When Chip Kelly was hired to succeed the 14 year reign of Andy Reid it was safe to say that the Philadelphia Eagles franchise was headed towards a whirlwind of change. The marriage between Eagles fans and Reid’s football philosophy reached a breaking point, before ultimately collapsing during the 2012 regular season. Change was needed to keep the season ticket holders interested in renewing for 2013, so owner Jeffery Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman decided to make a full court press at the hottest college coaching prospect. They ultimately succeeded in their quest, but a huge hole remained. Who was going to play the most important position in sports for a championship starved city?
We now know the leading candidate to start either under center, or a formation with the name of a gun, when training camp starts in August. It’s not going to be a rookie from what appears to be the weakest quarterback class since 2007 (Kolb, Skelton, Quinn, Stanton, and last but least JaMarcus Russell), it’s not going to be Alex Smith, or Matt Flynn, it’s not going to be Smokin’ Joe Flacco.
It’s going to be Michael Vick.
It does seem hard to believe that number seven will be a member of the Eagles after his two year implosion played a major role in keeping the Philadelphia football franchise out of the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in the 21st century.
After two seasons littered with turnovers, injury stints, and countless “I’m working hard every day to get better” press conferences after a loss, Philadelphia fans deserved to let Vick know that he was number one in their book with a certain finger.
Yet, amazingly when Vick’s restructured the three years left on his five year, $100 million ($40 million guaranteed) contract, down to an incentive filled, one year $10 million deal, I didn’t hate the move. In fact, it makes a lot of sense for both parties.
Odds are Michael Vick would have struggled to find a clear-cut starting job anywhere else. Oakland would have probably been his best bet, as Carson Palmer’s days have been numbered since November. Arizona would have been a real possibility. Just imagine how Kevin Kolb would have reacted to that. Vick could have reunited with Andy Reid in Kansas City, but after Vick’s benching last season I find it hard to believe that he would have wanted to share the sidelines with Reid for another go around. Buffalo and Cleveland would have also joined in the Vick sweepstakes, but that would have created a training camp battle between Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brandon Weeden. At this point in Vick’s career it’s fair to wonder if he would have won the starting job in either of those situations.
By calming down on his resistive stance to restructure his deal, the 32 year old veteran, who will be 33 come September has created one last chance to prove that he is worthy of the hassle.
The most interesting sub-plot of Vick’s resigning is how Philadelphia fans will now take to Chip Kelly’s reign before the season starts.
Many have already begun to question the move and it’s hard to not disagree with their arguments. It seems difficult to picture that a quarterback with 24 interceptions and 21 fumbles (nine of those fumbles were recovered by the opposition) in his last 25 games, will be the leading candidate to begin a new era of Eagles football.
This won’t be the same Michael Vick that had to suffer through a bad Chex Mix of playcalling by Andy Reid and Marty Morenwhig. In fact, Vick might actually have his most efficient season in 2013 if he can prove to be a quick learner and understand Kelly’s philosophy. There is still a giant mystery as to how similar Kelly’s pro offensive schemes will compare to his hyper read option at Oregon, but keep in mind that Vick’s role will be simplified. Instead of the countless nights in front of his Ipad, Vick might actually be at ease while commanding an offense that revolves around the playmaking ability of its skill players.
And boy do the skill position players appear to look tantalizing in Kelly’s system. DeSean Jackson is already beaming about what his role could become, it’s rumored to be very similar to how Kelly used D’anthony Thomas at Oregon. LeSean McCoy is a top tier running back. Besides his case of fumblitous, Bryce Brown came on strong at the end of the season. Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Brent Celek are all still in Philly and who knows who Kelly might also bring in during free agency and the draft.
Back to Vick, it seemed as if he tried to do too much during those two lost seasons and it’s not totally his fault. Reid gave Vick the keys to the offense after falling in love with the first 14 games of Vick’s comeback. He put the championship anguish of the entire city squarely on the shoulders of a man who couldn’t handle the same responsibility in Atlanta. After the best eleven game stretch in his career, the Eagles front office was fooled into making Vick the only player in the history of sports to sign two deals that had a maxed out at nine digits.
It’s the same front office, minus the head coach, that made a smart move in getting Vick to not only give the Eagles an out if this season turns out to be another disaster, but lowers his cap hit to give Jeffery Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Kelly even more room (Eagles had around $15.7 million of space under the cap before Vick’s deal was restructured) to add much needed pieces on defense, specifically at safety and cornerback (assuming that Nnamdi is released).
During his press conference, Kelly stated that the starting quarterback job will be an open competition between Vick and Nick Foles. Right now Vick is off to quite a head start. I can’t imagine Vick changing his stance on his contract so abruptly without having some major confidence that he is going to start come week one.
I don’t think Foles will be traded unless Kelly brings in his old Oregon protégé Dennis Dixon, or drafts a stereotypical athletic quarterback in the middle to late rounds that miraculously develops into a serviceable backup during the month of August. Chip knows that Vick will be a 33 year old injury time bomb, running a breakneck paced offense that the NFL has never seen before.
It will probably be hard for most Eagles fans to understand why this decision is actually a good one, because the streets of city of brotherly love are currently rotting without getting the chance to taste confetti.
Here’s a silver lining for those troubled Eagles fans.
If Vick gets injured and misses most of the season, or if he is still the inaccurate turnover machine, the Eagles will once again be sitting with a top five pick. Except this time the prized college player will be a kid that Kelly heavily recruited during his time at Oregon. A kid that perfectly fits the type of offense Kelly presumably wants to run. The kid who just won the highest award at the collegiate level.
Stay patient Eagles fans.
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