Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chip Kelly's Secret QB Plan

Yes, This Again
Local media here in Eagles Nation is, of course, doing what local media does all over the country when the back-up QB wins a game, let alone a road game where he played well: going down the irresistible rabbit hole that is a QB Controversy.

Now, rookie HC Chip Kelly doesn't seem overly wiped out by this, because they teach you how to handle a QB Controversy on the first day of HC School, right after the incorrect use of pronouns and the extra syllable pronunciation of the word athlete. It's taken the form of that while he appreciates the work done by back-up QB Nick Foles, who is all kinds of a great player and yada yada, injuries do not change your starting order until, of course, they do. Since starter Mike Vick is probably still not going to be 100% for this Sunday's Dallas game / likely exposure as a pretender and depressing home loss, the simplest plan is to just roll Foles out there and hope that he surprises you.

(A small aside: lost in the warm feelings following Foles' second win against the Bucs are these two points. First, that Vick left the Giants' game with a lead, and wasn't getting lifted for performance, having also clearly won the job in camp in a very fair competition. Second, that Kelly wouldn't be sowing seeds of discontent in his locker room by benching a guy who other football players still hold in awe, because they are not stat nerds.)

But, well, there are more intriguing options than just playing More Talented But Older And More Expensive And Less Durable And Accurate Guy, or Young Leadfoot Guy Who's Probably A Back-Up That Will Look Less And Less Special Over Time. To wit...

Plan A: Trade one of these guys (and yeah, it'd be Vick) to a desperate team.

Which desperate teams? Well, you'd have to think that Houston is ready for anything that gets them away from their current QBs. Minnesota probably isn't in the market, having already collected a pitching staff worth of bad ideas. Other possible dance partners include Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Arizona and Tampa, though if you want to go for realism and actually paying a decent price, it's probably Houston or bust. (Cleveland, remember, is all kinds of bitter at Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for poaching Kelly away, and the others on that list are either already Tanking For Teddy or have some young'un they want to run out there to see what they have.) Personally, I think Vick would be a really solid fit for Houston, and Texas Fan has shown that they'll put up with anyone on the planet if they think he can win him some games. Kelly and the Eagle management team are, you have to think, smart enough to see through the fool's gold that is a 3-3 record where the 3 wins come against teams with a combined 1-15 won-loss marks, and I could see Houston dangling, say, a 3rd or 4th rounder for Vick. A reasonable haul for a guy that probably isn't in the laundry after another year or two at the most.

What about trading Foles? Well, it's hard to see how he's fetch a bigger bounty, given his inexperience and seeming limitations, and he's also clearly more valuable to the Eagles to keep. On the off chance that he is a very good NFL starter, Philly would find itself in the same serious advantage contract situation as San Francisco or Seattle, in that they'd be paying low draft pick money for their triggerman, which means more money to spend on the rest of the roster. In a salary cap era, that's not a small thing.

But the ugly truth about the NFL is that in-season trades are about as rare as well-played Terrible Night Football games, and Houston might be too leery of their own growing talent issues to want to spend too much on a triage QB. Also, Vick remains an incredibly polarizing figure due to his past misdeeds and the fact that people in this country prefer dogs to humans, and only pay lip service to the idea of Christian redemption. (For the record, I want Vick the man to succeed. Vick the football player is, alas, just too much of a tease to really expect payoff.)

You can't expect a trade in the NFL, even when it makes so much sense that it's wearing David Byrne's old suits. Music Break!

Which leaves...

Plan B: Play both.

If this were college, Kelly would do this in a heartbeat. It plays hard to his Mad Genius vibe of offensive play-calling, keeps the threat of the read-option as a monster preparation problem, and likely opens up all kinds of room for safe interior runs when, say, Vick sprints on to the field for third and three and snaps in tempo for a give to Shady McCoy. On some level, it's pretty obvious that neither of these guys is a Top 10 QB option when you look at the rest of the league, but if you split the time, have fun with it, and give each guy enough to do and hope for the full-time job in the future, maybe you kick the can down the road long enough to truly develop Matt Barkley, or even herald a new era in football.

The standard rule of QB is, of course, that if you have more than one guy, you really don't have any. But it's hard to see how the contributions that Vick gives between the '20s should just never see the field again, or that the locker room isn't going to look askance at the coach if he doesn't play. Hell, play both of them on the field at once, and really give the defense something big to think about. Double bubble screen flea flicker? Throwback reverses where Jason Peters can do what God put him on this earth to do, which is rumble downfield and find DBs to ruin? Some actual hardcore wackiness to well and truly distract us from the defense, or the fact that we have no home field advantage due to our modern pleasure palace? Yes, yes, yes; I'll take all of it, especially in Year One, when my biggest dream for the team is an honorable first-round death at the hands of an angry wild-card team from a division that isn't a tire fire.

Note: neither of these things is very likely to happen. But wouldn't either be a lot more fun than the next 3+ months of Foles v. Vick debate?

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