Chip Kelly Chooses Eagles: Faces Vick Conflict

On Wednesday afternoon, sources told Chris Mortenson of ESPN that the Eagles have hired former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly to lead the Eagles next season. Earlier this month, Kelly said he was not comfortable leaving Oregon for the NFL. Make no mistake: this outcome was the best for both sides. Kelly, who leaves Oregon with a 46-7 overall record as a head coach, could not be a more cohesive fit for the Philadelphia offense. If it’s one thing Kelly knows how to use, it’s speed – and the Eagles have plenty of that. Kelly must be drooling over the weapons in his new offense. After all, his arsenal includes one of the most feared vertical (and horizontal, for that matter) threats in DeSean “action” Jackson, the has-everything workhorse in Shady McCoy, the go-to possession receiver in Jeremy Maclin, and a tight end duo that offers speed, play making ability, blocking, and reliable hands.

Of course, there is two very large, but very different concerns that Kelly must address on offense: his quarterback, and his offensive line. No one really knows how Chip will deal with these issues. Should he keep Vick? Is Foles really the future of this franchise? Should he blow up the offensive line? None of these are simple questions, and he surely doesn’t know the answers yet. So what does he know exactly? He knows that it would be a lot easier if money wasn’t an issue.

Michael Vick will make 15.5 million dollars next season, unless he’s cut. That’s a lot of money. The conflict here isn’t whether or not Michael Vick is a productive player, but it does have to do with the value he holds in this specific offense. Sure, on paper a speed demon, laser armed quarterback that’s cut from the same elastic cloth as Randall Cunningham fits a no huddle fast paced offense perfectly. For Kelly and his read-option offense, that may not be the case. In his 4 years as acting general of the Ducks,  Kelly ran the ball nearly 2500 times. Among all those carries, the starting quarterback only accounted for 15% of the entire workload. Of course, passing is fairly important to the value of a quarterback, as well. For Kelly, though, the run game is far more essential than that of the pass: Kelly threw the ball just over 37% of the time during his tenure. Although his offenses leaned very heavily on the running backs,  the quarterback run did account for 10% of the overall offense.

Now, no one in their right mind would argue that Nick Foles is, at least currently, more dangerous than Vick. But at 15.5 million dollars, would Vick really be worth accounting for less than half of the offense? It is true that Kelly hasn’t ever possessed a player like Vick at quarterback, so his utilization could very well skyrocket over Kelly’s college starters he put under center. Still, with Vick’s well being always in question, is it possible to be worth that much money? If Kelly decides the he isn’t, he’ll be cut by February 6th to avoid paying him any of his remaining salary. If that’s the path Kelly chooses, he must decide if Vick’s replacement is Foles, a free agent (the only starter currently slated to be available is Joe Flacco, but it’s looking like his late season success will net him some fulsome Baltimore dollars), or in the draft (with the 4th pick in the 2nd round, nearly every quarterback is slated to be available). Regardless of the route you speculate, the conflict Kelly faces, the fifteen and a half  million dollar conflict Kelly faces, will be viewed as the decision that made or broke this team following next season.

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