By Dennis Glade
In sports people hate new things, because it scares them. So often coaches and general managers want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, even if it continues to yield negative results. When a group of people come up with new ideas that challenge the construct of how things have been done for decades we get a “Old School” vs. “New School” debate where nobody wins.
In baseball, the sabermetrics community have revolted against batting average and RBIs and in the NBA, Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins lost his job because he wouldn’t conform to new executive John Hollinger’s new wave of statistics.
Enter Chip Kelly. Kelly’s Oregon offense has become legendary stuff in the college game, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick even visited Oregon last year to get pointers on how to run a hurry up offense in New England. The Patriots breakneck pace at times last year frustrated defenses with Tom Brady running the show. Kelly showed up in Philadelphia and the masses immediately assumed Michael Vick would become the perfect quarterback to run the Oregon high speed offense.
Thursday night’s putrid offensive display once again showed that Vick is nothing more than an average NFL quarterback at best, and anyone expecting more than that from him is just fooling themselves. Week 1’s Monday night victory over the Redskins was a perfect storm for Kelly. Robert Griffin III was still hobbled coming off offseason knee surgery and the Washington couldn’t get on track until it was too late. We now know the Washington defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Eagles scored 63 points in their first two weeks against two awful defenses in Washington and San Diego. When they finally ran into a legitimate defense we saw the result last night.
Vick was 13-for-30 passing for 201 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Yes, Vick ran for 95 yards, but 61 of those were on one play. He just isn’t the right quarterback to be running Kelly’s innovative offense which will make LeSean McCoy and Desean Jackson superstars in the coming years. Vick isn’t good enough or accurate enough to take the offense to the heights it could reach in the coming years. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Marcus Mariota, the current Oregon quarterback was lining up under center in Philadelphia next year.
Of course since Kelly came into the league with so much fan fare and zero NFL experience either as a coach or a player, he has received much resistance and criticism. He represents a difference of opinion with what NFL offenses have looked like for the past four decades. The Philadelphia offense is simply looking for an athletic quarterback who can make accurate throws and decisions to keep this fast-paced locomotive on the track. Unfortunately since the Eagles now sit at 1-2 after two straight losses, which will ultimately turn into 1-3 after next week’s trip to Denver, the reviews in the early going aren’t glowing.
Kelly’s offense will look great once it gets going with a quarterback who isn’t a turnover waiting to happen like Vick. With every interception Vick throws, the more he looks like such a waste of talent. His $100 million contract he received after his incredible 2010 season when he threw 21 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions and led the Eagles to the playoffs now looks like one of the biggest fluke quarterback seasons of all time. Since the beginning of the 2011 season (26) games, Vick has thrown 26 interceptions and has lost seven fumbles. For Kelly’s offense to succeed you need a quarterback that knows where the ball needs to go and how to get it there quickly.
Kelly’s offense isn’t a threat to conventional pocket passers, it’s just a different approach. Just because something is different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. If you like exciting football you have to applaud Kelly’s efforts. This isn’t to say pocket passers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are boring or a dying breed, but there are other options out there if that’s the direction a franchise wants to go.
Unfortunately for the Eagles players and coaches they are saddled with a quarterback who isn’t capable of helping the offense reach it’s full potential. Until the time comes when No. 7 is no longer under center the high-powered locomotive will be stuck in neutral.