If Chip Kelly is already tiring of questions regarding the identity of his starting quarterback, just imagine how he’ll feel come August, when his dragstrip offense gets a test-drive against real enemy defenders, and the inevitable speed bumps arise. There is a little bit of a difference between dealing with the media in Philadelphia than, say, the folks in Eugene, Oregon, or Durham, New Hampshire. Don’t get too testy, Coach, or you’ll make the last guy look like the Chamber of Commerce president.
The questions are going to persist, probably through the season, because the Eagles not only don’t have a QB able to run Kelly’s system successfully, they also don’t have one capable of operating any NFL offense at a high level. All of this talk about Michael Vick’s being the right man for the job is ridiculous. At the risk of sounding “ignorant” and proving that I “know nothing about football,” I will declare that asking Vick to pilot an offense that requires him to deliver the ball quickly is a losing proposition. Vick, who must think people in this town forget what he has said over the past couple seasons about not changing, has never proven himself capable of operating within an offensive framework that doesn’t allow him to freelance, hold onto the ball way too long or take risks. If Kelly can change that behavior, he deserves recognition from the American Psychiatric Association, not the NFL Coach of the Year award.
On Sunday, Phillymag.com’s Sheil Kapadia relayed the latest Vick statements on his quarterbacking ability to 97.5 The Fanatic listeners. Vick lashed out at those who had the temerity to question his ability to operate an NFL offense efficiently. He can get as angry as he wants, but no amount of vitriol and name-calling can obscure the fact that Vick refuses to operate an offense efficiently. He sacrifices sure gains in the hopes of “making a play,” a selfish approach to football and no way to help a team win on a grand scale.
Last year, Vick was fourth in the NFL in time it took him to get rid of the football, needing 3.07 seconds to deliver the average pass, according to Pro Football Focus. By contrast, New England’s Tom Brady needed about 2.5 seconds per throw. While at Oregon, Kelly spoke often about the need for his QBs to deliver the ball quickly, mostly in fewer than two seconds after the snap. Doing that requires tremendous discipline and a quarterback’s willingness to subjugate himself to the offense. Neither of those traits is in the Vick playbook. Unless he is able to admit that he must make a radical change in his approach to the game, Vick will continue to complete a pedestrian percentage of his passes and take too many needless hits. It’s unlikely Vick will do that, and his recent comments amplify that.
If he truly believes he has lasted 12 years in the league because of his ability to read defenses well and make great decisions, then Vick is delusional. He stays in the league because coaches continue to hope they can convince Vick to devote his substantial physical skills to the program, rather than his own self-aggrandizement. This isn’t about intelligence, rather ego. Vick could have been one of the best in the league, but his unwillingness to play the position in a way that benefits the team first has prevented his reaching that level.
And that’s why Kelly is answering the same questions every day. He doesn’t have a legitimate, first-rate starter on the roster. Over the past several years, Vick has demonstrated an unwillingness to do the things necessary to win. He isn’t willing to take the sure thing, when he believes a bigger shot is available. He won’t stay patient. And he won’t stop putting himself at risk of injury in pursuit of individual glory.
His anger toward “critics” is understandable. Those who refuse to face the truth often find others to blame for their problems. This is Vick’s last chance to prove he can be a winning NFL quarterback. He turns 33 this summer, and he’ll be an old 33, thanks to the many hits he has taken. Failure to follow Kelly’s offensive plan will result in a benching or a release, since the new coach has security—for a couple years, at least—and the veteran QB does not. The man who has refused to slide and who has defiantly brushed away opportunities to change his style of play cannot be expected to adapt completely to a New Way. All that he has left are diatribes against those who have revealed him to be too self-absorbed to play a team game. Vick has about three months to convince Kelly and Eagles fans he is capable of change. He’ll have to make some pretty strong arguments to accomplish that.
His opening statement wasn’t too convincing.
• Carlos Ruiz is likely down for a while with a hamstring injury. Ryan Howard’s knee is bothering him. And the Phillies didn’t score too many runs with them in the lineup. At least the team can rely on its top-shelf outfield to handle the burden while those two convalesce. Right.
• Before you get too enamored of the prospects the Sixers might be able to land, should they stay in the 11th spot in the Lottery, consider that this may be the worst Draft since the 2000 edition, which produced Kenyon Martin and little else. (“With the second pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, the Vancouver[!] Grizzlies select, Stromile Swift, forward, LSU.”) Don’t expect a starter from this year’s crop, no matter how breathless the Combine reports might be.
• It’s hilarious that LeBron James is upset that Indiana coach Frank Vogel referred to the Heat as “the next team that’s in our way.” Have we really reached a point in professional sports where the game’s best player needs an opposing coach to validate his talent? If professional athletes require constant exterior forces and perceived “disrespect” to motivate them, especially during the playoffs, then they had better reassess why they are playing the game.