- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The easy and obvious analysis says that Michael Vick fits what Chip Kelly wants in a quarterback because he's fast. Everything Kelly did at Oregon was fast so obviously he's going to want a fast quarterback now that he's coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. And there's been no shortage of such analysis since Kelly was hired to coach the Eagles and especially since Vick re-signed with them.
But here at the NFC East blog, we like to try, when possible, to look beyond the easy and obvious. This is why we like to read people like Tim McManus, who has written this piece on his site, Birds 24/7. Tim has taken the extraordinary step of comparing the way Vick has actually played quarterback throughout his career to the way Kelly has said he needs his quarterbacks to play. And his conclusion is that, in order to fit what Kelly wants, Vick is going to have to change the way he plays:
Whether at Virginia Tech, Atlanta or in Philadelphia, Vick’s “signature football” has come while extending the play. There will surely be some room for that in Kelly’s system -- allowing the creator to create -- but it doesn’t sound like he wants to make a habit out of it.
If Vick is at his best when extending the play, and Kelly wants a quarterback who gets the ball out quickly, where does that leave us?
“I don’t know what he’s been asked to do in the past, but that’s our job as coaches where he can get the ball out quickly, because we have some play makers on the offensive side of the ball that are going to flourish when we get the ball in their hands,” said Kelly. “So that’s on us as coaches. [It's] not on the quarterback.”
But ultimately, it is.
Indeed it is, and this is why I think there's at least a slim chance that Vick doesn't even make it to the regular-season opener as the Eagles' starting quarterback. If what Kelly wants is a quarterback who unloads the ball in 1.5 seconds, and Vick is a guy who averaged 3.07 last year, it's pretty hard to imagine how that works. Vick is going to be 33 by the time training camp starts -- not exactly a malleable time in a quarterback's development. He is what he is. And whatever Kelly's got planned in terms of speeding up the offense, simplifying the game plan or leaning more on the run game, there are still going to be times when it comes down to what Vick does under duress. And when Vick is under duress, Vick does not unload the ball. He keeps the ball, proudly believing he has the ability to turn the busted play into something great. And sometimes, he does. But too many times, he turns it over. And that's what Kelly can't abide.
I think the Vick-Kelly marriage will depend on the ability of the new coach to maximize what Vick does well (which is many things) and minimize the damage done by the things Vick does poorly. But Vick's weaknesses generally lead to turnovers, injuries and other calamities, and it's hard to imagine a way to minimize the damage those things do. Maybe Kelly's that good, but he's going to have to be. Because Vick is what he is, and there's nothing we've seen from him, ever, to make us believe he's going to change the way he plays football.