Let’s begin by confessing that at this point although the rumors are growing and they’ll quickly reach a nauseating level Monday once Andy Reid is officially canned, the Chip Kelly to Philly talk is little more than, well, talk. Hearsay and speculation. We are the guys at the bar yelling things about a local sports team.
And while we’re having confession/truth telling time, let’s throw out another one: regardless of who’s hired to be the Eagles’ next head coach, the odds of Vick sticking around in any meaningful capacity still seem exceedingly slim. The most telling sign of his impending departure came last week when Vick was inactive, and he wasn’t even Nick Foles’ backup (Trent Edwards is alive?). Vick will start Sunday due to Foles’ hand injury, but his exit will likely still come because of his age (he’ll turn 33 this offseason), his infamous brittleness (he’s played only one full season in his 10-year career), and his salary (he’s due $15.5 million next year).
But if there’s even a reaching, clawing, dreaming long shot of Vick staying in Philadelphia and regaining fantasy relevance there, it’s tied to one man.
Quickly set to become the Jim Harbaugh of the 2012 coach hiring season, Kelly will be courted more than Kate Upton at Comic-Con in the coming weeks. Whether or not he ultimately decides to depart from the Oregon Ducks and head into the volitile NFL waters where many a college stud head coach has floundered (hi, Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban) could depend largely on the personnel avaliable to him as he tries to install some pro-ball version of his spread-option offense.
So, enter Vick. Yeah, he’s aging, and his playing style makes him a vulnerable, injury prone mess. We’re aware of all of those things. Please read the disclaimer above.
But allow yourself to embrace the possibility of a Kelly-Vick marriage for a moment, because there is indeed a small, though real chance of that happening.
Tim McManus, who covers the Eagles for Phillymag.com, has an open mind regarding the Vick-Kelly connection. He said as much in his tweetbag yesterday while reminding us of Ron Jaworski’s words on the matter in a radio interview recently.
Here’s his Q&A with a reader:
@Mark_Robo: would you agree with keeping Vick if Chip Kelly becomes head coach? He would be perfect for his offense.
Makes sense to me, yes. In case you missed it, this is what Ron Jaworski said about the whole Kelly/Vick/Nick Foles dynamic:
“Nick Foles will not run a Chip Kelly offense if he decided to come here, rest assured of that,” Jaws said on 97.5 The Fanatic. “If a coach like Chip Kelly…that runs this up-tempo, spread, speed-style option, these guys come here, there might be a future for Michael Vick. I know he’s , I know he’s been beat up, but I’ll tell you, some of the things I’m seeing, Michael Vick can do the same things these guys are doing in the spread option.”
Kelly’s offense is notoriously fast, and while it leaves the quarterback exposed at times — not exactly ideal for Vick — his quarterbacks over the past two seasons haven’t been sacked often. Over the Ducks’ last 26 games, starters Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota were sacked a combined 27 times. The fear about more pummeling for Vick is real, but the speed with which he would often be asked to release the ball may be the best tonic for the feeble sticks that he has for bones.
Of course that only accounts for Vick in the pocket, a place where he’d spend little time in a Kelly offense. Ducks quarterbacks have rushed for 1,261 yards over the past two seasons, and much of that came from Mariota this year (690 yards). That leads to more risk/reward consideration for Vick. Yes, the opportunity for injury is there and still real, but despite his age Vick still very much possesses the speed and open-field elusiveness to excel in a spread-option offense. In only eight-and-a-half games this year so far he’s rushed for 309 yards and a touchdown.
College numbers don’t translate perfectly to the NFL. They never have, and they’re not about to now. But Kelly’s potential introduction of spread-option elements that fit Vick’s skillset leads to thoughts of great late-round fantasy value after his stock has plummeted this year. In fact, Vick could be the ideal late-round QB for those who enjoy logic, and avoiding the early run at a position deep in talent at the height of a passing era.
Think back to how much you grew to despise Vick earlier this year, with his 14 turnovers over nine starts. Then look at his fantasy production despite the pleasant turnovers he cooked. If we exclude Week 6 when he didn’t play the second half and left early against the Cowboys with a concussion, Vick only had two games with fewer than 15 fantasy points, production saved by his legs, and his 34.1 rushing yards per game that topped out at 59 yards in Week 6.
So go ahead, and dream your fantasy dreams, guys. Because if Kelly brings over even a portion of his innovative offense and Vick can stay healthy for, say, 13 games (his career per season average), there’s value mining gold in theses here hills.