We’ve talked about a lot of possibilities for the 2013 Eagles. One that we haven’t really gotten into much is this…what if Michael Vick has a good season?
I didn’t want Vick brought back. He’s been highly erratic over the last 2 seasons. I was tired of the turnovers, missed reads, and questionable decisions. I wanted a change. Didn’t happen
Back in early February the Eagles restructured his contract and brought Vick back. This move was made in part because the Eagles didn’t know what to do. Chip Kelly had only been the coach for a few weeks. He hadn’t made extensive plans for the offense he would run. The Scouting Combine hadn’t taken place so Kelly and the coaches had minimal draft knowledge and hadn’t met many players. Kelly hadn’t had a chance to talk football with Nick Foles, let alone see him on the practice field. There was a lot of uncertainty at QB and one safe move would be to bring Vick back on a lesser deal that would give the Eagles the freedom to cut him if they changed their mind. Vick got $3.5M up front so that’s a nice parting gift if the Eagles do let him go. Win-win.
When you go back and study what Kelly likes in QBs, Vick doesn’t stack up all that well. He takes too many sacks. He turns the ball over. He doesn’t make quick decisions. Plenty of people thought Vick would be a good fit for Kelly, but that was strictly due to his athleticism and the perception that he would be good with the read-option. Vick ran some option at Virginia Tech, but that was a very different offense and Vick didn’t always make great decisions. His explosiveness is what led to the long runs, not a precision option play. The Falcons mixed in the read-option in 2006. At that time, it was very new to the NFL and it was very effective. Vick became the first QB to rush for more than 1,000 yards. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry. Interestingly, he only ran for 2 TDs.
The read-option is no longer new to the NFL. Just running it won’t mean a thing. You must execute it well. When you do that, as SF showed last year vs GB, you can have an explosive running offense. That then opens up the whole playbook and really puts the defense in a bind. Tim Tebow ran some option for Denver in 2011. That offense struggled mightily. Tebow has never been great at running the option. His first instinct is to keep the ball. The best option QBs are good decision-makers first and foremost. Think about guys like Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch at Nebraska 10 to 15 years ago. That offense was lethal because they knew when to keep it and when to pitch it. Watch Colin Kaepernick at Nevada or SF. He is an excellent decision-maker.
I have no idea what Kelly will think of Vick and the option. Kelly doesn’t just want good results. He wants things done a certain way, so that you can count on getting those results in future games. If Vick can make the read and execute the option the way Kelly wants it, that will make the Eagles offense interesting. With Va Tech and Atlanta, Vick felt the need to be the playmaker. In Kelly’s offense, he wants the QB to be a threat and occasional playmaker, but would much prefer the RB to be the primary runner.
The fascinating angle here is to see how Vick takes to Kelly’s coaching. Vick the lazy, uncoachable player is long since gone. He now works hard. He wants to be good. The problem that Vick faces now is one that plagues all veteran players…adjusting to new ideas. Donovan McNabb didn’t want to do things Mike Shanahan or Leslie Frazier’s way. He was used to Andy Reid’s style. Brett Favre was tough on the coaches of the Jets and the Vikings because he was used to doing things his way. Marty Schottenheimer had half of the Redskins team ready to quit back in 2001 because they didn’t like the way he wanted to do things.
Vick is a bit different in that his time in prison humbled him. Most star players have an enormous sense of entitlement. They’ve done things a certain way and that helped make them stars. Changing is hard. It goes against what they know and trust. Vick changed when he got to Philly. Can he now change again?
Kelly is coming from Oregon, where he had a great track record in getting QBs quickly acclimated to his offense and finding out the best way to use them. Senior Dennis Dixon was a Heisman candidate in 2007, his only season with Kelly. Sophomore Jeremiah Masoli took over the next year. He was a runner (10 TDs) as much as he was a passer (13 TDs). Kelly made that work and Oregon was 7th in the nation in yards and points. Sophomore Darron Thomas took over in 2010. He was more of a passer (30 TDs) than a runner (5 TDs) and Kelly adjusted for that. Oregon led the nation in yards and points. In 2012 it was Redshirt Freshman Marcus Mariota who took over. He threw for 32 TDs and proved to be a very capable passer. Mariota is also a gifted runner. He only ran for 5 TDs, but averaged 7 yards per carry (remember that sacks adjust that figure down). Oregon’s offense was 5th in yards and 2nd in scoring.
Kelly had 4 “new” starting QBs in his time at Oregon. They all thrived. Now he gets Vick. It is possible that Vick will take to Kelly’s coaching and turn out to be a good fit for the offense. One of the reasons that Vick held the ball in the last 3 years is that Andy Reid loved the big play. Kelly wants to run the ball and throw quick passes. That should take pressure off Vick and put him in a more favorable situation.
The flip side is that Vick is truly fighting for his job, something that hasn’t really happened to him since…junior high or elementary school. Vick got the starting job in 2010 based on a couple of games. He wasn’t in a QB competiton. Vick has always been a QB that looked erratic in practice, but games brought out the best in him. That won’t cut it this time around. A QB needs to emerge after the first couple of preseason games. That means the foundation has to be laid in May, June, and July. You can’t wait for the games. You must practice well.
The competition may bring out the best in Vick. Or the worst. Dealing with Kelly might prove to be a breath of fresh air. Or it could prove to be incredibly frustrating. We know Vick has the physical gifts to succeed in Kelly’s offense. What we’ll find out is if Vick has the QB skills and discipline to play in Kelly’s offense. Last year the most points the team scored with Vick was 24. Kelly would go nuts if his starting QB did that. Vick is going to have to fight just to get the job, but he will also be under pressure to keep it. Too many turnovers and not enough points will mean that you are hitting the bench, maybe the road.
I really am curious to see how this all plays out. Heck, this would be fascinating if it was the Arizona Cardinals and not our beloved Eagles. Chip Kelly is a really interesting coach and Michael Vick might be older, but he still has moments when your jaw just hits the floor and you say “wow”. Can Kelly bring out the best in Vick? We thought Andy Reid did in 2010, but that proved to be fool’s gold.
I have very mixed feelings in regard to Vick. Part of me would love to see him have a good year. That would mean the Eagles will be fun to watch and it would also mean winning some games. Another part of me wants Vick to struggle this summer so that one of the young guys can get the job. This isn’t personal with Vick. I just don’t know that I’ll ever fully trust him again. If he does play well in 2013, can you count on him to repeat that in 2014? I don’t want a good year. I want a good QB.
Eagles fans bought in back in 2010. Vick looked special. That made the erratic 2011 season so frustrating. But then I knew 2012 would be different. Boy, was I right…but in the wrong direction. There are lots of different things that hurt Vick in 2012, but the bottom line is that he simply didn’t play well. It isn’t like he had Charles Johnson and Darnell Autry out there with him. For whatever reason, Vick never looked right last year and that goes back to the preseason.
The biggest downside to Vick playing well would be his contract. He is here on a 1-year deal. If Vick lights it up, do you then sign him to another big deal? That would be a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
Vick can have a good year in 2013. Heck, he can have a great year. The potential is there. It really is up to him to show what he can do. Kelly is new to the NFL and there is no guarantee he’ll win, but I think his offensive track record is so strong that you can feel confident that the Eagles will move the ball and score points. Kelly has had success with all kinds of QBs: short, tall, slow, fast, runners, passers, black, white, West coast kids, East coast kids, etc, etc, etc. Kelly will adapt his system to fit the QB and the offensive players. He will find a way to make it work. All the QB has to do is execute the offense, not turn the ball over, and play smart.
Sounds easy, right?