After a breakout 2010 season where he was a runner-up for the MVP award, it's safe to say that Michael Vick has been quite a disappointment with the Philadelphia Eagles. A seemingly fluke season was met by consistent turnovers, injuries and poor pocket presence. Despite all this, the Eagles seemed to defy all reason and kept Vick for the 2013 season.
But are the Eagles truly headed for disaster? While keeping Vick is not a popular move by any means, it may turn out to be the best decision.
Firstly, the Eagles can take a chance and see if a new head coach can get production out of him while grooming a young Nick Foles and waiting for a better quarterback draft class. But keeping Vick may not be just a practical decision. Under new head coach Chip Kelly, Vick may be poised to break out again in 2013 and have one of his finest seasons as an Eagle.
Neither Vick nor Kelly have made it a secret that they were interested in playing for each other. Kelly dedicated many weeks to studying Vick's film from 2012 before offering him a restructured contract, and Vick confidently proclaimed his ability to rush for 1,000 yards in Kelly's new system.
Vick's claim, of course, is to be taken with a grain of salt. But it seems to be apparent that, just as Vick wanted to play for Kelly, Kelly must also have a unique interest in Vick.
But why all the confidence? Well, let's take a look at the style of offense Kelly has coached in the past.
Ever since coming to the University of Oregon, Kelly has brought with him a very up-tempo and high-speed offensive attack that has created nightmares for defenses. The spread offense, which Kelly ran, was successful because it employed an agile running back paired with an agile quarterback.
With those personnel, Kelly used constant speed to overwhelm defenses. As a result, his offenses were always the best in college football and he consistently won games.
Here in Philly, he has the tools to be successful. He has one of the most agile, most elusive running backs in the game in LeSean McCoy. But most importantly, he has Vick, one of the most mobile quarterbacks in NFL history.
What makes Kelly's offense unique is that while he does have his quarterback in the pocket at times, he likes to have his quarterback on the run. He seems to view the threat of a designed quarterback run as one of the most lethal threats to a defense. Much of his success has come from quarterback play outside of the pocket.
In that case, Vick is perhaps one of the best options for Kelly. The most worrying aspect is the injury risk. But if Vick can stay healthy, he can be expected to play well because he plays best outside of the pocket. It is how he made a name for himself both at Virginia Tech and as an Atlanta Falcon.
For instance, a look at Vick's career shows that the amount of plays he makes outside of the pocket is correlative to the success of his team and his offense. It is when Vick is limited to playing in the pocket that he begins to struggle and negatively influence his team's performance.
Let's take a look at the seasons in which Vick had 100 or more rushing attempts:
In 2004, Vick had 120 rushing attempts and his team made the postseason, advancing all the way to the NFC Championship Game.
Throughout the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Vick had 102 and 123 rushing attempts respectively, and, while his team did not advance to the postseason, the Falcons offense ranked 12th overall, a huge jump from 20th in 2004.
And in 2010, Vick had 100 rushing attempts and led his offense to a second overall rank and to the postseason.
Was Keeping Vick the Right Decision?
If we look at seasons where Vick had fewer than 100 rushing attempts, his team success drastically decreases. In 2011 and 2012, Vick managed only 76 and 62 rushing attempts respectively, and his team failed to make the postseason both times.
The following season, 2012, Vick's Eagles team managed only the 15th-ranked offense, a sharp decline from the second- and fourth-ranked offenses in 2010 and 2011.
History tells us that the most important component to Vick's game is allowing him to leave the pocket and make plays with his natural athletic ability. When he is kept in the pocket, either by a play call or by a defense, he and his team will struggle.
Because Andy Reid tried to mold him into a pocket passer in 2011 and 2012, the past two seasons were met with disastrous results. In every successful season that Vick has been a part of, he has had a significant role running the ball, and Reid took away Vick's biggest strength in an attempt to improve him.
Kelly, on the other hand, is a coach who likes to draw up quarterback running plays. Therefore, we can expect Vick to return to his natural style of play. As Vick will be asked to run more, his play should improve and so will the play of the entire offense.
The biggest question mark will be whether or not Vick can stay healthy. If Vick can stay upright, however, the Eagles could be in for a quicker turnaround than anyone could have anticipated.