By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—At the end of the season, it was assumed by most of the football intelligentsia in this town that after Andy Reid’s departure, Michael Vick would out the door as well.
But as it turned out, Vick will be with the Birds for at least one more year after restructuring his contract to a one-year deal reportedly worth $10 million. He’s not guaranteed be to the Birds starter and will have to compete with Nick Foles for that spot.
Even through all his Vick’s injuries and his penchant for turnovers in 2012, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly saw enough film of the 32-year-old former Virginia Tech star that he is willing to give him another shot to run the Birds offense.
“What I look at is skill-set first and foremost,” Kelly said. “What he can do, how he can throw the football, how he can beat people with his feet. There are a lot of different factors he has. And you have to look at the landscape for other quarterbacks.
“I guess the best way I can put this is I agree there is a change of scenery going on here. For Michael Vick, there is a change of scenery, but not a change of address.”
Maybe that change of scenery will be a better offensive line or an offensive scheme that fits Vick’s athletic skills whether it’s some form of the read-option or just simply having more balance on offense.
“On video, it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of difference from 2003 as far as the arm strength,” said Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor, who worked with Vick when he was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Falcons. “I see some accurate throws down the field. I see the ability to set his feet. He’s the kind of athlete that can do anything.
“We just to make sure whatever confines of our offense wants put him in as far as foot work, I don’t see anything that Mike can’t do. Obviously, he can run around the defense and we want to see him do that.”
The 2012 season was one that Vick and Eagles fans would like to forget. He threw 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions along with 11 fumbles. He had a quarterback rating of 78. 1. He was sacked 28 times and got hit dozens of other times.
Battered and bruised with concussions and rib injuries behind an injury-riddled patchwork offensive line, Vick eventually lost his starting job to Nick Foles.
In the midst of all of his mistakes in 2012, Vick, especially in the first five weeks of the season, was the reason the Birds either won or were in position to win games. That’s the thing that stood out to new Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
“He an extremely tough player and he’s won football games and we’re looking forward to working with him,” said Shurmur, who was Andy Reid’s quarterbacks coach from 2002 to 2008.
The problem with Vick is that he has been injury-prone for the last two years. If he is running Kelly’s version of the read-option, he is going to take his share of hits. Recently, Vick was a guest on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning and he said is not going let the possibility of getting hurt stand in the way of playing his style of football.
“The thing is, you have to be very cautious and meticulous about what you’re doing on the field but not to a point where it takes away from your game,” Vick said. “Once you try not getting hurt, that’s when you get hurt. What I have to do is just go out and play lights-out football and not worry about getting hurt.”
Actually, Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff will be doing all the worrying about Vick’s health.
Given how the Eagles offensive coaches were gushing over Vick’s skills, you get the feeling that the offense is going to be more suited for what Vick can even though Kelly and Shurmur are publicly saying that the offense they plan on putting together will be flexible to the skills of both quarterbacks.
If Kelly and the Eagles organization were really all in for Foles, they probably would have given Vick his walking papers by now and put all of their energy into developing the former Arizona star.
With Vick competing for the starting job, along with reports that the Eagles have been talking to Baltimore Ravens practice squad quarterback, Dennis Dixon, who Kelly coached when he was at Oregon, is a clear indication that the Birds new coaching staff was not completely sold on Foles.
The idea that a new coaching staff can teach an old dog some new tricks is certainly not unprecedented in the annals of NFL history. We’ve seen former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick transform Randall Cunningham from a quarterback known for his running prowess into a complete quarterback that could do both.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders head coach Tom Flores that turned a struggling, injury-prone Jim Plunkett into a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Before Lou Saban’s arrival in Buffalo in 1972, OJ Simpson was considered a bust.
After Saban made Simpson the focal point of the Bills offense, the former USC star became an all-time great running back.
Will that happen here? Who knows?
If Kelly can win with his unique brand of offense and somehow keep Vick healthy, he will be canonized a saint by Eagles fans and be labeled a genius. If not, well, there always college.