Chip Kelly is leaving Eugene for Philadelphia. Kelly's first major decision could potentially define his Eagles career, as the former Oregon coach has to find a quarterback for his system -- and it could very well be Michael Vick.
After flirting with the NFL for the last two offseasons, Chip Kelly finally decided to leave Oregon to become the Philadelphia Eagles' new head coach. One of his first questions to answer will be what to do about the team's quarterback situation.
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Like any other head coach in the NFL, Kelly's success largely hinges on the success of his quarterback. In Philadelphia, there's certainly a quarterback controversy. It's seemingly been accepted that Nick Foles will be Philadelphia's starting quarterback in 2013, and that Michael Vick will be released.
Vick is owed an astounding $15.5 million dollars in 2013, with a cap hit greater than $16 million. At the moment, Philadelphia projects to be some $16 million over the 2013 salary cap. If the Eagles opt to cut Vick, the athletic, but injury prone, quarterback will only be owed $3 million.
Certainly at this stage of his career, Vick is not worth $15.5 million dollars for one season, but the quarterback situation in Philadelphia just became a lot more interesting and suspenseful with Kelly becoming Philadelphia's head coach.
It's no secret that Kelly runs an up-tempo, pedal-to-the-metal offense that hinges in part on the quarterback's ability to run the ball. Kelly said it best himself what he looks for in his quarterback:
"I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm," Kelly explained at a coaches clinic in the spring of 2011, emphatically adding, "We are not a Tim Tebow type of quarterback team. I am not going to run my quarterback 20 times on power runs."
Marcus Mariota, Oregon's freshman quarterback in 2012, completed 68.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,677 yards, 32 touchdowns, six interceptions, and averaging 7.97 yards per attempt. Mariota, as you'd expect, ran the ball effectively too, racking up 752 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and five touchdowns on the ground.
Still, Mariota finished a distant second in rushing to Oregon's top rusher, Kenjon Barner, who ran for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns.
What, exactly, does this mean for the Eagles?
It means Nick Foles might not be the right quarterback for Chip Kelly.
Kelly praised Foles during their days together in the Pac-12. This is what Kelly said about Foles following the Ducks' win over Arizona in September 2011:
"I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. ... Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid's a warrior. He's as good as anyone in the country."
High praise, but the fact remains that Foles is not the most mobile quarterback in the league. During his college career, Foles never ran for positive yardage. Kelly, in his own words, looks for a quarterback who can run -- and clearly, that is not Nick Foles.
Further, Foles has not shown the ability to stretch the field at the NFL level. In seven games with the Eagles in 2012, Foles completed just 6 of 27 passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield -- including going 3-for-16 on passes between 21-30 yards in length.
Though the Eagles would need him to restructure his contract, Michael Vick seems to be the best available quarterback for Chip Kelly -- as of right now. Vick certainly has the mobility that Kelly seems to value in a quarterback, but Vick's inability to stay on the field has certainly has hampered his perceived value.
Is Vick the perfect Chip Kelly quarterback? No, not by any means. But Vick provides Kelly a quarterback who is mobile with a strong arm -- qualities that Foles lacks.
If Vick stays in Philadelphia next season, he won't be earning all $15.5 million dollars. Still, Eagles fans shouldn't be surprised if Vick is the team's signal caller once again.