What Makes You Think Vick Will Play Better In Chip Kelly's Offense?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Actually, I know Vick will play better in Kelly's offense, and the reason is simple. This will be the first time in his career, or at least since 2003 under Dan Reeves, that he has played in a balanced offense, where the running game and passing game are equally important and utilized.

During two periods of Vick's career, and under two coaching regimes, he was part of offensive units that looked, for a time, unstoppable. But both had fatal flaws, and shared some characteristics, which I have reason to believe will be absent from the Chip Kelly regime.

  • Atlanta Falcons: HC Jim Mora / OC Greg Knapp - a dominant running game, which led the league in rushing for three straight years (2004-2006). The run game was actually the product of silent partner and 'offensive line consultant' Alex Gibbs, who was the OL coach in Denver, who created, or at least perfected the zone / cut blocking scheme which allowed the Broncos to have that incredible string of plug N play RBs who would emerge from nowhere to gain 1,000 yards.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: HC Andy Reid / OC Marty Mornhinwheg - an initially dynamic passing game, typified by deep shots downfield off of play action and lots of crossing routes, Hi-Lo concepts.

The problem with Atlanta is that Alex Gibbs was the architect of the offense and was ambivalent about the passing game, and Knapp was a terrible, execrable offensive coordinator. The passing game for Atlanta was juvenile. Clear-out 9's on the outside, or curt/comebacks for receivers who did not know how to run routes and who got NO separation, or all curls. The receivers were so bad during Vick's time there that his favorite WR target was Brian Finneran, who was cut by the Eagles during the days when the Eagles had Pinkston and Thrash. That's how bad those guys were. Vick's favorite target was TE Alge Crumpler, who simply got open, and caught everything thrown to him, even in the middle of double coverage (because none of WRs could beat man coverage, let alone require help).

While in ATL, however, Vick's presence did wonders for the running game. Warrick Dunn is one of my favorite RBs ever, and a wonderful, wonderful back, shifty, decisive and tough as they come. But he benefited greatly by the presence of cutback lanes created partly by the zone scheme, but mostly by Vick. Opponents would routinely spend an entire day of game week preparation specifically going over how to stop Vick, to the point of telling their DEs and DTs to ignore years of training and fundamentals and not crash down to seal off cut-back lanes for the running game, on the off chance that Vick kept the ball on a bootleg.

During one run, in 2005 or 2006, early in the season, the Falcons went several games piling up 200 and 300 rushing yards PER GAME, against some of the very best defenses in the NFL (vintage Bucs). In 2006 they averaged 183 yards per game over the entire season, 5.5 yards per carry as a team (MV had 1,034 yards, and 8.4 YPC). But this was largely a finesse running running game, with a bad OL, and they did their thing with smoke and mirrors between the 20s, but had a terrible time scoring in the red zone. In the 4th quarter of an ass-kicking by the Falcons (one of those 300 yard rushing games), Monte Kiffin, in desperation or inspiration, started blitzing the backside of stretch runs to the right with corners and safeties. In the absence of a true dropback game for ATL, and the utter lack of WRs who could win off the line against press coverage, this generally high-risk strategy became low risk, high reward. Teams stacked 8 and even 9 in the box, and the Falcons could not do anything about it.

Philadelphia Eagles, under Andy and Marty, were the anti-Falcons. In 2010, Vick experienced a career renaissance, including being given the reins as a 'complete' QB, with the ability to use his arm. Teams expected the old ATL Vick, but, unlike in those days, he actually had weapons on the outside, AND a much more sophisticated passing offense to lead. Given time, he demonstrated that he could deliver the ball with accuracy to any spot on the field, and that he was capable of putting up big numbers through the air. What could go wrong? Andy and Marty's stubborn aversion to running the ball, and coaching malpractice in not adapting the offense to deal with secondary pressure.

It's pretty crazy. I posted this before the Giants game in Nov of 2010:

What to Expect From The Eagles Offense vs. NYG

In it, I SPECIFICALLY mentioned how teams defensed Vick in the past, and why I thought the present Eagles team could easily counter it:

Basically, I don't buy that the Giants can get to Vick using only their front four. We saw how well sitting back in a deep zone worked for Washington, so they'll have to roll the dice and send some pressure. Boley has good speed and is an effective blitzer, so they may rush him, some. One technique that teams used against Vick in ATL was secondary pressure, especially CB blitzes to the backside of the stretch run (because Vick would frequently bootleg off of this action).

The problem with sending secondary pressure, though, is both DJax and Maclin require a double team. But they need to blitz DBs to have a chance against Vick's speed. If they don't blitz, they'll need extra DBs (instead of LBs) to help prevent huge plays in the passing game.

That means the Giants will have to play a lot of Nickel and Dime coverage against the Eagles base personnel.

Which means big games for Shady or Harrison running the ball up the middle. Having seen what the birds can do with the quick strike offense, I think the poison the Giants will pick is to concede the running game to stop the pass.

Big game for Shady running the ball. WTF was I thinking???? OF COURSE, Andy and Marty would opt to continue dialing up passes and leaving his QB back there to take hits while looking for the big play downfield.

Here is Sheil Kapadia's write-up of that game: Evaluating Vick Versus The Giants

So, even though I typically credit Leslie Frazier and the Vikes for putting the blueprint out there to stop Andy's version of Michael Vick, the Giants actually started it, but couldn't finish it, much like when Monte Kiffin (Gruden's) Bucs were getting stomped by the Falcons. What Andy and Marty did, in addition to NOT running, was to trust max protect, taking Celek and Shady out of routes. Problem was, the way our line was, we were getting beat up the middle, AND on the edges (except to Peters' side). And those max protect looks took two potential release valve receivers who could win in space against LBs or safeties, and held them in, minimizing potential for hot reads/sight adjustments, while we rolled the dice on Desean or Maclin beating the jam, and beating double coverage AND getting open deep. Even when we won that battle we lost, as Vick accumulated punishing hits over his stint with the Eagles.

Well, if the above is true, why do I think Vick will fare any better in 2013?

Based upon everything I've read, and everything he's said, and everything I've seen, I believe Chip Kelly is simply a much, much smarter coach. I am buying into his philosophies on team building, upon design of an offense, and I trust all the good fishduck people in terms of his abilities as an in-game coach.

The Eagles have already faced secondary pressure during pre-season and dealt with it, routinely. (Vick, Foles and Barkely). WHY? The system ACCOUNTS FOR IT. It drove me crazy over the last few years with folks (including paid writers) with pseudo-football knowledge talking about, "he should have thrown it to his HOT READ". Meanwhile, I'm tivoing the game, rewinding and going forward and there only 3 receivers in the route, and all of them are on 'closed' 15-yard stems (meaning routes that break downfield, where you don't look for the ball until you break). Or, the QB is carrying out a play action fake and has his back turned to the defense. There is no hot read there.

Chip has described his preference (run or pass) as equal opportunity scoring. Via formation and play design, and play calling, he's shown that throughout the preseason.

  • The heavy and early use of the run (as opposed to us running Shady 4 times in the first half of an AZ team that was EATING our OL) makes team do stuff like let TEs and slot receivers release into routes, because LBs don't want their ankles broken by Lesean.
  • The spreading out of the formations (Double Stack / Dbl Twins) does stuff like force teams into a single high safety. (like on the TD to djax vs. NE)
  • The spreading out of the formations makes it obvious when an LB or NB or CB is coming on a cat blitz (while also leaving a huge void for one of our million TEs to run into for a quick slant on the sight adjustment/hot read)
  • The bubble screens will make corners or slot defenders come up close to the L.O.S. (which will allow our TE/slot WR to beat them)
  • The threat of the run game won't allow teams to play their Safeties 20-30 yards off the ball like WAS and CHI have done to us
  • The PRESENCE of Option Routes means that djax doesn't have to stick with running a 'Go'/9 route if the CB is giving him 10 yards of cushion. (Did you see how effortless those back to back stop/comeback routes versus CAR were during the 2 min drill -- that's all day).
  • Shady (and BBrown) will get fed the ball and have man on man blocking in front of them, and the ability to cut anywhere they want.
  • And if NONE of the above ish works, I trust Chip to make changes to something that DOES work.

This team will either lead the league, or be Top 3 in Rushing (and average over 5 ypc as a team, Shady will probably be close to 6). Offense will be Top 5.

Unlike in the past, yards will translate to points, as this is no longer a trick running team that can't push someone off the ball in short yardage.

3rd and 4 is now a running down. (Chip is prolly going for it on 4th and 1, anyway -- let teams worry about that).

Teams will not be able to predict where the ball is going, and whether we are going to run away from them, straight at them, or throw it over their heads.

Also, and this should have it's own post, I've figured out why I love Chip's offense so much: