As new head coach Chip Kelly tries to reverse the fortunes of the Philadelphia Eagles, the former Oregon head man and read-option guru may just find that one of the keys to the turnaround is already on the roster.
Quarterback Michael Vick had been rumored to be on his way out of Philadelphia after a disastrous 2012 campaign, but the hiring of Kelly was believed to have increased the chances that Vick might hang around.
Whether that will be the case remains to be seen, but one of the first steps that Kelly took after taking the Philadelphia job was to meet with Vick. From what Kelly told Lindsay Jones of USA Today, that meeting went well:
"It was kind of, sit down, tell me about yourself. See where he's coming from. I really liked my meeting with Mike," Kelly said.
Next up is evaluating how Vick fits in with Kelly's up-tempo offense. According to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, the Eagles have no intention of rushing that decision, even though $3 million of Vick's $16.5 million salary for 2013 becomes guaranteed on February 6th.
That's a wise decision. Relatively speaking, $3 million isn't a huge amount of coin in the NFL, and according to Chris Wesseling via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, if another team signs him for more in free agency (assuming Vick is later released), that team would then cover the payment.
Even if the Eagles are on the hook for the money, it's still a smart move. Rushed decisions often end up being bad decisions. Take your time. If that means you have to pay the $3 million, then do so.
The next smart decision that Kelly and the Eagles need to make is keeping Vick on the roster for at least one more year.
Granted, Vick's last two years in Philadelphia have been far from stellar. In each of the past two seasons, the 11-year veteran has completed less than 60 percent of his passes, and over that stretch, Vick has more turnovers than touchdowns.
However, it's not like Vick's transcendent 2010 season was a million years ago, and even at 32, Vick remains one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL when running with the football—a staple of Kelly's offenses at Oregon.
And that's the thing. Unless Kelly is planning major changes to his offense, there isn't a better option available to him right now at quarterback than Vick.
Sure, Kelly said he's a "huge fan" of Nick Foles, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of The Newark Star-Ledger, but the fact is that Foles is much more of a traditional dropback passer than we're used to seeing in a Chip Kelly offense.
The free-agent class at quarterback this year is terrible. The Baltimore Ravens aren't letting Joe Flacco go anywhere. Acquiring Alex Smith would likely require working out a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, who probably aren't going to just let Smith walk (his request to be released notwithstanding).
Never mind that both of those players are also more "traditional" quarterbacks.
That leaves the draft, and frankly, there isn't much more there than there is in free agency.
None of the members of this year's crop of rookie signal-callers appear to be a "can't miss" franchise quarterback. Using the fourth overall pick on a player such as West Virginia's Geno Smith is an awfully risky move for a team that has plenty of other needs—especially if it shifts to a 3-4 defense.
That leads us back to Vick.
The smart play is to give him one more year while looking to the middle of the draft for a possible "quarterback of the future" who can spend his first NFL season holding a clipboard and learning Kelly's offense.
Of course, much of this would likely hinge on Vick's willingness to restructure his contract and take a pay cut. Vick told Jeff McClane of The Philadelphia Inquirer back in December that he was not amenable to doing so.
However, that's as likely as not to have been posturing, and a tune that would all but certainly change if Vick thought he'd be starting for the Eagles in 2013.
If Vick can cut down on the turnovers and get a quick grasp of Kelly's offense, then it would seem to be a good fit. A chance for Vick to once again rise from the ashes and excel in the NFL.
If he faceplants, then you yank him, insert Foles or your shiny new rookie and start the rebuild under center.
That would certainly seem to make more sense than trying to tailor the offense around a quarterback that doesn't fit it or throwing a rookie out there who isn't ready. The guess here is that, by the time Kelly has finished his evaluation, that's a conclusion he'll share.
From there, the rest will be up to Michael Vick.
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