Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Jobs nobody wants

After a stellar performance Sunday, former Virginia Tech star and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will not start this weekend. But that could be a good thing. Working in Philadelphia is among the toughest jobs in sports.

Michael Vick doesn't want that starting quarterback job. Not this week. Not in Philly.

Oh, people will say he deserves it, and he might even believe he wants it, but he doesn't want it.

When Eagles coach Andy Reid announced after Sunday's 35-32 win over the Lions that Kevin Kolb would reclaim his starting role next week, he reaped the expected criticism. Why bench Vick after he threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns and looked great doing it?

Because it's Philly, that's why. And Philly's different.

Reid made the right decision for two reasons. One, he's about to find out what kind of quarterback he's got in Kolb, a man in whom the organization has invested a lot. The Eagles are on the road this week, but the first incompletion this guy throws against the Redskins in Philadelphia on Oct. 3 is going to turn that crowd against him.

How will he handle that? Reid needs to find out. If Kolb's truly a franchise QB, he'll be fine. If not, there's always Vick.

Which brings us to reason No. 2: Jacksonville has no idea how to prepare this week. Will Vick be used a little? A lot? How much game-planning can you do for him when you're not sure how long he'll be in there?

Vick, meanwhile, loses very little by not starting this week. His stock is off the charts. The worst-case scenario for him is that Kolb plays consistently well for several weeks in a row. Even then, though, Philly likely would be tempted to trade the former Virginia Tech star someplace that desperately needs a quarterback, and he'd finally get that No. 1 spot he's been seeking.

There are a lot of cities where it's easier to shine (and overcome struggles) than Philly. That's why playing quarterback there tops my list of the five most stressful jobs in sports. Here are the other four:

Head coach at Notre Dame. In years past, whenever Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster talked about his desire to be a head coach, he always said he had no interest in "coach-killer" schools. He meant lower-level, non-BCS universities that don't have the resources conducive to winning. He certainly did not mean Notre Dame.

Still, is there a bigger "coach-killer" school in the nation than that place? Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, Charlie Weis -- they all came to South Bend with sterling reputations and high expectations, then got canned after posting winning overall records for the Irish.

It's way too early to declare Brian Kelly doomed, but the domain name firebriankelly.com was purchased more quickly than a Mickey Mantle rookie card or a set of commemorative plates.

Kansas City Royals manager. This is coach-killing in a more traditional sense. The Royals don't spend money and they seem to lack anything resembling a vision. They've reached the 70-win mark just once since 2004.

Imagine being Ned Yost and filling out this lineup card on Sunday: Blanco, Aviles, Butler, Betemit, Ka'aihue, Pena, Gordon, Betancourt, Maier. And that was a game they won!

NASCAR crew chief. Had to throw this one in there after what happened Sunday in New Hampshire, where Tony Stewart ran out of gas roughly a mile before the checkered flag and Clint Bowyer got the win by squeezing out a few extra drops. Those fuel-mileage decisions have got to be brutal; most of us have a hard time staying cool when the light comes on our dashboard 2 miles from the nearest Sheetz.

Then throw in the fact that crew chiefs must serve as sounding boards for drivers' frustrations -- see the Kyle Busch-Dave Rogers exchange on Sunday -- and you've got a recipe for stress.

Offensive coordinator (anywhere). Quick: Rattle off a list of "beloved" offensive coordinators. Tough to do, huh? There simply aren't many.

Now name a few who are despised ...

Star players generally get the credit when offenses succeed, and for good reason. Fans watch the ball and see for themselves who's dazzling with it.

Besides, while most of us agree that playing quarterback for Philly, coaching at Notre Dame, managing the Royals or directing a Sprint Cup driver to the winner's circle are difficult tasks, calling smart football plays just doesn't register as that tough.

I'm sure most O-coordinators thought that, too. Right up until they tried to do it.

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