With the news that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly has been hired as the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, attention now turns to the most important issue facing the team in 2013: Who will play quarterback?
Some have assumed, based on the fact that Kelly ran a speed-based option offense in college, that hiring Kelly would increase the chances that the team keeps Michael Vick. After all, Vick is a running quarterback in the mold of the guys who've played for Kelly at Oregon, while Foles is more of a pocket guy who doesn't get outside the pocket and throw on the run. Simplistically, you can see how this makes sense.
But I don't think it necessarily does. First, there are the financial consequences of keeping Vick on the roster at his scheduled base salary of $15.5 million for 2013. The Eagles can get out of the contract scot-free if they cut him by Feb. 6. Vick has said he won't renegotiate for a lower salary. But with that deadline coming up, he could change his mind. It likely depends on whether Kelly wants him around.
I just don't think it's fair to assume that he does. First of all, if you're an intelligent NFL organization, you don't hire Chip Kelly because you like his dazzling, speed-based offense. You hire him because you believe him to be a nimble offensive mind who would have the wisdom to identify the best way to win in his new league with his new personnel and design an offense based on that. I personally believe Kelly fits the latter description and is smart enough to know that he's not going to win in the NFL the same way he won at Oregon, where he could recruit the fastest guys in the world and opposing defenses didn't have equivalent speed with which to counter it. Opposing defenses in the NFL are considerably faster than they are in the Pac-12. Considering what the Eagles are likely paying Kelly to change his mind and take the job a week and a half after turning it down, they'd better not be going all-in on the assumption that his college offense will translate to the pros.
Secondly, Vick isn't what he used to be. He's going to be 33 years old when the 2013 starts, which is 3 years older than he even was when he was running like crazy and putting up all kinds of points for the Eagles in 2010. To rely on Vick's speed as the basis for the offense is a mistake, and truth be told, it's one of the mistakes that just got Andy Reid fired from this same job. The idea behind the Eagles' offense the past two years was that it had enough speed on offense with Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to outrun people and operate dynamically. It didn't work, partly because Vick never developed his ability to read defenses, change protections and call the right audibles at the line. Vick's problem the past couple of years wasn't his ability to run -- it was his inability to make correct decisions, as well as his inability to protect the ball and keep himself healthy. It's hard to believe that's going to get any better under Kelly than it was under Reid. Especially as Vick ages and slows down.
And then there's this: Kelly knows Foles from coaching against him when Foles was at Arizona, and it's possible he really likes him. Here's a story from the Tucson Citizen in 2011 in which Kelly gushes over Foles:
“I’ll tell you what; I’m glad Nick Foles is graduating,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said after his team’s 56-31 victory Saturday night.
“I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. ... Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country.”
So if he wasn't blowing smoke there, it's possible Kelly's excited about the idea of Foles as his new quarterback and is planning to design an offense around him that doesn't necessarily match up with the offense he ran in college.
It's also possible he has something else in mind -- that the Eagles could draft a quarterback such as West Virginia's Geno Smith with that No. 4 overall pick they have. Or that he has someone in mind as a trade or free-agent target.
I just think people who are assuming Vick stays now because Kelly will want a quarterback who runs around are making a mistake. I think it's more complex than that.