IT WAS A felonious miscalculation that made Ruben Amaro Jr.'s misguided gamble on middle relief seem like a traffic ticket by comparison.
After Michael Vick teased us with a 2010 season that suggested an aha juncture to his career, after the Eagles bolstered a porous defense with offseason big-name acquisitions such as Nnamdi Asomugha and Cullen Jenkins, the team started the 2011 season with two rookies on the offensive line for the first time ever.
The backup plan? Uh, er, there really wasn't one, unless you consider grabbing Kyle DeVan off the waiver wire to replace a struggling Danny Watkins on the offensive line 4 days before the season to be a plan.
Truth was, the Howie Roseman/Andy Reid/Joe Banner backup plan for this risk made RAJ's plan to lean on Jose Contreras, Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo seem well reasoned.
Jason Kelce and Watkins, in particular, eventually rewarded that faith in their abilities, but by then Vick was one banged-up, happy-footed, mistake-prone chucker who bore no resemblance to the confident quarterback who finished the previous season one poor throw away from the Eagles' knocking out Super Bowl contender Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. The first five games of last season, four of them losses, were low-lighted not only by a discombobulated defense, but by an offensive line that habitually hung its quarterback out to dry.
Watkins eventually settled down, Jason Peters had a Pro Bowl year, Kelce was steady. The line finished with far fewer sacks allowed than the naked eye suggested, but that was probably due to Vick's elusiveness, especially at the beginning.
Vick, though, threw 14 interceptions in the 13 games he played in, and his replacements, Vince Young and Mike Kafka, nearly matched that total with 11 combined. So uneven was Vick's season that a recent fan poll placed untested rookie Nick Foles ahead of him as the quarterback fans preferred to start the season with.
A more prevalent poll, one that has cropped up in various forms as far back as the OTAs last spring, asks fans to pick from among several facets as to what concerns them most about the upcoming season.
Always on the list is the play of the quarterback.
Always on the list, as well, is the play of the offensive line.
But here's the question: Aren't they the same?
"It is the same question," Vick said. "And you pretty much get the same answer."
"Absolutely," Kelce said. "The offensive line is a huge part of the quarterback's success. And the team's overall success.
"It all goes hand in hand. We've got to block. The receivers have to run the right routes. It's a team game. The quarterback is the most important position. But it takes all 11 guys on the field working together.
"Let me put it this way. If you, as an offensive line, protect the quarterback, he normally has a good year."
So what worries you more? It should be an offensive line that has already lost Peters to an Achilles' injury and has been forced to demote the veteran signed to replace him, Demetress Bell, with career backup King Dunlap. Alarming as that is, the Eagles have little to no depth in case of injuries, which are a given in the grueling, 16-game NFL season. The three subs besides Bell have never played in a regular-season game.
"We've got trust in those guys, so I'm not really that concerned," coach Andy Reid said after Wednesday's walkthrough. "Dallas [Reynolds], I know, can step in and do this thing. He can play all three interior spots. Dennis [Kelly] can swing [to either tackle spot], and I know King can go to right and [Todd] Herremans can go to left or over to guard. King can play guard, and Demetress can play tackle, so you have some flexibility there. It makes me comfortable with it."
The other happy spin is that the Eagles also start the season with veterans Evan Mathis and Herremans healthy. And Kelce and Watkins have a season under their belt, a full summer, too. Kelce was a quicker learner, but then again he had more football in his blood, too.
"Last year, [Danny] was an extremely raw player with his background," Kelce said. "He had only been playing football for 4 years and only 3 of those years were Division I level. The knowledge that he has, the knowlege that I had, it really wasn't comparable coming out of college.
"Now having a full offseason under his belt, finally learning to think about things in different ways than he was used to, he can now watch film on his own and tell what is going on: 'I screwed up there, I should be doing this.' That's huge, and if you're at the level where you should be mentally, you should know immediately after a play that you just screwed up. Last year, he wasn't at that level, but now he knows, 'I could've done better on that play.' "
So, maybe it's not the same question, after all?
Just the same answer.
"I think the difference in that question is this," said Herremans, entering his eighth season. "Are you more worried about the quarterback's durability or the o-line's capability?"
And the answer?
"The answer is that we're all trying to work together," he said. "And the only way we can answer it really is on the field."