Chip Kelly called it an “open quarterback competition,” yet most
of the discussion in the local and national media certainly isn’t painting it as
such, and a lot of fans don’t buy it, either.
News of Michael Vick renegotiating his contract to stay in
Philadelphia has been treated as a forecast that he will be the Eagles’ starting
signal caller in 2013. Nick Foles is already an afterthought, saddled with the
narrative that Kelly and the front office are showing little-to-no confidence
in his ability to develop into their franchise quarterback.
Either assessment seems a bit of a leap, and unsubstantiated
Oh, Vick could very well be the starter next season. He has
a contract that will pay him between $7 and $10 million for one year – $3.5 of
which is guaranteed – and Kelly wouldn’t be the first coach to fall in love
with Vick’s capabilities ala Dan Reeves, Jim Mora Jr., and Andy Reid before him.
Plus there’s this idea that Vick is simply a better fit for Kelly’s “system”
because it is designed for a mobile quarterback.
None of which is the be-all, end-all. Vick can still wind up
an expensive backup or be relocated, Kelly can still break from the path his
predecessors went down, and the “system” can and will be adapted.
Vick is still here for two reasons really, and first and
foremost is because he needed the Eagles as much as if not more than the team
needed him. You actually have to hand it to the guy for restructuring. If Vick
is cut or traded, his career likely would be over within one year, two at most,
because where’s he going to go? Buffalo? Jacksonville? Wherever it is, it’s
likely going to be with some joke franchise, the end result of which would not
At least Philadelphia has a first-rate organization in terms
of resources. If the Eagles don’t rebound to put a competitive product on the
field within the next few seasons, it won’t be for a lack of investment in the
coaching staff, scouting department, or facilities. Staying put gives Vick the
best possible opportunity to extend his career, and he recognized that.
The second reason he is back is because Kelly and the front
office felt they could not acquire another quarterback with more talent or
upside this offseason. You didn’t think they would just hand the keys over to
Foles then wash their hands of the situation, did you?
Had the Eagles released Vick, they were still going to need
to sign or draft somebody who not only can play if pressed into action, but
push Foles as well – unless of course you felt they should just sink or swim,
then pick at the top of the draft again when it doesn’t work out. Clearly the
organization would like to at least compete though.
There were options besides Vick, but none of them good, something
Kelly himself admitted. “You also have to look at what the landscape is out
there for other quarterbacks,” said the head coach while explaining the
rationale behind restructuring Vick. Translation: the draft is lacking in quarterback
talent, at least in terms of guys who can come in and help our team right away,
and the best we can do in free agency is Dennis Dixon.
Given those options, why not keep Vick for one year at a
lower cost? For all his flaws, nobody ever denied he is insanely gifted – and
yes, he can even win a few games, too.
But we’re already seeing the question posed as, “Is there a
scenario in which Vick doesn’t have a better training camp than Foles?” As if
Vick has been such an all-world quarterback in 10 NFL seasons, a Nick Foles
could not possibly unseat him.
Absolutely there is a scenario where Foles wins. Vick can’t
simply out-talent him. If it’s an actual competition, Vick needs to actually
outplay the kid – something much farther from a given than many observers seem
This is the part where we strictly speak in hypotheticals,
because it’s impossible to define exactly what Foles is after seven games,
especially given the state the offense was in by the time he took the reins.
However, we can project some of the things he was doing well against Vick’s
issues, which have gone largely unchanged since he came into the league.
If Foles can be the more accurate passer, if he demonstrates
greater awareness inside the pocket and makes faster decisions with the
football, he can win. Those are things he was already doing better than Vick
last season, behind the same patchwork offensive line, often without the luxury
of either LeSean McCoy or Desean Jackson in the lineup – sometimes both of them.
Accuracy, pocket presence, decision making – these are areas
Vick has never excelled, yet qualities that are important to any head coach
regardless of system or level of competition. Each one should be held in higher
regard than contract, talent, or athleticism.
Now just because we saw some things we really liked from
Foles in half a rookie season doesn’t mean they were all real, which takes us
back to having another quarterback in the mix. Likewise, he made enough
progress that certainly nobody should be writing him off, and let's not forget the fact that Howie Roseman was instrumental in the drafting of Foles. That third-round pick is a big investment to give up based on what the 24 year old showed last season.
There has always been this mystique about Vick because he was
a once-in-a-generation athlete, but he’s always been bested by conventional,
pocket passers in the NFL. Now for the first time in his life he has to go
head-to-head with one, and it doesn’t matter what kind of system it is, Vick
will actually have to outperform Foles to get on the field. Call me naive, but
I’m not entirely convinced that’s going to happen.
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