Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vick Makes A Deal, And Philly Fan Loses His Mind

More of this. No, seriously.
The shortest honeymoon on record continues here in Philly, where Eagles coach Chip Kelly just made a sizable percentage of Eagles Nation lose their damn minds by... seemingly persuading and presiding over QB Michael Vick taking a deal to stay in town for the next three years, or more likely, one, assuming things don't go well. (And, well, they probably won't. Always bet on fail, folks. Especially with a team that went 4-12 last year.)

The deal makes the nation's fantasy honks happy, since Vick is more intriguing than statutory Nick Foles under center, and even more happy since any honk worth his salt is going to steer clear of Vick as anything beyond a depth QB2 play, and watch some loser overdraft him. It's also made every Eagle Fan I know wonder if Kelly is trying to make us all hate him before a single snap. (Seriously, the Shooter Mom is willing to forgo our annual road trip to see the team. She's Not Happy, and sounds like she's ready to lead the drive to get the team to trade Kelly to Jacksonville for Gus Bradley. Anyhoo.)

Let's get back to the actual mechanics of this, and I'll try to talk my fellow fans off the ledge. There's one really good sentence for that. Here's what Kelly said at the press conference announcing the deal...

"There's open competition. Both of them are outstanding quarterbacks. Who the starting quarterback is will be decided on the practice field."

So, um, folks? Given that statement... I can almost talk myself into this. Since here's the other options that were available to the new coach...

1) Give Foles the job without him, well, actually earning it, or facing any real competition.

This was never going to happen for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that Foles isn't Kelly's draft pick, and the dude won all of one game last year, albeit with a threadbare offensive line, second-string skill players and a defense and special teams that found spectacular new ways to quit every week. Foles did some things well (full spectrum of throws, courage in the pocket, clock management), but in the not so grand panoply of Eagle QBs, bet on his career line being more like Bobby Hoying than Ron Jaworski. Also, he's glacial in the footspeed.

2) Give Vick the job without any real competition.

This is even crazier than giving the job straight out to Foles. Vick is 33, concussion-prone, two years removed from his last really good stretch of football, and about as polarizing a player as we've ever seen in an Eagles uniform. I get why Kelly wants to take a shot with him; there hasn't been a coach alive that's looked at Vick's better moments and hasn't thought he can make everything right. Also, when you look at the coach's upbringing, age and self-confidence, you can see why he doesn't give a damn about what people might want in regards to a fresh start. (And if he can actually get him making good decisions quickly and running an up-tempo offense, I'll be as amazed as if he stays healthy. But anyway, moving on.)

Kelly thinks a fresh start is winning games. The team is 12-20 in the last two years. Winning games is all the fresh start that anyone needs.

3) Draft Geno Smith, who is likely to be there with the 4th overall pick.

Gahhh. Independent of the myriad number of doubts that many people who watch a lot more indentured servant ball than I do have about Smith, the plain and simple fact is that no one thinks this is a great QB draft, and part of the fun of bringing in Kelly is that you give yourself a chance of replicating that Colin Kaepernick / Russell Wilson level magic of going deep in the playoffs with a lower-than-usual pick under center. And, well, this was a 4-win team last year with cause. They need help at at least five locations in front of QB.

4) Sign someone with a history with Kelly (Dennis Dixon is the one people keep bringing up) and go all Doug Pederson here.

Well, OK: it's a way to save your contract dollars for the rest of the roster, and personally, I think Dixon can win games in the NFL, He did beat Baltimore while with the Steelers, after all. But the dude can't stay healthy, and he's going to come cheap enough to be your #3 guy, so it's not really germane to the rest of the conversation. Besides, if the season comes down to the #3 guy, you aren't going anywhere. So don't sweat this, really.

5) Trade for, or sign, a guy.

Look at the available options. Alex Smith is going to cost more -- a lot more -- than he's worth. Seattle's probably keeping Matt Flynn to be safe. The Raiders are likely to release Carson Palmer, but Carson Palmer's secretly horrible, and would die in this town, behind this line. Ryan Fitzpatrick's 15 minutes of fame are likely up, and aren't going to start again here. There are six other names that I could rattle off that will make anyone who roots for the laundry cringe like they've bitten a lemon, then ground the pulp in their eyes.

Simply put, hell and no. Taking one last spin with Vick is as good a gamble or better than any of these other options.

* * * * *

So what this really comes down to is four points, three of them happy.

First, that Kelly did a fine job of selling himself on Vick, or that the QB doesn't think he was going to do well on the open market. I thought he'd go elsewhere, because there are four places (Jets, Cardinals, Chiefs, Bills) where I think he could start for good coin, and a dozen where he could be a back up on a likely playoff team. Kelly was able to convince Vick to stay with a train wreck for less money, with no guarantee of a starting role. That's not a bad indication that he's lost the recruiting touch, as it were, or that this team is going to be boots up when it comes to adding free agents. (And yes, I know, free agents are fighting words in town now. They'll still need to sign a bunch.)

Second, that making Foles earn the job really isn't a bad thing. Look at the kid, for heaven's sake; he telegraphs passes, cuts his hair by passing helicopter, and has to be able to do something in his early 20s to increase his foot speed, because no young guy should ever be that damned slow. He was a third round pick for a reason, folks. Make him sweat, make him work, make him spend every day of the next few years vowing to make every team pay and pay bitterly for passing him up. Just giving him the gig would have been the *worst* thing you could have done for him.

Third, this really kills any chance that the team is going to spend a high pick or big dollars on a QB this year. I was living in fear of a Ryan Nassib reach in the early second round; that's not going to happen now. When this team loads up on multiple plus defenders and linemen in the upcoming draft, remember that they were able to do that by locking down Vick for relatively low coin.

Fourth and final, no one -- and that includes Kelly -- really knows how this will work out. Vick has come back from professional oblivion twice now; a third time isn't impossible. They can cut him for relatively trivial cap cost in mid-season. Foles is still on a rookie deal for third round money, so his cost is trivial, at least for now. Both of these guys could wash out in 2013, and even that isn't a really big problem, since we're probably at the start of a 2 to 3 year ramp up back to prosperity. Hell, Kelly might really be secretly sold on Foles, and will use Vick to sop up punishment while the line gets rebuilt...

Or even, and here's the flat-out wackiest plan of all... the coach might be ready to truly throw tradition in the dumpster and play both QBs. (Wouldn't that destroy fantasy football honks? Yes, yes it would. And again, if it wins games, I wouldn't care at all.)

If you believe the college game is where innovation happens in football now (and if not, why is Kelly here?)... you also have to accept the idea that someone is going to win without Lone Hero QB being the be-all and end-all of football, or that there isn't going to soon be an explosion of plus athletes who can make plays from the position. If this is the new market inequity, make hay by devoting more of your resources to other needs.

So, in summation... the Eagles signed their old starting QB today.

But they didn't say he was (a) going to do the same stuff, and (b) that he was, well, the starter.

If they trot him out there, and he's a turnover machine, and they leave him out there anyway to do the same stuff over and over again...

Well, then you can boo. A lot. I'll be with you, in full throat.

But until then...why so mad?

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