Quarterback Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles on the sidelines against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.
Let's just assume for a minute that football decisions aren't always, purely, football decisions. As the impending player lockout shows, the NFL is a business. At its most basic level, the game is just a form of entertainment that exists for the sole purpose of filling stadiums, selling jerseys, and getting massive television contracts.
Regarding the quasi-quarterback controversy the Eagles face this offseason, on the field the choice looks to be Michael Vick over Kevin Kolb. And as the weeks go on we'll delve more into the actual quarterbacking differences between the hash marks. But what about from a business perspective?
The Eagles as an organization certainly don't have trouble making money. They've been selling out all their games for years and Lincoln Financial Field brings in tons of revenue. Plus, the team has consistently dominated Philly sports talk radio and local TV ratings.
But with the recent emergence of the Phillies as a legitimate World Series contender year in and year out, the Eagles no longer have a monopoly on the city's sports attention. And even on a national level the team isn't as big a draw as the Redskins, Cowboys, or Steelers. As a business that wants to continue to grow its audience and profits, Jeff Lurie and company know that they need to keep their fans excited.
When you look at the quarterback choice from that point of view, there really is no choice at all. Vick is your guy. Say what you want about negative press and a polarizing personality, but there simply aren't many players who can raise the profile of an entire organization the way Vick can.
Just look at the numbers we have to gauge fan interest. Google searches for Vick's name trumped Kolb even while he was just a back-up, and Vick even out-polled the Eagles organization for most of the season. Not even Donovan McNabb in his prime could command that kind of attention. In Vick's first year as a starter since going to jail for dog fighting, he also had the NFL's sixth top-selling jersey. And Vick came second in Pro Bowl voting only to Tom Brady.
The Eagles organization sees all those numbers, and the fact that television networks wanted to showcase Vick as much as possible — the team played six games in prime time last year. Furthermore, they can sense the special excitement that Vick (along with his fellow star DeSean Jackson) brings to each game. Those qualities are irreplaceable, even if the on-the-field production is. When you're trying not only to put the best team on the field, but also the best product, there's really no comparison between Kolb and Vick.
One's a football player, and the other's a national sensation.