Eagles Wake-Up Call: Kelly Explains Why He Brought Vick Back

(Last month, a group of reporters had the opportunity to sit down with head coach Chip Kelly for an hour-long session. The contents of that conversation have been embargoed until now. We’ll pull from that interview over the next several days as we begin our training camp previews.)

We have received this question more than perhaps any other since Chip Kelly decided to bring  Michael Vick back on a one-year deal: If this is a long-term project, why invest a year in a veteran quarterback who might not be part of future plans?

Chances are Vick won’t be here much longer. Meanwhile, there are two young quarterbacks on the roster that will be relegated to the sidelines if Vick wins the job. How can you evaluate what you have in Nick Foles and/or Matt Barkley if they don’t play?

Kelly’s response to this question speaks to both his mentality and the challenge he faces during his transition from college to the pros.

“You want to talk about our players buying in? If I went in the locker room and said this is going to be a really good year for us to get ready for the following year, that’s not going to work,” he said. “No one has a mindset like that. So our decision isn’t based upon what is the future two years down the road, three years down the road. I don’t think that far.”

Really, he can’t afford to. True, he signed a lucrative five-year deal and owner Jeffrey Lurie will give him some leeway as he builds the program in his vision. It’s not about capturing the confidence of his employer — he already has that. It’s about establishing credibility with the 53 men he is in charge of leading on a daily basis.

This is not just a run-of-the-mill college coach trying to make the leap. Kelly is branded as an out-of-the-box thinker with new methods that have yet to be tested on this level. Guys are wearing sleep monitors to bed, practicing at warp speed and essentially being asked to re-think the way they have done things up until this point. Maybe the Eagles don’t need to advance to the NFC Championship Game in Year One, but there needs to be some tangible proof that Kelly’s unorthodox approach will net results.

Vick is likely seen as the best quarterback on the roster by most of his peers. Certainly the most established.  How would it be if Kelly’s first move was to dismiss the team’s best QB? What if the Foles or Barkley experience fell flat on its face? Where would the confidence level in the new coach be then?

“My job is to win right now. How do you think I’d be received in Philly if I told them we were going to write this year off?” Kelly asked. “Those people that are waving to me on the streets right now? That ain’t going to happen. But that’s never been my mentality either. We’re not writing anything off. We’re going out there to compete and see how it falls.”

Kelly is a firm believer in position battles. He makes the players earn their starting jobs in practice and during the preseason. From his vantage point, it makes perfect sense to have Vick as part of the quarterback competition. Win or lose, the players will know that Kelly made the right call. In theory, at least.

“Everywhere I’ve been it’s played itself out on the field. Does that mean it’s going to happen here? I don’t know,” said Kelly. “But I’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had to make a decision and it’s like 50-50, pick it out of a hat. Somebody over the course of time has stepped up and has ‘won the battle.’ That’s what you’re hoping to have happen again here, and hopefully it’s evident to everybody, like ‘There’s no question that it’s this guy because his game stepped up.’”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Who has Pro Bowl promise under Kelly? That and more in the latest Twitter Mailbag.

Applying “Smart Football” Concepts to the Eagles.

Can the Eagles bounce back and make the playoffs in 2013?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Andrew Kulp on what to expect from rookie tight end Zach Ertz. 

Don’t go overboard. If all goes according to plan, Ertz could eventually develop into one of the most dangerous weapons on the team, but there is reason to believe he could be brought along slowly as a rookie.

For one, as was already touched on, Ertz isn’t supposed to be much of a blocker. That’s no small detail, as blocking is typically a fairly large part of the job description for most tight ends. Guys can get away with being more receiver-inclined when they’re putting up big numbers, but Ertz is starting from the bottom, so he’ll likely have to improve that aspect of his game to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

Donovan McNabb thinks Foles might be best suited to run Kelly’s system. He had the following to say on NFL Network:

 “When you’re a quarterback it’s important that you protect the football. And when you have a guy like Michael Vick, we know about his athletic ability but he has an ability to turn the ball over entirely too much. Nick Foles is kind of a future guy that you can work on. In the offense that Oregon ran, it might be better suited for a guy like Nick Foles because you don’t have to be so mobile, just get the ball out of your hands and make plays for the receivers.

COMING UP

More from our conversation with Kelly. Ten days until rookies report.

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  • nicksaenz1

    I’ll say this, from day 1, Kelly has come in and shown that he can handle the media. How he does with the media should we start out in dismal fashion is another thing, but, so far, he’s handled the media exquisitely. Based on what he said in the article, he gave all of the right answers, using the simple premise that he has to get the team to buy in.
    $3.5mil to help the team buy what he’s selling? Cost of doing business. Smart man. I didn’t like bringing back Vick at all, but for this reason alone, I’ll eat my words. Means if/when Foles does earn the job, the team will get behind that. I dig it.

    • Jack Waggoner

      And there’s a potential payoff, though increasingly a longshot, that Vick could put it all together and be the QB people have hoped for years he could be.

      • nicksaenz1

        You’re absolutely right. I don’t see it, but entirely plausible. Either way, for the sake of building the team, that’s $3.5mil well spent.

  • Jack Waggoner

    It’s interesting that McNabb’s opinions are getting so much media attention lately. He’s trying to angle his way into a media career, I think.

    The explanation as to why Kelly kept Vick is a little difficult to process, but I guess he had a couple of bad options either of which would make him lose credibility among the players he’s trying to get to buy in to his way of doing things. Kelly could have left it in Roseman’s hands, but that would have made Kelly seem powerless if Roseman dumped Vick.

    • nicksaenz1

      JW, McNabb does have somewhat of a media career, that’s why he has the platform to be quoted.

    • southy

      He is fast becoming (imo rather unfortunately) NFL Network’s “QB Analyst” like Dilfer is on ESPN. He’s expected to take a stance one way or the other, or call guys out like RGIII.

  • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

    Ahh this whole outside the box narrative is getting old. Asking your players to get a good nights sleep and up-tempo practices don’t really seem that new age to me. It’s different than the last scheme sure, Can breaking something down to its basic simplicity be considered futuristic in the NFL? Because that’s all Chip is doing.

    1. Practicing at an up tempo speed = more like what a game is going to be like, the way offenses are transforming these days.
    2. Practicing with loud music = They have that at NFL games. What a strange coincidence!
    3. Getting a good nights sleep = Apparently that’s good for you.
    4, Eating healthy, getting nutrients = Hey, apparently this is too.

    I don’t see this as outside the box. I see this as the most inside the box you can break it down to. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’ve been fully brainwashed by Chippah and this is all crazy talk and will never work in the NFL.

    • Bdawkbdawk

      Look, all of Chips ideas have a rationale. And these rationales make pretty good sense. But his practice style isn’t innately superior. As a coach you can have a holistic approach to preparation, or you can divide up and specialize. Chip chooses the holistic approach by forcing his players to condition in-practice and by not interrupting drills to teach. There are many benefits to this because it replicates game conditions and promotes competition, but it is not a certainty that his players will understand the plays as well or be as fit as if he split these activities out and devoted more time to them.
      And I completely agree about the benefits of sleep and nutrition. However, telling multimillionaire star athletes who are at the peak of their earning potential, popularity, and physical prowess that they should stay in and not party – or that the tiny quarterpounder with cheese in their hands can make them play worse is difficult. Monitoring these behaviors is even more difficult. I bet I would be a little more productive at work if I slept more and ate in ways that promoted brain activity. (obviously an unbalanced comparison because my industry is about one millionth as competitive and I don’t have people running 25 miles an hour at my face). But if my boss tried to force a sleep monitor on me, I would not be happy. I happen to think Chip is correct and that these are battles worth fighting, but I don’t think it is an easy or foregone conclusion at all.

      • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

        Why is it always assumed that these guys are going to buck this stuff so hard? Chip has made of a point of explaining his decisions to the guys and showing them the benefits of doing things his way. He’s never been like “eat this, wear this, and don’t ask why. I’m the coach and you’ll do it my way.” If your boss were to come to you and tell you you’ve been doing hard work to get where you are but I’ve got some ways that we can maximize your potential so you can be the best of the best. They can earn that next big contract, stay healthy for the entire season so they can keep getting paid, and most importantly win football games and some day that elusive Lombardi Trophy. While he doesn’t have an NFL experience, he just needs to show what he did at New Hampshire and Oregon to see that there’s a method to his madness.

        I guess the big question in who on our roster can afford to spurn the new coaches plans? Who on this team has had enough success over the last 2 seasons to say “what I’m doing was fine, I don’t need this ish!”, or has the contractual or financial security to think he’s untouchable? Vick on his one year rental contract? DJax and Maclin who are essentially in contract years? Peters, whos replacement was just drafted and he’s coming off a serious injury? Cole, who may be lost in a scheme change? I would say McCoy, maybe Mathis/Herremans. And Chip’s scheme is tailor made for these guys, so it would be stupid not to buy in. McCoy could and should be an All-Pro playing for Chip.

        Maybe my Chippah glasses are extra rosey this morning but to me a 4-12 football team doesn’t have that many luxuries, especially the way the Eagles have done their team friendly contracts. Maybe coming off that 8-8 season I could see some guys getting difficult. But not 4-12.

        • G_WallyHunter

          Great post, in complete agreement. By what we’ve seen so far, all the players are buying in, the ones who have spoken anyways. They know Chip isn’t screwing around and if they don’t want to buy in and work hard, he’ll cut em loose with no remorse. I love this about this year, CK is coming in with absolutely 0 preconceived notions, every player is battling for the spot, now we know which ones will stand out and get the spots, but that is because they’ve clearly proven it. Never been so excited for the season to start….

          • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

            While I’m saying all this, I realize the big test will be if we start losing a few games early. That will be the real test to seperate the believers from the non-believers, and we’ll find out who Chip will keep around going forward and who will be expendable.

          • G_WallyHunter

            OH YA… for sure… I’m worried about the preseason from that aspect. What if they go 0-4 in preseason and the offense just looks terrible (along with the D)… lol we will not be happy campers that’s for sure. I’ll lock myself in my place and play GTA V and live my life through the game instead

        • Bdawkbdawk

          Your glasses are extra rosey this morning. I wasn’t assuming anything. Instead I was acknowledging that Chip is making requests that not many other coaches ask of their players. And even though these requests are logical, he is asking rich, supremely talented, young men with big egos (and rightfully so) to make compromises. These are the same guys that run as fast as they can at 250 pound men and tackle with their heads-then to celebrate they hit each other on the helmets!. I’m not saying theyre dumb – because theyre not. Instead I think (like most young people) that they put an inordinate amount of value on short term value calculations and have an air of invincibility. To believe that eating a cheeseburger or an hour more of rest could be the difference in breaking a tackle or winning a game goes against the very no-fear ethos that most players embrace to be so successful. I am not saying players will buck the system. But if you had to imagine a person most likely to buck chip kelly’s sytem, it would be a star NFL player.
          My point about his practice environment is dissimiliar. I think players will buy into the up tempo fast learning approach. I am not certain that these methods are superior though. It seems like there are two competing schools of thought – both with benefits and drawbacks.

          • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

            I hear what you’re saying. But at the same time I disagree. I think with Chip being brought in by Lurie to continue his success he’s had as a program builder, it’s not him that has to sell his ways to the players. It’s a matter of who is going to buy in and be part of the program going forward, because you best believe any one that Chip drafts or brings in from now in will be guys that will buy in. I keep coming back to this, but after these last 2 seasons these guys egos should be non-existent.

            One of Chips philosophies is teach to the smartest guy, it’s up to everyone else to keep up. Guys that don’t keep up will be left behind, and replaced. It may take a season or two, but I believe this roster will be culled and made over a massive amount, and you’re going to see a locker room full of guys that have bought in.

  • Scott J610

    It’s all irrelevant. Vick will get injured and one of these young players will take over.

  • eaglepete

    How about this scenario. Vick starts, plays very well since he does have excellent numbers in the hurry up. Reduced turnovers, more run game and he improves his other areas. What happens the following season if we say win division and a playoff game (not likely imo but never say never right). Or even go 9-7 and miss playoffs but see improvement all around including MV. Vick has to come back and start right? Is this a dream or nightmare scenario because this subject hasnt been beat to death already haha.

  • NickS1

    I hope we’re in on trying to sign Kerry Rhodes. Saw a report (not guaranteeing accuracy from SB Nation) where he said there’s 4 teams he’s talking to. I hope we’re one of them.

  • Token

    If Kelly’s #1 thing he looks for in a QB is decision making than Vick has no shot at winning the job. We will see if hes full of crap over the next month.

    • Dutch

      decision making in the pocket isn’t a strong suit for Nick Foles, and it’s never been through college. Decisions, accuracy, arm strength and viewing the field are not part of Foles forte’ and was evident through is career at Arizona and with the Eagles in his appearances in 2012.

      If we don’t switch to Barkley by mid season we are doomed.

  • DeSean Grayson

    I think you bring Vick back because he still strikes FEAR into NFL defenses with his arm and his legs. Chip is doing it right, make Vick earn the job and still see what you have in Foles. BUT THE THING THAT STRIKES ME AS ODD IS WHY DENNIS DIXON DOES NOT GET ANY CONSIDERATION IN THIS QB BATTLE? Wasnt he the QB that made you relevant @ Oregon. He still has plenty in the tank due to the fact that he never played in Pittsburgh and was a practice squad QB in Baltimore. Is he really that horrible, i dont think so.