When the surging Eagles visit the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East on Sunday, quarterback Michael Vick will be second in the NFL in passing, first in Pro Bowl balloting, and among a handful of MVP candidates.
It's been an amazing season, an amazing story, and Eagles fans are dreaming of the Super Bowl.
And none of it would have happened had the Eagles not insisted on a second year in Vick's first contract.
"I'd like to say we saw all of this coming or that I or Andy [Reid] could get the credit," Eagles president Joe Banner said. "But we never ever anticipated this."
When the Eagles and Vick first entered into contract talks before last season, a second year on any deal seemed like a minor detail to outside observers. But for those negotiating the agreement it was a point of contention that nearly ended the conversation.
Vick's agent, Joel Segal, wanted a one-year contract. Banner wanted two years.
"He was as adamant about the one year and not doing it as we were about two years and not doing it," Banner said of Segal. "There was a standstill. But I think I was able to convince Joel that we were really willing to walk away. And he was smart enough to realize that this was going to be the best situation - on and off the field - for Michael."
Segal's reason for wanting a shorter deal for his client was about freedom.
"In this situation we initially preferred a one-year deal hoping to get to free agency as soon as possible," Segal said.
That didn't matter so much to Vick. He had been out of the NFL for nearly three years and incarcerated for 18 months on a dogfighting conviction, and he just wanted to play football.
"They wanted to do two [years]," Vick said of the Eagles. "I was fine with it. Whatever opportunity I got, I was ready. The second year didn't matter."
In the end, of course, it mattered very much. Had Vick gone to another team for just one year he may not have had a season to spend to get back into shape as a backup. He may not have had such a strong support group. He may not have been able to put up the huge numbers he is putting up with the talented Eagles.
He may not have earned the huge payday he is almost certain to eventually get.
As it happened, Vick was able to work behind and learn from veteran starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. He also had a full year of steady coaching from Reid and Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg without the pressure of being the starter.
"I do know in retrospect it's worked out perfectly well for Mike," Segal said. "Mike got one year to get back, learn the system, acclimate himself, and now, as we see this year, he is playing outstanding football."
For the Eagles, if they had signed Vick for just one year, there was no guarantee that either he or they would have wanted to re-sign based on his spotty productivity in the first year. The Eagles would have wasted all that money and energy for nothing. But the second year - this season - has changed everything.
"Our view was that we wanted him for two years because we knew he was a very, very valuable player, which, of course, turned out to be true," Banner said. "But what we were going to do with that second year, initially we were without a specific plan.
"Our only thought, at the time, was that someone - whether it was Donovan or Kevin [Kolb] - could get hurt, and he would be a viable replacement."
And when Kolb suffered a concussion in the first game of the season, that's just what happened.
Vick earned a little more than $1.6 million in the first year of his contract, and some NFL pundits assumed that the Eagles would either trade or release him before the March 9 roster deadline. After that date, they would have to pay him a $1.5 million bonus.
But the Eagles had no intention of trading Vick, Banner said, and he became Kolb's backup when McNabb was traded in April.
"Around that time, backup quarterbacks around the league were making in between $3 million and $4 million, with many of them not even taking a snap," Banner said. "But we saw glimpses of what he could be last season and, as we monitored him in the off-season, it was apparent that he was really getting back into form. And the thinking was, 'This is a great value.' "
With the bonus and a $3.75 million base salary, the Eagles were on the hook for at least $5.25 million for 2010. And then a remarkable series of events unfolded.
Kolb suffered the concussion in the opener. Vick jumped in seemingly effortlessly and won games and affection, and Reid made the head-spinning decision to bench the heir apparent for Air Vick.
"We were never positive what the situation would be, so Joe and I agreed to negotiate some upside for Year 2 in case Mike did play," Segal said. "And it's worked out well where some incentives have kicked in."
Even with all the incentives Vick has earned - a total of $1.9 million with more possible - he is still a great value at $7.1 million. It's clear now that the Eagles will have to dip into their pockets if they want Vick back.
Do they want him back?
"I'll defer to what Andy has said in that regard," Banner said.
Reid has said nothing. But it's clear he likes Vick. Under normal circumstances - the NFL and its players are working on a contentious new collective bargaining agreement and may be on the verge of a work stoppage - Vick and the Eagles likely would have agreed to a long-term deal already. It's possible still that the team will "franchise" Vick for one season at around $15 million and wait until next off-season to work on a multiyear package.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently agreed to a four-year, $72 million extension. The Colts' Peyton Manning is in the final year of a seven-year, $98 million deal and is expected to become the NFL's highest-paid player.
Vick has shrugged off talk of a new contract. Once a top pitchman for Nike, he recently landed an endorsement contract with a local Nissan dealership. But he said no other deals were in the works.
"I'm keeping my schedule real light these days," Vick said. "I'm focused on the task at hand."
That would be Sunday against the Giants.