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Maybe they’re overly optimistic. Maybe they have oversized egos.
Maybe they’re just delusional.
Maybe it’s a mixture of all three, but two of the Eagles’ most significant offensive coaches under Chip Kelly are at the very least giving the impression that they possess the know-how to get Michael Vick playing more like the 2010 version than the turnover-producing, sack-inviting quarterback from the past two seasons.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor sat down with the media on Monday and faced plenty of questions about Vick, who earlier in the day had agreed to a contract restructure that guaranteed the veteran quarterback at least the chance to compete for the starting job.
Both coaches held back on forecasting their ability to recreate Vick into a fearsome NFL weapon who was once in the same tax bracket as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but neither hid his belief that Vick could be rebuilt into something better than the quarterback who is 10-13 in his past 23 starts.
“What I do know about Michael is this: He’s got an outstanding skill set. He’s an extremely tough player and he’s won football games,” Shurmur said. “So we’re looking forward to working with him.
“What’s nice for Michael is this is going to be a nice opportunity for him to get change without leaving town. I think that’s going to be important for him. At times for all of us, a change of scenery is good. This will be a little bit of a change, but this will be familiar for him.”
The Eagles can cut Vick today and owe him only $3.5 million, but every indication from Monday’s media buffet with the new staff suggested that Kelly and his coaches expect Vick to legitimately battle with second-year pro Nick Foles -- and anyone else who hops aboard -- for the starting job.
Although he made no promises that Vick would start or wouldn’t be dealt, new coach Chip Kelly said he liked Vick’s competitive thirst and skill set and hoped to have Vick around in 2013.
“I’ve been around Michael,” said Lazor, now a three-time NFL quarterbacks coach whose first NFL coaching job came as an offensive quality control coach under Falcons coach Dan Reeves in 2003, Vick’s third year in Atlanta and second as a starter. “I remember going to training camp at Furman when we were at the Falcons and having a chance to see him do things on the practice field. I saw him do some things I hadn’t seen people do in person very much, so I know what Michael’s skills are.
“So, first, I know he could be successful. I haven’t watched every single game from last year but I’ve watched enough to know that he’s a talented guy, that there are a lot of positives and that he can do it.”
This could be all be hyperbole wrapped in a pretty ribbon as the Eagles look for a better way to deal Vick, who became much more tradeable after having his paycheck reduced from nearly $16 million, but this more likely is the opinion of an entirely fresh set of eyes zeroing in on a once-dynamic quarterback who, even as he approaches 33, still has the supernatural athleticism and supreme arm strength that coaches and scouts usually salivate over.
For a few million dollars -- chump change to an NFL team at the quarterback position -- it was worth it to Kelly and his staff to see if they couldn’t succeed where Andy Reid and his staff failed over the last two seasons.
Lazor has studied only some of Vick’s game tape from the past two seasons, but he’s seen enough to know that, at very least, the foundation is there.
“Michael, in my opinion, it’s a little bit hard [to tell] on video compared to once you start working in person, but on video it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of difference from 2003 as far as arm strength and the zip that the ball has,” Lazor added. “I see some really accurate throws down the field. I see the ability to set his feet. He’s the kind of athlete that can do anything.”
For as long as he’s with the team Vick will work closely with Shurmur, who was once Donovan McNabb’s position coach for seven seasons under Reid, and with Lazor, a former quarterbacks coach for the Redskins (2006-07) and Seahawks (2008-09).
Vick could also potentially discover his renaissance in the system that Kelly, an offensive mastermind at the college ranks, designs at the NFL level. His offense won’t be a carbon copy of the spread option attack that made Oregon an offensive juggernaut, but Kelly’s visionary offensive tactics convinced Lazor and Shurmur to work for someone who has never coached above the college level.
Lazor and Shurmur each admitted that they were less concerned about Vick’s film over the past two years and more curious about the quarterback’s willingness to embrace Kelly’s blueprint the way they did.
“We just really believe he wants to do what it takes to win,” Shurmur said. “He’s got the skill and ability that it takes to do it. I don't know if it's rebuilding. I think it's going to be very new from what he was trained to do because systematically it's going to be different. But I think it's something that we'll teach it in a way where he'll be able to pick it up quickly and get out there and do what he does."
Make no mistake, neither coach ruled out Foles or dropped any clues about Vick having the early leg up in the competition. Shurmur scouted Foles last year as Browns head coach, although he ended up drafting Brandon Weeden in the first round. Lazor has watched tape of all three Eagles quarterbacks, including Trent Edwards.
Part of the intrigue for both assistants is seeing which quarterback performs best when the competition starts and then designing -- or redesigning -- the offense to custom fit the guy they ultimately settle on coming out of training camp.
“They both have an outstanding skill set,” Shurmur said. “They both probably athletically are a little different, but I think what is more important is we use the quarterbacks to the best of their ability. The system is very flexible and with all the great minds we have in the room now, we’ll develop a system that works for us and for them.”