF Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. Mano a mano!

    In 1971, Staubach was in just his 3rd NFL season due to a 5-year military commitment after his ’64 graduation from the Naval Academy.

    Morton, a former 1st Rd Pick in ’65 groomed to replace the great Don Meredith, was coming off a SB season in 1970 in just his second season as the starter. Morton led Dallas to the “big game” where they lost to the Colts in what was famously called the “Blooper Bowl” because the two teams combined for 7 turnovers — a game that turned out to be Johnny Unitas last hurrah (he was knocked out the of the game midway and replaced by Earl Morroll, the goat of the ’69 SB between the Colts and Jets).

    Staubach took hold of the starting job in game 8 of the ’71 season and went on to lead Dallas to a SB victory over the Dolphins, winning the MVP along the way. He retired after the ’79 season due to concussions.

    Morton stayed with Dallas through early in ’74 season when — six games into that season — the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants for their No. 1 pick in the ’75 draft.

    Morton replaced former Eagles’ QB Norm Snead, then the Giants starter. Ironically, the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants the very week that Dallas was heading to NY to play the G-men. Morton didn’t start that 21-7 loss, but appeared early in the game and threw 0 TDs and 3 INTs.

    Morton went 1-6 as a starter (winning his first start the week after the trade against a rapidly declining Chiefs team), but then lost his last six starts in a row.

    By season’s end, the Giants were 2-12, earning the second overall pick in the draft. The ‘Boys used the G-men’s pick to select future HOF DT Randy White.

    After the ’76 season, having won just 8 games for the Giants, Morton was traded to the Denver Broncos for back-up QB Steve Ramsey and a draft pick.

    In 1977, Morton led the Broncos a 12-2 record and the AFC title — defeating the Steelers and Raiders in the playoffs. He won NFL Comeback Player of the Year Honors . . . having come back from the purgatory that was then the NYGiants.

    But as fate would have it, Morton’s Broncos faced Staubach’s Cowboys in the ’77 SB. It was no contest, with Morton being unceremoniously pulled after going 4-15 for 89 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs.

  35. 35 TommyLawlor said at 3:46 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Great story. Alternating QBs is nuts, but I’m glad he did it. Somebody had to try it.

  36. 36 Bdawkbdawk said at 2:50 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Coffee’s for closers only. I too love the emphasis on competition, but I’m not sure it’s better to fear failure than to desire success. QBs should have to produce to play, but I’ve seen the fear of failure before, and it was Kolb against the Packers – with a bunch of throwaways and a facemask full of sod. The greatest competitor of all-time (Jordan) was obsessed with winning, but he was never fearful of throwing up a shot with the game on the line.

  37. 37 TommyLawlor said at 3:48 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Kolb didn’t play with a fear of failure. He had a poor pocket presence that showed the pass rush bothered him too much. That’s different.

    Most of the top people I know or have read about said the greatest motivator was the fear of failure. That’s what keeps them going after they achieve success.

  38. 38 Neil said at 5:29 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Maybe a better word though would be hatred of failure. You may hate losing, but you’ll do whatever it takes to win. Fear of failure to me is the kind of thing that keeps guys from even trying to win. Guys who fear failure won’t even bother trying out for the high school football team or asking out the girl they think is cute because the prospect of failure is so terrifying.

  39. 39 TommyLawlor said at 5:51 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Fair enough.

  40. 40 Mac said at 4:46 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    If you like Metal… check out this “struggle”

  41. 41 TommyLawlor said at 6:00 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Pretty cool.

    Are you a Randy Rhoads fan? If so, you may want to check the new book and DVD that came out about his time in Quiet Riot. Looks really cool. Heard the author on Eddie Trunk’s show.

  42. 42 Mac said at 9:15 AM on March 5th, 2013:

    Worth checking out, thanks for the link!

  43. 43 shah8 said at 4:57 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    When it comes to Foles, it’s going to be about speedier decision-making, and maybe a bit less of a long release if that’s not too much mechanics reconstruction. One should expect that with a bit better mechanics, he can at least make pre-determined deep throws, or do better, at any rate.

  44. 44 ICDogg said at 5:44 PM on March 4th, 2013:

    Fishduck: Why Chip Kelly Will Win Super Bowls At Philadelphia

  45. 45 A_T_G said at 7:08 PM on March 4th, 2013:


    1. That is interesting stuff. They weighed each player 5 times, calculate their hydration needs, and have people assigned to adjust for length of drives, humidity and temperature? That sure beats sening the guy in for an IV once he starts cramping.

    2. The writer is no Tommy Lawlor.

    3. After seeing the title, I was going to comment that I’m glad we are setting our sites higher than a single Super Bowl, but this guy is on a whole other level. If half the stuff is true about forever changing the game of football, it is going to be a fun ride.