Judging by the Eagles’ performance in Friday’s exhibition loss to New England, they are headed for an 0-16 season; with the score of each game likely to be somewhere in the vicinity of 50-42, the Birds will be in great position to welcome South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney onto their limestone-porous defense next spring.
Of course, that is the danger of conferring too much responsibility on what is essentially a scrimmage. Mistakes are magnified, and good points are minimized. One of the best things that came out of the game with the Pats is that Tim Tebow is not on the Birds’ roster. The Eagles’ offense looked pretty good when Michael Vick and Nick Foles were directing it. And even rookie Matt Barkley had moments when he looked like a real, live NFL QB, which is more than we can say for Tebow, who spent the second half running the single wing. Oklahoma’s old wishbone QBs threw better than he does.
Vick took the lead last Friday, and Foles will start things up Thursday when Carolina comes to town. It’s the latest in Chip Kelly’s quarterback-o-rama, which is designed to foster competition, uncertainty and media frustration. And it’s a great concept.
Before the analysis, how’s about a game of “Let’s Pretend?” Imagine for a moment that a certain plus-sized redhead were still coaching the Eagles. And instead of declaring who his starter was, he continued to sashay around the question, going so far as to start each of the main candidates in the first two pre-season games. Now, wouldn’t that be fun? You know that the media and fans would love that and give said coach plenty of time to make up his mind.
But as infuriating as it may be for us to wait for a decision, Kelly’s process is not only the right thing for the position, it’s dead-on in terms of the overall team. By showing that even the QB situation is uncertain — still — he is letting every player on the team know that roster spots and starting assignments are not guaranteed. Of course, several players, LeSean McCoy, Todd Herremans, Jason Peters and Jason Kelce among them, are pretty secure. But after watching the defense surrender more ground than the French army in 1940, it’s pretty clear that nobody on that side of the ball should be calling home to let the family know he’s got a starting job sewn up. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kelly hung a pelt on the locker room wall when the first cuts are announced, just to show everybody that results, not potential, count in the NFL.
As for the quarterbacks, both showed well Friday night. They looked comfortable piloting the offense, were accurate with their passes and seemed quite able to manage the high-speed — or as high-speed as the officials will allow — tempo. The question is whether Vick will ever differentiate himself enough from Foles to make it easy for Kelly to anoint him the number one, and to convince the front office to pay him the millions he is due, should he stay on the roster. If Vick is not appreciably better than Foles, it may make more sense to cut him loose and go with the younger quarterback, with Barkley in reserve.
The Inquirer’s Bob Ford raised an interesting point in his column Sunday, maintaining that the organization’s lenient handling of the Riley Cooper debacle almost forces Kelly to make Vick the starter, the better to appear more sensitive to a locker room that is still rent partially by the wide receiver’s idiotic comments. While that is quite possible, the main color that matters to the Eagles is green, and I’m not talking about the hue found on the team’s uniforms. Jeffrey Lurie won’t like paying Vick the reported base salary of $7 million and up to another $3 mil in incentives if the veteran is not appreciably better than a teammate who is much cheaper.
By rotating Vick and Foles in the starting spot, at least at the beginning of the first two games, Kelly makes sure Vick understands that he must not only produce when given the chance but he must do so within the framework of the offense and not in his previous “trying to make a play” incarnation. Kelly’s attack will only work if the triggerman is decisive, disciplined and committed to acting on his pre-snap reads. Freelancing will not be appreciated. If Vick were assured of the first-string spot, he might be tempted to do things his way, and that would torpedo Kelly’s efforts.
Even if Vick gets the starting role, the fact that Kelly will have gone two games into the pre-season with Foles as a viable alternative will demonstrate the coach’s assertion that nobody is safe, if he refuses to do things the coach’s way. Friday was a good start for both quarterbacks, and Thursday will bring more clarity. Vick remains the favorite, but nothing is guaranteed.
Not even rotten defense.
- Last week’s end of the Delmon Young Experiment closes the book on Ruben Amaro’s 2012-13 off-season and demonstrates why fans should be wary of the GM’s ability to build a contender. Young was a disaster. Third baseman Michael Young has been so mediocre that he was untradeable leading up to July 31 and cleared waivers last week. Big bullpen signing Mike Adams is earning the remainder of his $6 million contract on the DL (not many good things have happened throughout history when men have had ribs removed), and the bullpen is a shambles. Ben Revere experienced a renaissance before breaking his foot, but he remains the dictionary definition of banjo hitter. In other words, when Amaro was charged with creating a contender for 2013, he failed. What makes anybody think he’ll do a better job in the coming off-season?
- Since there are only 30 NBA coaching positions in the world, Brett Brown’s interest in taking on the captain’s role in the Sixers’ 2013-14 Titanic revival is understandable. It also makes sense that those close to him would be advising him to run away from the job at Usain Bolt speed. A first-year coach doesn’t need the stench of a wretched season following him, and Brown could do a lot worse than spending this season as the Spurs’ top lieutenant and trying to land a top spot next year. He may even get the San Antonio gig.
- At the rate he is going, Tiger Woods will break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles, well, never. Yesterday at Oak Hill, he made sure to let everyone see his back was bothering him, just as he was clearly favoring his elbow during the U.S. Open. It’s funny that even when Fred Couples’ back was torpedoing his play, we never saw him massaging it on the course. We don’t hear about other golfers’ injuries, either. Perhaps Woods should consider changing his trademark Sunday shirt color from red to blue, in an homage to the old Brooklyn Dodgers. Because, once again, it’s wait until next year.