Press-box members playing the role of hospital triage staff made their uninformed opinions sound so professional: “Looks like he just got the wind knocked out of him.” “Could be a rib.” “He’ll miss this series and then reenter the game.” All the while, Eagles quarterback, Michael Vick writhes in pain on the turf of Lincoln Financial Field. As attention turned to the many large screen televisions displaying replays from a variety of angles the amateur triage staff fell quiet as it seemed clear that Vick’s injury was likely serious. Ignorant speculation was replaced by concern which was then replaced by a myriad of questions about how the 2010 Eagles season would now play out.

What we were in-fact witnessing was a very painful road-bump on the Philadelphia Eagles’ surprising quest to grab another NFC East title crown. With a very young team, this was to have been a rebuilding season for the Eagles. Gone was the proud and unflappable Donovan McNabb along with his five Championships in 11 seasons. Head Coach, Andy Reid made the difficult decision to take the perennial playoff contenders and retool them for their next run at NFC greatness. This all seemed well and good until a relatively minor injury to the present future, Kevin Kolb (pronounced Cobb), resulted in beautiful possibilities of what could happen NOW. Like a cheesy Hollywood movie, the down on his luck quarterback rises from the ashes of public humiliation, despicable actions and subsequent incarceration, to have people all-over the NFL landscape confident that this was a team to contend today!

A healthy Michael Vick covers a multitude of short-comings. Offensive line problems: no longer a problem with the uber-mobile quarterback able to extend plays with his legs and shake off would be sackmasters with a quick juke of those strong legs. A questionable defense would not be required to be on the field as long since the offense would spend much more time possessing the football and keeping them where they cannot do damage — on the sidelines. With Vick going down for the foreseeable future, those deficiencies take their cue at center stage where the performance would only make the parent of a fifth grader proud. The 2010 Eagles are now the team we thought they were. We now know with more certainty than before where the holes are in this team. They are significant but addressable… just maybe not this season.

The hope of a magical 2010 season for the Philadelphia Eagles is not entirely lost. We do not know how long Vick will be sidelined with the injury to cartilage in his rib cage (a diagnosis I did not hear from the peanut gallery of the press-box). All we know is that it will ultimately come down to the injury healing to the point where he can breath, walk, and sleep without feeling like he is being stabbed. At that point he will need to be able to throw, run, and absorb hits while tolerating the pain. It seems likely this will happen mid–season. At that point the defense and offensive line will have had time to improve under the Eagles solid coaching staff. Hopefully Kevin Kolb can survive the growing pains with his own health in-tact.

These variables combined with a weaker than expected Division in the NFC East, make them “not dead yet.” The Cowboys have shown surprising vulnerability this season. The Giants special-teams put them behind the eight-ball too often. And the Redskins have issues of their own with a thin receiving corps for veteran Donovan McNabb to throw to. This is a division ripe for the picking, but the “crimson sandwich” delivered to Vick on Sunday moves the Eagles to the back of the bus for now. Andy Reid is going to have to do more than take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in Philly. He is going to have to provide cures for what ails this offensive line and porous defense.

It is almost unfortunate for Reid that Vick rose and put this Eagles team prematurely back on the map. Had they had the season most expected of them (and are now likely to have) things would play out in a logical fashion for this proud franchise and their rabid fans. Another draft. Another off-season of training and conditioning. 2011 would be their season to apply the maturity that should come out of a rebuilding season. Vick instead rode in like a vastly wiser super-hero, took this team on his shoulders for a few exciting weeks of greatness, and departs far too early for the team, the fans, and the league. The crimson sandwich ruined a fun ride and what happens in the weeks to come is anyone’s guess.