Kelly Learning the Hard Way With Vick

Michael VickChip Kelly and the rest of the Eagles’ brass thought maybe, just maybe, this time would be different. All they had to do was figure out a way to bottle the flash.

If it was ever going to happen it was going to happen with this coach in this system. Plug Michael Vick into a a stripped-down, high-octane read-option heavy attack, and watch the fireworks fly. He might be able to recapture his 2010 form and if he does, quarterback problem solved for the short-term.

Their theories held up to a certain degree. Entering Sunday’s game against the Giants, the Eagles were tops in the league in rushing (165 per game), rushing yards per attempt (5.18), overall plays of 20-plus yards (44) and passing plays of 20-plus yards (36). They were third in the NFL in average yards per game (425.3). As anticipated, the threat of Vick as a runner opened up all sorts of space for this offense to gain yards in giant chunks.

With a healthy Vick, this machine can be hard to stop. With a healthy Vick.

The veteran quarterback hobbled to the podium Sunday afternoon and explained that he felt good going into the game. When Nick Foles went down with a concussion against Dallas, he had made the decision that he would be ready to play this week against the Giants. He rehabbed hard, practiced in full and declared himself ready to go. He wasn’t. Vick didn’t look right from the jump. When he tried to run on the third series of the game he felt the same pop that he experienced in New York on October 6.

“I tested it many times [this week] but there’s nothing like game simulation when guys are coming at you and they are going to hit you,” said Vick. “I just reacted the same way I would have if I was 100 percent healthy.”

Truth be told, Vick hasn’t been 100 percent healthy all season. He revealed that he hurt his groin “twice in the first two games” but was able to power through. He tried to fight through this injury as well, but couldn’t beat it.

Vick has been absent from the lineup for the equivalent of three games so far this season.  That means he’s missed about 38 percent of the action. Foles came in at first and had a big up before a jolting drop down, got injured, and gave way to rookie Matt Barkley, who turned the ball over on each of his first four possessions. Next thing you know, a bleary-eyed Kelly is getting his teeth knocked in and fielding questions postgame about why his once-exciting offense has completely hit the skids.

“I think we have some instability at the quarterback position,” said Kelly.

“Right now we’re unstable at the quarterback spot and we’re not playing well at the quarterback spot, and we lost our last two games because of it.”

For one reason or another, Vick has missed nine of a possible 24 starts over the last season-plus. (He was benched in favor of Foles down the stretch last season). While there are certainly other factors at play, successful franchises do not have this level of instability at quarterback. Take the last five Super-Bowl champions as an example. Between Joe Flacco, Eli Manning , Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, only one quarterback (Rodgers) missed a game because of the injury in their championship season. That’s 79 of a possible 80 regular-season games where the QB was available to their head coach (Brees sat out a meaningless finale in ’09).

Kelly is not the first head coach to be tempted by Vick. Andy Reid saw the same God-given ability and was so drawn in that he changed courses completely and committed to Vick as his starter in 2010. He was rewarded with a handful of jaw-dropping performances and a season to remember. A big contract soon followed.

As much as he tried, Reid couldn’t recreate the magic with Vick. Too much up and down. His QB was in and out. There was nothing to anchor into.

Kelly too looked like a coach adrift as he addressed the media Sunday. His much-hyped offense has generated three points over the last two games. His QB is out again, and who knows for how long. Vick will have an MRI in the morning. Maybe it’s Foles but it’s probably Barkley next week. It doesn’t much seem to matter right now. This team is in a bad state and it’s for many reasons, but the most important reason is the quarterback situation.

“I think when you’re unsettled at that position in this league, it’s real difficult,” said Kelly.

That’s one of the absolute truths in the NFL. It is also true that it’s about impossible to find stability in Vick at this stage of his career. There is no bottling a flash. A flash, by its definition, is sudden and fleeting.

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