Monday, February 11, 2013

Vick's return to Philly a mutually beneficial move

Missing the NFL already? Fret not, because games or no games, everyone’s favorite sport will remain firmly entrenched on the front page of and in the lead headlines of sports talk radio throughout the country. The NFL offseason is as big –or bigger – than most other sport’s regular season. Cuts, free agent signings, and draft rumors will mean as much as almost any NBA regular season result, giving us all just enough of a fix to make it through to the 2013 NFL season.

The most scrutinized offseason development is that of the QB market, of which the first major domino fell on Monday with the announcement of Michael Vick’s one year “restructuring,” of sorts, with the Eagles. Vick’s tenure in Philly has been rocky, to say the least, with Vick struggling mightily with turnovers, injuries, and general ineffectiveness the previous two years. He hasn’t been horrible, mind you………OK, I take that back, he was pretty darn horrible last year. Sort of horrible the year before. Basically, a $100M version of Tarvaris Jackson.

As one would expect, the Eagles were not overly eager to pay $100M for a faster Tarvaris Jackson*, and it was no secret that Vick was on the chopping block absent a major reworking of his deal. The one year pact agreed to on Monday represents exactly that. 

*Darrell Bevell is, though!

As with almost anything Michael Vick or the Eagles do, there will be plenty of debate generated in the coming days. Was it smart of Philly to bring him back? Does he fit with Chip Kelly’s offense? Would it have been wiser of Vick to sign with a team that has real live NFL offensive lineman? All are legitimate questions – especially that last one – but to me, this arrangement is well conceived and represents the best possible outcome for both parties.

For Philly, there really is no downside to this deal. Even more relevant, there really are no other alternatives. Losing Vick would have left Chip Kelly with a 2nd year, statuesque pocket QB to run his spread option scheme and no clear immediate impact players to bring in through either free agency or the draft (more on that later in the week). Unless you think Kelly can resurrect Dennis Dixon’s corpse of a career – he can’t, by the way – then Vick is far and away the best option for the Eagles in 2013.

Keep in mind that Philly is decidedly NOT in rebuilding mode next year. Not with all the money they’ve poured into this roster. Not with all the money poured into this coaching staff. Certainly not with a hot shot college coach at the helm, desperate to prove his much hyped system will work against the big boys. In a world where these things were not the case, I could understand the hesitancy to bring Vick back, but in a world where the Eagles want to win in 2013, this is clearly their best shot. Vick isn’t without his issues, obviously, but if they can coach him to get the ball out a bit quicker, he has the skill set to succeed in this system.

As an aside, if you hear anybody say something to the effect of “the Eagles should move on from Vick because he’s not a good guy to have around your team,” please do me a favor and punch them in the face. I don’t know whether Vick is a cool teammate or not, but I do know he hasn’t caused any trouble since arriving in Philly. Can we all please stop pretending Vick is some sort of serial killer? Thank you.

For Vick, there is perhaps some risk involved given the potential opportunity cost of foregoing free agency. Once again, the QB market is just brutal this offseason. We’re talking Matt Moore, Tarvaris Jackson, Jason Campbell bad! Even if guys like Matt Flynn or Kevin Kolb were to be cut, Vick would easily rank as one of the more attractive players on the market. With so many teams needing starters (Bills, Chiefs, Jaguars, Browns, Cardinals, etc.), Vick wouldn’t even get halfway through his unemployment papers before getting a call.

What kind of deal he would get, though, is another matter. When Vick got his $100M two years ago, he was 31 years old, viewed as “fresh” due to missing two years while in prison, and coming off the best season of his career. In 2013, Vick is 33, has missed nine games the past two seasons with a wide assortment of injuries, and has turned the ball over 33 times (INT’s + fumbles lost) while putting the ball in the end zone just 32. Suffice to say, he’s not the bonanza acquisition he would have been two years ago. Perhaps he could have gotten a deal with one or two more years, but the reality is that he was never going to get a contract with a bunch of guaranteed money.

Given that, splitting town for a place like Buffalo or Kansas City makes very little sense. Regardless of where he plays, Vick will have to perform well to earn any kind of money beyond this season. He’s familiar with Philly and his teammates, and we all know his supporting cast has legit talent, so why stage your “prove it” season elsewhere?

Additionally, the arrival of Chip Kelly should deeply excite Vick. There will be a learning curve, sure, but an offense seeking to minimize hits on the QB and maximum speed advantages is right up his alley. Again, his skill set, in theory, should be an ideal fit for this scheme. If this works and Vick is once again leading a dynamic, high powered offense – a distinct possibility given the weapons and success of similar schemes this past season – the long term gain will be tremendous. He would likely earn all or most of the $10M he can receive this upcoming season, and would be in line for at least one more strong contract.

Will the marriage of Kelly and Vick work out in the end? That question is still very much up in the air. For all of Vick’s physical gifts, he’s shown very little ability to break free from bad habits he brought with him into the NFL more than a decade ago. Issues such as holding onto the ball and over-improvisation are killers in Kelly’s precise, read-heavy scheme. Highly respected “QB guys” such as Dan Reeves and Andy Reid weren’t able to coach those out of him then, so it’s understandably difficult to see how a first year NFL coach can get it out of him now after 10 NFL seasons.

Then again, Vick has never been in a scheme like this. Reid’s system, especially there at the end, was particularly ill suited to Vick’s skill set. Asking Vick to repeatedly drop back and wait for routes to develop all while having five turnstiles in front of him? Dumb. Kelly will bring an entirely different mindset to Philly, one that I actually believe can work in today’s NFL. Likewise, I believe it will work for Michael Vick.

And hey, if it doesn’t, can it really be worse than Vince Young? Cause he’s probably one of the top ten guys available!

Kudos to Vick for swallowing his pride and recognizing an opportunity. Likewise, kudos to Philly for not making a rash decision. It would have been easy to say “we’re fed up with Vick” and just cut him, but change for the sake of change isn’t always a good thing. Vick is the best option for them, and they were smart to recognize it. Good deal all around.

1 comment:

  1. From the Eagles' perspective, it reminds me a little bit of 2011 when Harbaugh came in and decided to keep Alex Smith for a one-year deal. 49ers easily could have said "we're fed up with Smith", and rightfully so, but Harbaugh was smart enough to see he wasn't going to significantly upgrade the position and that at least a veteran who's been with the team for a long time gives the team a chance to adapt to a new coach. Obviously that worked out better than expected for them, and I'm not at all predicting that it goes that well for Philly! But similar reasoning, in my view.