Vermeil admires a good QB...and a fine wine...

Vermeil admires a good QB...and a fine wine...

Eagles

Vermeil admires a good QB...and a fine wine...

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Dick Vermeil (now with the NFL Network) dropped by practice this Wednesday to get a look at the Eagles’ new QB Kevin Kolb as the team ended its Spring OTA sessions.  Bob Grotz of the Delco Times got a great interview from Vermeil at the Wednesday workout:

While it’s much too early to predict the future of Kevin Kolb, the latest in a long line of Eagles quarterbacks, it’s safe to say Vermeil really likes what he’s seen of the new guy.

Away from the coaches, the dignitaries and the media, Vermeil took in the Wednesday morning practice with Ken Iman, his former line coach.

Vermeil wouldn’t have complained if the lengthier than usual session was expanded as he was fascinated with Kolb’s precision and consistency.

“Very impressive,” Vermeil said after practice. “This is really the first time I’ve been on the field and watched just him. I went to training camp last year and he was a backup. Today I just watched him. Kenny and I were watching him. And Kolb was impressive. He is very accurate, throws a nice ball that’s very easy to catch and he keeps the receivers running when they catch it. That was impressive. Very impressive.”

Kolb has had good days and days he’d like to have back during the offseason Eagles practices that conclude today. He’s looped balls into spots during red zone work that wow you. He’s also fluttered deep balls that remind you this is the first time in a dozen years Donovan McNabb isn’t the No. 1 quarterback.

With McNabb lining up the Washington Redskins these days, having been shipped south for a couple of draft picks, the critical comparisons between him and Kolb are barely a month away.

Ironically it was McNabb who only a couple of years ago said you don’t want to be the guy that replaces him because of the success he’s had. He pointed out similar situations with players who succeeded such quarterbacks as John Elway, Dan Marino and Steve Young, among others.

Vermeil sees it another way.

“You know, what’s true in the NFL is you only rent your locker,” Vermeil said. “Someone is going to take it. You don’t own it. And that happens.

(McNabb) was fortunate to be here longer than most. And he did a great job. He did a great job. But it was probably, I think, a good move for him, too. I think it was a good move for him. He goes into a good program. I don’t think they have the talent there that they have here now when they’re all healthy. But he’ll do a good job. They have a fine coaching staff down there. But I think it was good for him.

“All I am is a newspaper guy,” Vermeil continued. “I read the paper. Maybe it was time. I think it was just time.”

Fans worrying about the youth of the Eagles, who in one year have become one of the youngest teams in the NFC East, should put a little more faith in the coaching staff.

“The other great draft choices here maybe aren’t players,” Vermeil said. “(Assistant head coach) Dick Jauron is a first-round pick. (Special teams coach) Bobby April is a first-round pick. Those guys are fine, fine coaches. You can’t have too many of those kind of guys. You can win games with those guys, you bet.

“To me they are a playoff team until they don’t make it. And they’re probably better this year than they were last year right now with the draft and the addition of the new coaches. There’s a lot of talent out there. A lot of movement skills out there and a lot of speed. And getting some of those guys back that they didn’t have last year, that helps.”

Good perspective and interview by Bob Grotz,  I thought…. Meanwhile, another evaluation was given by Vermeil in another part of town about a week prior to the Grotz interview.  This one was about Vermeil’s second love:  fine wines. Here’s another great interview, this time given to Jeff Alexander for the Philadelphia Wine Examiner:


Dick Vermeil at Morris Arboretum…by Jeff Alexander

Dick Vermeil, builder of champions and beloved former Eagles coach, lives in the countryside outside Philadelphia, looks like a million bucks and makes a damn good bottle of wine. Strangers, fully grown and established, seek his approval and deferentially call him “Coach.” Followers are drawn to him for many reasons, not the least of which is being in the presence of a lively-eyed leader who is clearly interested in action and positive results.

Such admiration was in evidence at a recent tasting of Vermeil Wines, a benefit at the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, where the NFL great, who last shaped the Eagles’ destiny in 1982, shared stories of his lifelong attachment to wine and the craft. “I was drinking wine before I was playing high school football,” he stated early, spiking potential notions that his current venture is anything but an end zone run.
 
Born in his great grandfather’s home in Calistoga at the northern end of Napa Valley, Vermeil’s appreciation of the history of Golden State winemaking (he saluted California’s “backyard winemakers” of the European mold like his grandfather), his deep-rooted connections to the land and his relationships across the map were irrepressible seeds of a enviable second act.
 

Vermeil Cabernet Franc
 

 Vermeil claims to be “a wine lover, not a winemaker,” and shared with me descriptions of his wine cellar in Chester County, housing “too many” bottles from across the decades, the well aged prizes from pedigreed producers like Dunn, Beringer and Martinelli. As he lamented a recent encounter with a corked Jackass Hill Zinfandel, I couldn’t help but feel his respect for pioneering California vintners.

Wine appreciation is not the final destination for Vermeil. He aims to be in a commercial league with the vaulted brands he admires and has assembled, as one would expect, a sound game plan. It started in 1999 at the Frediani Vineyard on the Silverado Trail, just east of his hometown’s center. Vermeil Wines was soon producing 200 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and exploring new grapes and bottlings. A top-notch winemaker, Paul Smith, was drafted for his years of experience at stations like Joseph Phelps and Mondavi, and the wheels were set in steady motion. 
 
The commitment was evident. During the fall crush months, Vermeil and his wife have been front and center, driving tractors, relishing the physicality of the process. The portfolio continued to grow to the point where the winery now yields about 5,000 cases.
 
At the Philadelphia tasting, Vermeil showcased four of his Napa selections. There was a sparkling Gruet Blanc de Noirs and a trio of bottlings from Frediani, a rich and rocky plot adjacent to the Araujo-Eisele vineyard: A 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2005 Zinfandel “1956” and the 2005 Cabernet Franc Napa Library Selection.
 
The Sauvignon Blanc, from a small production of about 65 cases, was full and rich with a body and mouthfeel more readily associated with Chardonnay. The Zin, sourced from 50-year-old vines, was concentrated and intense. Its big blueberry fruit displayed balance and bite and potential for aging. The star of the evening was the Cab Franc, with its deep color, dusty chocolate flavors and long finish. Vermeil and his team know where they’re going, delivering well crafted premium wines that tap into tradition and the principled approach of a winner.
 
Before wrapping up, Vermeil recalled an infamous story from the 2003 football season involving Kansas City Chiefs kicker Morten Andersen, the Oakland Raiders and a bottle of Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Vermeil’s collection. Following applause and laughter, the football legend thanked the crowd for their attendance and support then paused, adding with a broad grin, “I don’t have a team to coach anymore.” He eyed the room as if searching for recruits. “What we’d like to develop is a Vermeil drinking team.”
 
Put me in, Coach.
 
Several Vermeil Wines bottlings are sold through PLCB Premium Collection stores including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Consumers can also order directly through the winery.
 
Great interviews by Bob Grotz and Jeff Alexander, respectively.  I learned somethin’! Now take your summer break, the clock is ticking…45 Days until TC at Lehigh!

 

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