Michael Vick Named Week 1 Starter, but Chip Kelly Should Keep QB Battle Open

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 20, 2013

May 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick (7) G.J. Kinne (4) fourth round draft pick Matt Barkley (2) and Nick Foles (9) drop back to pass during organized team activities at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Michael Vick deserved the nod over Nick Foles, Matt Barkley, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne in the competition to be named the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback. He's been close to lights-out this preseason and seems to be getting comfortable in head coach Chip Kelly's system at a quicker rate than his peers.

But that might be partly due to the fact that he's been uncomfortable off the field. So much of football—especially at the quarterback position—is mental or psychological. Vick didn't really have serious challengers for his starting spot the last couple years, but now he knows he can't afford to let up or lose focus. 

The best season of Vick's career thus far came in 2010. That year, he wasn't even the Week 1 starter. When he got his chance to relieve the injured Kevin Kolb and prove everyone wrong, he excelled. This isn't an identical situation, but the overarching premise is that Vick has to stay hungry and driven. 

So while Vick would probably have to screw up royally in Philly's third preseason game Saturday in Jacksonville to lose his edge over Foles, naming him the Week 1 starter now doesn't accomplish much. 

It seemed as though Kelly was fully aware of that reality when he said this on Saturday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Once you think you've arrived in this game, you're going to get passed on by. No matter what the situation. ... You become a starter, that doesn't mean you kick your feet up and say, "I'm all set, this is a good deal."

But Kelly has gone ahead and announced that Vick will start against the Washington Redskins in teams' opener on Sept. 9, according to Jeff McLane of The Inquirer. His decision isn't surprising, but the timing is.

Ideally, Kelly will have Vick thinking all season long that he's one costly mistake away from being benched or even cut. I know that's not a very kind way to treat an employee, but it's sometimes necessary, and I won't shed tears for guys making approximately 200 times the average American income. 

Kelly should have let the preseason play out and then quietly released a depth chart with Vick in the No. 1 quarterback spot. Simple as that. And if Foles can also continue to perform at a high level, Kelly would have been well-served to continue to publicly and privately declare the job open for business. There have been hints during the preseason that he might consider using both quarterbacks, and that would bring natural fluidity to the situation.

This system could be gangbusters for Vick. He's mobile and more accurate than anybody gives him credit for. It's possible he's finally found the perfect fit. But Kelly hates sacks, and Vick has been known to spend quite a lot of time with the ball in the pocket. And everybody hates turnovers, which Vick has a knack for. 

The key now for Kelly is to ensure that Vick doesn't become complacent and fall back into those old habits. He's completed 13 of 15 passes and has turned the ball over only once this preseason. He's actually taking even longer to throw than he did last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), but he's only been sacked once in 16 preseason dropbacks, thanks in part to a healthier offensive line.

Yeah, the whole sample size remains tiny, too, which is another reason why we fear Kelly is reacting too quickly. He has to keep that fire in Vick's belly lit and has to see more from all quarterbacks involved.

Even after Vick has started in the prime-time Week 1 spotlight, the Week 2 starting job should remain up for grabs.