Monday, February 11, 2013

Kelly's 'evolution' points toward status quo

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Michael Vick is a Chip Kelly kind of quarterback ... at least for one year.

Despite months of rumors to the contrary, the Philadelphia Eagles decided not
to part ways with Vick and the two sides finished off a restructured contract
for the 2013 season on Monday.

The new deal reportedly guarantees the veteran signal-caller $3 million next
year and includes a base salary, roster bonus, signing bonus and incentives
that could reach as high $10 million. It also voids the final two years of
Vick's previous contract, a massive six-year, $100 million deal that included
about $40 million in guaranteed money.

Keeping Vick around hardly seems like an innovative move by a coach defined --
at least by his acolytes -- by innovation.

In fact, it speaks more to just how little Kelly believes in Nick Foles,
Philadelphia's third round pick a year ago who replaced an injured and
ineffective Vick before fracturing his hand and missing the Birds' Week 17
game against the New York Giants.

A pure dropback passer, Foles is the classic square peg to Kelly's round hole
of an offense but going with a 32-year-old quarterback on the downside hardly
seems like the right tonic for a rebuilding team which just finished a dismal
4-12 season that cost Andy Reid his job.

Kelly paid some lip service to competition but that's all it was.

"There's an open competition," Kelly said. "Michael knows that. Nick knows
that. I think both have outstanding qualities in terms of being quarterbacks
in this league. I also know in this league you better have two. Who the
starting quarterback is to start the season off is going to be won on the
practice field."

Despite Kelly's narrative it's unlikely Vick would have agreed to redo his
deal to "compete" with Foles. In fact Vick made it abundantly clear at the end
of last season that he wanted to be a starter and Kelly appears to have
acquiesced.

"There's a skill set that Mike has that really excites me. ... I look at his
skill set, how he can throw the football, how he can beat you with his feet,"
the coach said.

For a guy who opened the press conference by talking about the evolution of
the game, Kelly seems more like a hard-headed creationist married to the high-
octane offense he ran on the college level at Oregon.

Logic says Vick is still agile and averaged 5.4 yards per carry last year
although that was his lowest rushing mark as a starter on the NFL level. A 22-
year-old Vick probably would fit Kelly's up-tempo, read-option based
scheme but the one who stands before the Eagles' coach in 2013 has a decade
of wear and tear on his famous wheels from his travails both on the field and
off of it.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Vick's performance has been trending down
for two years now. He threw for 2,362 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in his
fourth season with the Eagles in 2012 but spent most of his time producing
more turnovers than the local bakery before being sidelined for six games
after suffering a concussion against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 11.

Vick is currently the NFL's active leader in fumbles for a quarterback with 87
(losing 39) over 121 games. In his last 23 starts in Philadelphia, he has
thrown 24 interceptions and fumbled 21 times.

Maybe the Eagles new sports science coordinator, Shaun Huls, can explain all
that away.

Since arriving in Philly Kelly has talked a lot about scheming around
personnel but this move and the impending signing of Dennis Dixon indicate
that he's looking for the system fit, something Kelly denies.

"People look at the past, look at what I've done, and they try to paint it
with one brush," he said. "But it can't be said in one word what we do
offensively. It doesn't bother me how we score. It's how we move the football.
There have been games where we run it 50 times, and pass it 50 times."

Kelly's actions betray his words, however.

Mobility and athleticism are the only reasons the Eagles' new mentor just
chose Vick over Foles. That said, speed is only one of many attributes a
quarterback needs to run the read-option, pistol offense, Blazer package or
whatever else you might want to call it.

If it were the only one Joe Webb would be Robert Griffin III.

Vick did have the skill at one point to excel in this offense but he's no
longer version 1.0 of RG3. Today he is an injury-prone player who has lost a
step or two and struggles with ball security.

By September Vick will be 33 and for all the talk about his movement skills,
he's never played in this system before and he's never been the type of player
who enjoys doing the extra homework to get ready for a new scheme.

Vick's not the fit for Kelly in Philadelphia -- he's the placeholder, and
handing him the keys to the 2013 Eagles season hardly seems like evolutionary
thinking.
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