Vick signed with the Eagles last year only after McNabb lobbied for him. He learned a lot from watching McNabb, and picked up some of his work habits. Now Vick is the one - not Kevin Kolb - who's replacing McNabb.
No. 7 is even playing better than No. 5 right now.
"Donovan was very instrumental in bringing me here," Vick said Wednesday. "He put in a good word for me and it happened. I was thankful for it and they gave me an opportunity when nobody believed in me and he was a part of that. I'll never forget that." Vick can thank McNabb in person on Sunday when the Washington Redskins (1-2) play the Eagles (2-1) in a game that's been circled on calendars since the schedule came out. Vick's re-emergence as a star quarterback has added a new twist to McNabb's return to Philadelphia.
Since Kolb sustained a concussion in Week 1, Vick has been outstanding. He has 750 yards passing, six touchdowns and no interceptions, and also has run for 170 yards and one score in 10 quarters. For his efforts, Vick earned NFC offensive player of the month honors.
None of this would've been possible if McNabb hadn't given his approval to bringing Vick to Philadelphia in the first place. After spending 18 months in a federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring, Vick had few options to resume his career. With McNabb's blessing, the Eagles signed him to a two-year contract last August. Vick was supposed to be here just to run the wildcat offense and be a backup. But he played so well as a fill-in that Eagles coach Andy Reid flip-flopped on his decision to keep Kolb as the starter.
"He very easily could have said that he didn't think it was a good idea," Reid said, regarding McNabb's input into Vick's signing. "He had a past relationship with Michael and saw the good in Michael, so he shared that with me. And then when Michael got here, he followed that up with working out with Michael every morning, helping him with the offensive stuff and going over it from a player's standpoint. And then I give a lot for credit to Michael for being humble enough to be in that situation, at the same time continuing to work to get better at the things he felt he needed to get better at."
Vick's relationship with McNabb goes back to his teenage years. McNabb hosted Vick on a recruitment trip when he was at Syracuse. Vick eventually chose Virginia Tech, but the two have been friends ever since.
"One thing that I wanted to do was give the guy an opportunity, give him a second chance," McNabb said. "So many people turned their back on him and talked about the negative side of things. I think before you begin to make assumptions and try to read into anybody, you need to learn a little bit more about him. I think now people are starting to learn more about Mike the person, not just the football player."
Though both quarterbacks are mobile, they have different styles on the field and used to approach the game differently. But McNabb's influence helped Vick become a complete player. Vick now spends more time studying film and reading defenses. As a result, he doesn't run at the first sign of trouble. Instead, he buys time with his legs, allows receivers to come open and makes big plays in the air. Vick also spends more time in the weight room, so he's better prepared to absorb hits and bounce back from injuries.
"He was always asking questions and trying to learn more," McNabb said. "And I think for a guy who had been though the situation that he was, you would think some guys would play the back burner and just (be) accepting of his role. Here was a guy who wanted to be the best and wanted to get back to where he was in Atlanta and better. I was just excited about his attitude and his aggression and his enthusiasm for trying to get back out on that field."
Vick never envisioned replacing McNabb in Philadelphia. He hoped one season with the Eagles would be a springboard to a starting job with another team. But McNabb was traded because the organization felt Kolb was ready to be the No. 1 guy. So, Vick stayed as a veteran backup and to run Philadelphia's version of the wildcat.
Once Kolb went down, Vick got his chance and made the most of it. He nearly rallied the Eagles from a 17-point deficit in a loss to Green Bay in the opener. He followed that up with a performance so impressive in a win over Detroit that Reid was forced to change his mind about starting Kolb. Vick then had another dazzling game in rout over Jacksonville.
"I always knew I could play better than what I did (in Atlanta)," Vick said. "All I had to do was work at it and get in the right system and just play my game, play efficiently and be smart with the football and just be given the opportunity. I always knew I could do it."