With a healthy Michael Vick, Chip Kelly’s Offense runs at a near optimal level: based out of the read-option, Vick can hand the ball off to the best Running Back in football, throw a bubble screen to Desean, hit Celek on a stick route, or simply keep the ball with (usually) only one defender to beat in the open field. He is “The Third Heat” of Chip’s trivection oven with his ability to take off for 40+ yards at any given moment.
But, as the story goes, Vick is not healthy (at least at the moment). On top of that, and also nothing new, he’s not all that accurate a passer. He turns into a pumpkin in the red zone. And he STILL holds the ball longer than any other Quarterback in the entire NFL. That’s a problem, especially in Chip’s system.
With Nick Foles, Chip’s Offense runs smoothly and seamlessly, like a machine. Sure, there’s a clear component missing and it lacks that sense of improvisation that makes it so exciting when Vick is playing at his peak. But what Foles lacks in athleticism and running ability, he certainly makes up for in accuracy, pocket presence and touch. For a guy whose feet are seemingly stuck in cement, he sure knows how to step up in the pocket and avoid pressure. He makes the jobs of his linemen a whole hell of a lot easier than Vick does, that’s for sure.
The two QBs played equally well in the preseason, but it’s clear why Chip chose Vick – even if I still believe he shouldn’t have been brought back for another season(*).
(*)Though I was the same guy screaming for Lurie to hire Gus Bradley, so what do I know…
But now we’re back to square one and firmly entrenched in an actual Quarterback controversy(**)! So… does it matter?
(**)As opposed to the fake one we had to deal with in 2010. Kevin Kolb anyone?
Kind of. We’re five weeks into the 2013 season and the NFC East – with all of its five wins – is wide open. The Birds are currently tied for first place and, more importantly, are already 2-0 in the division. Those three losses to the AFC West? Completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Wins against the NFC are much more important when it comes to playoff tie-breakers.
But that’s why I don’t know if the Eagles’ starting QB truly matters. Sure, they have a decent chance of stealing the division from the Cowboys(***), but we all know that this team isn’t championship caliber. Is losing in the first round to a superior wild card team – most likely the 49ers or the Packers/Bears/Lions – worth losing out on a top QB prospect (though the Jags are already selling Teddy Bridgewater jerseys at this point) or a chance at a talent like Jadeveon Clowney?
(***)Who are clearly the favorites to take the East… At 7-9.
Clearly the Eagles aren’t vying for a top-five draft pick, but do we really want to be stuck in no-man’s land? If they make the playoffs this year (or just barely miss them), they’ll basically be the NFL’s version of the pre-2013 Sixers; a mediocre team stuck patching over holes instead of blowing it up and starting fresh.
And that’s really the heart of this issue. Instead of starting over and rebuilding like they clearly needed to, the Eagles front office decided to bring back the majority of the worst Eagles team of our lifetimes and see if they could stay afloat. Sure, the Offense is (at times) good enough to do some damage in the league, but this should have been the year we saw if Nick Foles can really play and if any of the young players on Defense were worth keeping.
Instead, the Birds are in the thick of a potential playoff hunt (more like a playoff “backing into”) and, as dynamic as he is at times, Michael Vick is holding the QB spot hostage(****).
(****)Except this week. But expect him back as soon as next weekend.
2013 should be about seeing what the Eagles have and don’t have. We know they still have little-to-no Defense and absolutely zero Safeties that could play in the XFL, let alone the NFL. We know the receivers fall off after Desean and that our Running Backs are our strength.
What we don’t know is how Chip’s system works. But we know it doesn’t work best with Andy Reid’s holdovers. Again, this is still largely the same team that went 4-12 last year(*****). This season is a freebie for Chip to figure out how the NFL works and figure out which parts of the roster need to be completely overhauled in order to fit his scheme.
(*****)Though it is interesting to see Chip do some incredible things with the same Offense that Andy struggled with last year (albeit a much improved line).
I realize that once you make the playoffs, anything can happen. Hell, we’ve seen wild card teams win the Super Bowl the last three years! But let’s be honest, this Eagles team is not good enough. They couldn’t stop the Chargers… why would we expect the Defense to hold Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in check?
We know – or at least like last season, think – that Vick isn’t coming back next year. Let’s see what Foles can do and if the Eagles need to start from scratch with the most important position on the team.
Spoiler alert: they do.