MOBILE, Ala. -- Five years ago, Chip Kelly tried to sell E.J. Manuel on the prospect of spearheading the explosive University of Oregon offense.
Tempting, but one problem. To run the Oregon offense, Manuel would have to attend school in Oregon.
I wanted to, man. But it was far, Manuel, the record-setting quarterback from Florida State, said Wednesday. Im from Virginia, so thats clear across the country and obviously Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was the main person I wanted to play for. But I was really intrigued by coach Kelly. It was a great program, had great uniforms. That was something I liked as well. It was just too far.
Fast forward to 2013.
Kelly is the Eagles newest head coach, headquartered in South Philly and attempting to introduce his innovative college offense -- or some variation of it -- into the NFL. Manuel, one of the six quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl, is willing to relocate anywhere for the chance to be an NFL quarterback.
This time, Kelly needs no sales pitch. Just a draft pick.
When I first met him I was a high school guy, I didnt really know his offense, Manuel said. Obviously, watching him when I was in college ... very electric. Put a lot of points on the board. Thats the kind of offense people want to see on TV. I think if he brings that to the NFL hell bring life back to Philadelphia. Id love to be a part of it.
Manuel met with Kelly for 15 minutes Monday night as the 50 or so draft prospects involved in the Senior Bowl are funneled into meeting rooms and then ushered from one interview to another -- speed-dating style -- with the coaching staffs and personnel departments of almost every NFL team.
The Eagles have also met with two other quarterbacks -- West Chesters Ryan Nassib, a fast-rising prospect from Syracuse, and Arkansas Tyler Wilson -- and it can be safely assumed that each of the six will have sat down with Kelly and his staff before Saturdays game.
Manuel is perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the six because of his skill set and his potential in the offense Kelly plans to run. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound former Seminole passed for more than 3,000 yards this past season, rushed for more than 300 yards, totaled 27 touchdowns and left with Florida States career accuracy record.
Given the success this year of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, three quarterbacks with great mobility and different draft pedigrees, it stands to reason that changes in the NFL game have helped boost Manuels stock.
Those guys are still throwing the ball vertically down the field at a high level, so you cant just say theyre runners, Manuel said. Theyre throwing the ball great and theyre still running great and thats whats breaking the defenses back out there.
Although the book on Manuel is that his accuracy dips in the face of heavy pressure and that his delivery isnt textbook, those flaws could potentially be masqueraded by an offense designed to capitalize on his ability to take off or just the threat of taking off, which is an advantage Kelly has discussed several times in the past week.
The Seminoles incorporated some of the same read-option concepts that have become trendy in the college ranks and are catching on for some NFL teams with mobile quarterbacks.
Just the fact that I can do the read option as far as reading the defensive end and doing the run off it or still throwing the bubble screen outside or doing the vertical game, Manuel said. I did a lot of that at Florida State. We didnt run the same exact offense as far as the option or the spread but I know I could do it. It would be an easy transition for me.
Manuel said the Noles went no-huddle about 70 percent of the time and preferred to line up without at least 13, 14 seconds left on the play clock, and then that way I could declare my middle linebacker, point out my sight adjustments, things like that.
Its unknown right now if Kelly is sold on the three quarterbacks the Eagles currently have under contract in Mike Vick, Nick Foles and Trent Edwards. Although the buzz around Mobile is that Kelly will lean toward a cleaner slate and seek someone from outside the roster to lead his offense, general manager Howie Roseman cautioned against jumping the gun.
He hasnt had the chance to watch tape, Roseman said. He does have a very good impression of the people on our roster. He has coached against Nick obviously. Everyone has watched Mike. He did coach against Trent, too, at one point when Trent was at Stanford. I think for him, he just wants to get behind closed doors, lock himself in, watch tape, come out and say, Lets have a discussion.
Until then, the Eagles are doing diligence here in Mobile with the crop of quarterbacks, a group of passers that noticeably lacks West Virginias Geno Smith and USCs Matt Barkley, two projected first-rounders who both decided to pass on invitations to play.
Manuel, currently projected as a mid-to-late round pick, seemed to think hes exactly the kind of guy for Kellys scheme and practically lobbied for the position.
I know I can do his offense, Manuel said. I hope he gives me the opportunity to play for him and kind of build the Eagle tradition back up. That would be nice.
Manuel didnt elaborate on what he and Kelly discussed Monday night but called the interview awesome and reflected on the time when Kelly once tried to lure him to across the country.
It was awesome just seeing him again, Manuel added. It wasnt like I had just met him for the first time. I had known him well for five years now. I was happy to see the success he had as a head coach at Oregon and Im sure hell do the same in the NFL.
Manuel also said he sensed that Kelly was fully committed to the Eagles and had put the college game behind.
Hes all ready to go, Manuel added I just hope he gives me an opportunity.