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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Wildcat for Michael Vick a mistake, Donovan McNabb says -- and he's right

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick, left, and Donovan

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick, left, and Donovan McNabb before a game against the Washington Redskins, in Landover, Md., on Oct. 26, 2009. Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

With the Jets looking more and more as if they're prepared to use Michael Vick in a limited package of plays in place of starter Geno Smith, it's interesting what one prominent quarterback who experienced a similar setup with Vick thinks about the idea.

He believes it's completely misguided and will have a negative impact on Smith.

And he's right.

Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who in 2009 yielded to Vick on certain plays, said the Jets would be making a mistake to use Vick in a similar role. Jets coach Rex Ryan has said he is considering using Vick as a Wildcat quarterback, and Vick said the idea could work.

No way, said McNabb, who didn't like it when Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg used it. Mornhinweg has the same role with the Jets.

"I wasn't a fan when we did it [with the Eagles]," McNabb told Newsday. "I'm all about showing flash to a defense, but timing is everything. Bringing in the Wildcat or whatever it may be takes away from the quarterback being able to get his feet up under him and running the offense the way he should. I didn't like it when we did it, and I don't like it for the Jets."

McNabb doesn't think it will work for Smith, the likely starter heading into the season. And he doesn't think it will work for Vick, who is 34 years old and would be putting himself at risk by participating in just a handful of plays each game.

"With a young quarterback like Geno, you're not allowing him to develop into that pocket passer and that NFL quarterback he needs to be," said McNabb, who was traded to the Redskins in 2010, the year after Vick joined the Eagles as a backup. "I guarantee you this: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees wouldn't go for it.

"You don't want to try to put so much pressure on Geno," McNabb said. "I think he's going to have a great year, but adding in the element of Michael Vick is not going to help him. It's nothing against Mike, but he understands that aspect, too. He wants to contribute, but he doesn't want to hinder the progress of Geno Smith."

Besides, McNabb says there's an inherent risk in putting Vick out there for a few snaps in a game.

"You have a 34-year-old quarterback running the read option, and that's your 'wow' concept for a defense, that's not the way to go," he said. "Now you put Mike in harm's way."

There's another danger here, and not just a physical one. Suppose you put Vick in for a play or two, and he produces a big moment with a long run, or even a long pass. Then you take him out and Smith struggles finding his rhythm. You know what happens next.

"Mike makes three or four plays a game, then the fans are going to be calling for Mike to start," McNabb said. "If Geno Smith is the face of the franchise, you're not handling it right."

Look no further than what happened the last time the Jets tried this approach. Who can forget 2012, when Tim Tebow relieved Mark Sanchez to run the Wildcat? It turned into a seasonlong soap opera.

"You tried this with Mark Sanchez, and look what you did to him. You killed his career," McNabb said. "What benefit did Mark Sanchez get from Tim Tebow running the read option? Nothing."

McNabb said he aired his grievances to Mornhinweg when Vick was a part of the Eagles' offense in 2009, but to little avail.

"I told Marty, and I got [criticized by fans] when I said it after the first game," McNabb said.

Smith is playing along with the idea and saying all the right things about the possibility of Vick getting some snaps. But what's he supposed to say? Smith is too young and too inexperienced to tell the coaches he doesn't like the idea of his rhythm being interrupted. But take it from McNabb, and take it from any other quarterback who has been in a similarly uncomfortable setup.

It does not work.

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