Michael Vick is 13 for 15 for 199 yards in two preseason games. (USA Today Images)
LeSean McCoy had sensed that Mick Vick had pulled ahead in the competition to decide the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
He just didn’t expect the race to end Tuesday, with Chip Kelly informing the media before practice that Vick had outlasted Nick Foles.
“I’m actually shocked and surprised that he picked it so soon,” McCoy said after practice, “knowing we had two [preseason] games left. But I kind of felt it though, because the season is right around the corner. Everyone is amped up. Eventually, I knew it had to come out.”
McCoy wasn’t the only one surprised when the word spread. DeSean Jackson said he found out when the news scrolled across the TV. Brent Celek didn’t know until a reporter had informed him. Jason Kelce also had no idea until reporters stopped by his locker.
The biggest decision of Kelly’s first training camp was also the best-kept secret.
"But I am very excited for Mike,” Kelce said. “I've worked with him before, he's an outstanding football player, and I was going to be all for whatever coach decided. I'm excited to work with No. 7 again."
Eagles players seemed less surprised by the outcome than the timing. Kelly had said he was willing to go all four preseason games before deciding upon a starter.
DeSean Jackson, Vick’s favorite deep-ball target, said Kelly’s decision to tab Vick this early enables the first-team offense to be more prepared when the season opens Sept. 9 against the Redskins at FedEx Field.
Vick and Foles had been splitting reps throughout the spring camps and training camp. Vick will now get the majority of work with the first offense and play at least one half Saturday night against Jacksonville.
“When you don’t know it’s just really hard to honestly get a feeling for who is going to be your quarterback once you go out there,” the Pro Bowl wideout said. “And just switching back and forth sometimes you get out of rhythm and things like that.
“It definitely would have been tough [if Kelly didn’t name a starter until days before the opener], but Chip is the head man. We’re going into our third preseason game right here. It’s critical for our starters to play three quarters and just go out there and get into game mode.”
Several players said they would have been comfortable with whomever Kelly picked, but Vick’s athleticism, leadership and maturity throughout camp were cited frequently by his teammates for why they believed Vick won the job.
Vick, who completed 80 percent of his passes in the first two preseason games, led the starting offense to touchdowns on two of his four series and his only turnover came on a harmless Hail Mary before halftime.
“I’m happy with either Mike or Nick,” McCoy said. “Coach Kelly thinks right now Mike is the guy, and I believe so. Mike, he’s ready. For one, he’s Mike Vick. He’s a good player. He’s a great teammate.
“The competition has really shown his leadership, knowing that, ‘I’m not the starter each day, I come out and compete and compete and compete.’ Mike probably hasn’t competed this much since, what, his rookie year in Atlanta?
“I felt like both quarterbacks were playing well. I felt like Mike had the edge, just making so many different plays, running it, throwing it, all his completions. I think he only missed two passes, which is amazing.”
One of Vick’s passes sailed 47 yards and landed in the hands of Jackson for a touchdown in the opener against New England. Most of his other passes were sharp and crisp as he led Kelly’s fast-paced offense and moved the chains mostly with good decisions and accurate throws, not the kind of crazy, impromptu scrambles that were once his signature.
“Since day one, I honestly thought he fit this offense the best,” Jackson said. “He’s able to go out there, still use his feet, still throw the ball 80 yards downfield, things like that. I think he’s still as fast as his first game in the league. He lets his game talk for itself and he goes out there and proves it.”
The decision to start Vick gives the Eagles feared playmakers and Pro Bowl talent at three major skill position spots on offense -- quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Not to mention Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters clearing paths for all three.
“We got a bunch of speed. We got a bunch of talent,” McCoy said. “It’s time to do something with it.”
Eagles fans will get their first glimpse of all four of those starts playing at the same time Saturday in Kelly’s high-octane offense in Jacksonville on Saturday. That figured to be the game for Kelly to finally make his quarterback judgment for the regular season, but the new coach put all speculation to rest early.
"I've learned real quick to never be surprised at anything that's going on with Chip and the way he handles things,” Kelce said. “He's not going to do it the way people want. He's going to do it in a methodical process, and if he feels he's ready to make a decision, I'm all for it."