My interview with Ron Jaworski last week netted more than just one story. Here's the first from Sunday's paper. And here are some of the leftovers online, most notably Jaws' take on how Michael Vick should improve with a full off-season as the starter (provided, of course, the NFL lockout is lifted some time soon):
What does Vick need to do this off-season to become a better quarterback?
It’s just familiarity with the system, familiarity with his players. He doesn’t even have a full year as the starting quarterback under his belt. He had an extraordinary season and I think there’s room for improvement just because the confidence-level there. He’s going into training camp as the No. 1 quarterback. He knows that it’s his job. All those things, from a quarterback’s perspective, they give you great confidence. You don’t have to look over your shoulder and say, ‘Oh, the next mistake I made they may have another guy coming in here. Another slip up and I’ll be on the bench.’ He is obviously the No. 1 quarterback. He’ll go to camp as the No. 1 guy. His confidence should be at an all-time high. He has an excellent receiving corp. LeSean McCoy is a heck of a running back. All the tools are in place for this offense to be as good as any in football next year.
But does Vick need to change his style of play even more to avoid unnecessary hits?
No question about it. And once again this is where the experience comes in to play. In this system he still does not have a full year as a starting quarterback. The blitzes in this league are absolutely mind-boggling. I sit in my office and I’ll look at a play ten, 15 times and I still can’t figure out what they’re doing. So to expect a quarterback to see that at the pre-snap phase, once to ball is snapped, to decipher and know where to go in about 2 ½ seconds is very, very difficult. So I understand what’s going on. But when you talk about the blitz, it’s not only the quarterback, it’s your wide receivers and making the proper adjustments, it’s in the offensive line making the proper slides and pick-ups and being in the right pass call. It’s in the running backs ability to pick up the blitz and read the blitz, as well. So it’s usually the quarterback that takes the blame, or worse, takes the hit. But with today’s game, these blitzes are so complex, so sophisticated, it takes all 11 players on offense to understand what the defense is trying to do and respond accordingly.
If Kolb is going to be so good [Jaws said in Sunday's Q&A that Kolb will be a good NFL starting quarterback], did Andy Reid make the right decision in benching Kolb for Vick?
I think Michael Vick will do an outstanding job. He improved tremendously in becoming an NFL quarterback. He was always the Sportscenter highlight and what I sat this year was a guy that began to understand what it is to play quarterback in the NFL, where running becomes your last option, not the first time you’re seeing an opponent’s jersey in front of your face. I thought Marty Mornhinweg, James Urban – they did a great job of bringing Michael along and really integrating his skill set into this offense.
What about Howard Mudd [Jaws spoke earlier about how the new offensive line coach should help the Eagles immensely]?
I see the [Jim] Washburn acquisition and I see the Howard Mudd acquisition and both these guys are actually really good friends. But I love both of them because these guys are kind of gnarly, old football guys. You’re not going to get a whole lot of smiles out of these guys. These aren’t the high-fiving, fun-loving type of guys that joke around. They’re old school football coaches. When we would do a Tennessee game with Washburn there or do a Colts game with Howard Mudd there, those are the guys that always come to talk to you. Those are the kind of guys that are really the heartbeat of a football team and an organization. These guys are throwback coaches that bring back an aura to the coaching profession and I think that, although there’s probably an age separation, the players will probably love how these guys will motivate the guys and demand excellence from them.
Have you seen more fans interested in the Soul as a result of the lockout [Jaws is part owner of the Soul]?
I think we’ll probably find out a little more on April 15, although we’re about at 15,000 in ticket sales for that game. Sales have been very good in that regard. The majority of our sponsor partners have come back and we’ve added some new ones. So I think that part has worked. We got to get on the field. We got to get in the face of the fans so they can see our team. It’s a new coaching staff. It’s 22 new players. So it really, for the most part, is an expansion team. We need the fans to see these guys, get to know them, because it’s a really unique group of players.
How do you get Philly football fans to latch onto the Soul?
It would have much more difficult to answer that back in 2004 because we really didn’t know. I had tried for almost a decade to bring Arena football to Philadelphia because I thought it was a great fit. I think Philly is arguably the best sports town, football town in America. I thought it would work, but I didn’t know. None of us knew. But the fact that over a five-year period we sold 94 percent of our tickets, averaged over 16,000 a game, that our belief that it was a football town was borne out to be correct. We felt very good about that five-year run that we had. The fans really loved the game. They loved the scoring. They loved the fast pace. More importantly, it was fun, we made it fun and it was an affordable game. You don’t have to mortgage your house to get season tickets or even go to a game. Football fans respected that. We didn’t gouge them on the ticket prices.
What should fans do to let the NFL know they're not happy about the lockout?
I don’t think we’re at that critical juncture yet. But I think there will come a time when the fans will say, ‘Hey, we’ve had enough of this. We’ve had enough of seeing Drew Brees talking decertification. We want to see Drew Brees throw passes. We want to see Roger Goodell say where the Super Bowl is going to be hosted than about collective bargaining.’ There’s a certain threshold that fans will have but right now they’re kind of tolerating it. But there will come a point when they say, ‘Hey, I want my season ticket money back. You’re not playing games. Or I’m not going to buy a ticket.’ And I know to a certain degree, on a lesser degree, with the Soul we are getting advertising agencies and people who have spent money in the NFL now contacting us about placing some of their advertising money with us. Because there are a lot of companies out there that have a marketing budget and they have to spend that money for people to be aware of their products. And if there’s not going to be football at the NFL level, they need to spend that marketing money somewhere. In the Arena Football League, the Philadelphia Soul – our market gives them an alternative. So to a lesser degree we’re starting to get people inquiring with us about spending some of those marketing dollars. In the long run that may have an impact on the NFL if it goes on any longer.
Did you evern think about getting into the NFL personnel end of business?
There was a time I thought of that, but at this point in my life that’s probably not an option. I would have loved to have been in a situation like John Elway is right now, like Matt Millen was a few years ago. And quite honestly, the lack of success that Matt had in Detroit probably hurt a lot of guys, former players, and guys like that, to get in the executive positions. But I do believe Elway will reinvigorate the guys that have some executive talent because John will really do a good job. He did a great job with the Arena Football League. John is a dear friend and he knows the game and he knows the business of the game. He knows how to organize, lead and direct. There was a time that I would have coveted one of those positions, but things have turned out real well doing Monday Night Football and in the off-season the Soul kind of fills the void for me. It really does kind of bring me back to – I don’t want to say, "The Old Days of Football” – but when it was a little more pure. The guys aren’t making a mega-million dollar contracts. They make between $400 and $1000 a game. There’s kind of purity to the game that I really like. I love being around these guys. They bring tremendous energy.