Smart money is on Michael Vick being the Eagles starting quarterback for the opener.
My money isn’t that smart. It’s on Nick Foles.
It has nothing to do with Vick and all his question marks: the interceptions, the fumbles, the sacks, the injuries. Although that cannot be discounted.
It has to do with Foles.
There was something different about him when he met the media on Wednesday.
It wasn’t the haircut that left him looking less surfer boy and more, well, mature. It was the way he handled himself, the way he answered question after question, most of them having to do with how he doesn’t fit in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense and the offseason trade talk that swirled around him.
He spoke comfortably, more confidently, almost to the point of sounding somewhat annoyed, unafraid of offending anyone.
There is a point of reference to work with here, having observed and talked with him last year after games and during the week between games. And he was, well, different than he was Wednesday. Thinking back now to November and December, he almost looked a bit shell-shocked compared to Wednesday.
It’s only natural, really. A third-round draft choice, Foles had to have some kind of trepidation about whether or not he actually belonged in the pros. Well, he has proven he does, despite a 1-5 record that could have looked vastly different had he had a healthy offensive line and DeSean Jackson.
Now, he has to prove he is a starter and not a backup. He will get that chance with Kelly.
The two men know each other from having competed against one another in the Pac-12, with Kelly coaching at Oregon and Foles quarterbacking at Arizona.
“I knew Chip in college, I played against him several times and he knows me because he studied me in college, so there was a relationship,” said Foles. “There was a prior relationship. I feel comfortable. . . . It’s just getting to know each other more. We knew each other as competitiors, now I’m getting to know him as my coach.”
It’s my belief that Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur are devising an offense that will look nothing like the read-option. Maybe it’s something we’ve never even seen before.
Hear me out on this.
When owner Jeffrey Lurie laid out his prerequisites for a head coach after firing Andy Reid, he said he wanted somebody who could think outside the box, somebody who isn’t following NFL trends but at the forefront of them.
With defensive coordinators spending the offseason figuring out ways to stop the read-option, Kelly and Shurmur may very well be spending it concocting something we’ve never seen before, mixed with elements of what we have seen Tom Brady do in New England. Particularly the heavy use of two tight ends in the passing game.
Foles is better equipped to make that style work. While his deep ball needs work — based on some of what was seen last season — he gets rid of the ball quickly, can keep plays alive long enough to find an open receiver, and he throws a nice short to intermediate pass.
That’s not to say that Vick won’t have a role in all of this.
While the offense gets tailored to Foles, there will be some series during a game where Vick comes in at quarterback. He’s not a Wildcat quarterback, but is still viewed as a strong-armed passer, although not always with the required accuracy.
When Vick enters, there may be elements of read-option, because Vick still has a quarterback’s skill set. Whenever teams would go into a Wildcat formation, they would snap the ball to a runner and he would run. That wouldn’t be the case with Vick.
His entrance into games would make defenses have to play both the run and pass honestly. They couldn’t just sell out on the run, although Vick could do that a time or two. Those would be the times it would be wise to hold your breath in hopes that he doesn’t fumble or crack a rib.
Vick’s presence in a game would also give opposing defenses two very different styles of offenses to prepare for.
Foles seemed to indicate he knew what formula was being cooked up in Kelly’s laboratory. He just wasn’t letting on.
“We’re all here to achieve the same goal,” he said. “That’s all I can really say.”
Soon enough, there will be more.
As of right now, though, one week into April, don’t be so fast to bet the smart money on Vick.
Ed Kracz: 215-345-3069; email: email@example.com; Twitter: @kracze
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