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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Kelly puts his chips on risky Vick

By Phil Sheridan


PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly said he had no preconceptions about Michael Vick when he accepted the Eagles' coaching job.

That would make him the only one.

There is no shortage of opinions about the 33-year-old quarterback who is on his fifth NFL life.

There was the young, video-game-flashy prodigy in Atlanta. There was the dogfighting-ring runner who shamed himself and the league. There was the post-prison redemption story who blazed back onto the scene with a stunning series of games in 2010. And there was the injury-prone enigma whose turnover-filled performances helped lead to Andy Reid's dismissal.

And now there is the 2013 model. Reborn again.

“I had no preconceived notions,” Kelly said. “It’s tough to judge somebody [based on video]. You don’t know what he was asked to do by his coaches.”

Kelly and the Eagles decided in the offseason to bring Vick back on a restructured contract. The coach created a quarterback competition with 24-year-old Nick Foles, a 2012 third-round pick who started six games last season.

On Tuesday, Kelly announced that he would begin his tenure as an NFL coach with all of his chips on Vick.

“It was a healthy competition,” Kelly said. “I think Mike is ahead right now. Nick made it very difficult, though. It wasn’t where one guy went north and one guy went south. I think they both upped their games. But at this point in time, Mike’s ahead.

“And this is a one-quarterback operation. This isn’t going to be, someone’s got to look over their shoulder or we’re going to rotate by series.”

The decision can be seen as both obvious -- Vick has more experience, more accomplishments, and a skill set better suited to Kelly’s offense -- and somewhat puzzling. Kelly has said he wants to win right away, but it is likely to take him a season or two to rebuild the Eagles from the wreckage of 4-12 into a Super Bowl contender.

In that case, going with the younger Foles would seem to make more sense.

But when Reid inherited a 3-13 Eagles team and rebuilt around first-round pick Donovan McNabb, he had veteran backup Doug Pederson start for half of McNabb’s rookie season. Although Kelly emphasized that Vick will be the starter for the season -- “It’s not a one-game trial,” he said -- there is every chance that Foles and even rookie Matt Barkley will see the field by the end of the season.

Due to various injuries, Vick has started just 23 of a possible 32 games the past two seasons.

“In this league,” Kelly said, “you’d better have a couple quarterbacks ready to go.”

Like Reid, Jim Mora and Dan Reeves before him, Kelly is putting his faith in Vick. So while he isn’t the first coach to believe he can consistently harness Vick’s remarkable talent, he almost certainly will be the last.

The only mystery is whether he can be the first to succeed -- and survive.