Picking Vick over Foles is brilliant on Kelly's part

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Choosing Nick Foles over Michael Vick could have created a divided locker room and put additional pressure on Foles.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Choosing Nick Foles over Michael Vick could have created a divided locker room and put additional pressure on Foles.
Posted: August 23, 2013

CHIP KELLY might really be a genius.

Kelly mind-melded the Eagles into thinking he is the greatest football mind this side of Bill Belichick, and, for all we know, he is. The Eagles believed it so that, after he spurned then, they called back, begged him to leave college and paid him outlandishly.

Kelly immediately installed his Machine Gun offense, which so flouts conventional operations that the NFL's top ref swore to impede it.

Now, Kelly not only has reinvented the wheel, he's letting Michael Vick drive the car.

You know, the most controversial athlete since Muhammad Ali.

Brilliant.

If Kelly does nothing else this season, naming Vick the starter over Nick Foles verifies Kelly's intelligence for at least one season.

Starting Foles creates all sorts of issues.

Starting Vick, however, retains harmony, focuses scrutiny, incorporates Kelly's entire scheme and - not least - protects the kid.

Vick is the new Doug Pederson.

If Kelly had named Foles the starter, Kelly probably would have had to cut or trade Vick. That would have left Matt Barkley as the backup. Yikes.

See, if Kelly gave the starting job to Foles, Kelly would have had a sulky Vick on the sideline. That would poison the locker room - the same way starting Donovan McNabb instead of Pederson early in 1999 would have poisoned the room, but for different reasons.

Like it or not, Vick's name carries an immense amount of weight among NFL players. Many of Vick's teammates grew up playing Vick's avatar on PlayStation, when they weren't playing Allen Iverson's. They are, in many ways, mirrors of each other.

Many of his teammates (wrongly) see Vick's 2007 prosecution on dogfighting and gambling charges as a type of martyrdom; and Vick, a victim of a system engineered to persecute blacks.

To some of them, Vick is a hero; their idol.

Benching the icon would have been suicidal. It would have put unbearable pressure on Foles, who, simply, was not very good in his six starts as a rookie last season.

Before Kelly's announcement Tuesday, Vick received endorsements from his two most potent weapons: temperamental running back LeSean McCoy and touchy receiver DeSean Jackson. You want those guys muttering on the bench when Foles throws two picks at Washington?

If Foles were named the starter and struggled while Vick looked on, no one wearing green would remember how Vick threw 24 interceptions in 23 games the past two seasons. They would remember the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year.

Yes, Vick played effectively in the preseason, but so did Foles. But it was the preseason. The blitzes will come later, and, with them, the turnovers.

And the criticism.

Foles also has never been scrutinized as Vick as

Rest assured, the videoheads at NFL Films, the NFL Network and ESPN will dissect everything Vick does, even more minutely now that Kelly's offense gives them a fresh carcass. They will pick apart Vick's cadence, Vick's check-downs, how Vick runs on and off the field between series.

This will not bother Vick.

He believes that a remade offensive line in 2011 and a decimated offensive line in 2012 kept him from Pro Bowl numbers, and got Andy Reid fired. He shook off every criticism, fair and cheap, from the last two seasons; from the last 6 years, really. He suffered the indignity of a pay cut this winter.

He even got a dog.

No amount of game-film critique from Jaws and Merrill can compare with losing everything in 2007 - reputation, endorsements, two prime seasons. He spent time in Leavenworth. He became the pariah for animal-rights groups the world over.

No matter how effectively Machine Gun Kelly's offense runs, the Eagles won't have to worry about picketing by People for the Ethical Treatment of Safeties (PETS).

Vick will become the most dissected QB in the history of the game . . . and, cleverly, Chip won't have to worry as much about having his scheme criticized.

Kelly realizes Foles cannot run the full-blown scheme, anyway.

Foles.

Is.

Slow.

Kelly's offense works best when the quarterback running it is a threat to gain real yards.

Yes, Tom Brady is slow, too, but Tom Brady is as accurate as a Stinger missile. Foles' arm cannot compare; not now, maybe never.

Besides, the Patriots don't really run Kelly's offense. They just adapted some of its tenets.

Vick's athleticism allows Kelly to retain those tenets. Even at 33, with an immense amount of wear, Vick remains one of the more dangerous runners in the game.

Also, at 33, he is expendable. Like Pederson.

Let him run the offense for a few weeks, get everybody used to it, let the line jell. If things go well, then great.

If not - if Vick gets hurt, if the offense sputters - replace Vick with Foles. Ostensibly, that will give Foles a better version than what Foles would have had if he took the reins Week 1.

Brilliant, right?

See, if this new scheme fails catastrophically, Kelly can just blame Vick.

Kelly could never blame the kid.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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