NFL

Vick's allure deadly to coaches

Video: Chip Kelly remarks on the Eagles keeping Michael Vick.
Video: Chip Kelly remarks on the Eagles keeping Michael Vick.
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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining FOXSports.com. Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

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Godspeed, Chip Kelly.

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This was my initial thought when FOXSports.com’s Jay Glazer broke the news the Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick had reached an agreement on restructuring his contract that allows him to stay with the team next season. What Kelly sees in Vick is indisputable, a talented player capable of executing his up-tempo offense and winning on a grand scale. What is also indisputable is how many coaches before Kelly have died on this hill.

Vick is a coach killer. He may be the single biggest of my generation.

The thing with a coach killer is not that he is untalented, it's quite the opposite actually. These players are spectacularly talented. They are capable of doing things on a field few others can. It is their potential that is so damn seductive; engendering this feeling that the player just has not been with the right coach, right system, right teammates.

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Coaches, already imbued with an abundance of ego, believe “I can make it work with this guy” even while staring at evidence to the contrary. Chip Kelly has a job in Philadelphia not because Andy Reid did not believe in Vick, but rather because he believed in him too much. Reid loved Vick’s potential, paid big money for his potential only to end up with a big bag of nothing. It is what makes players like Vick extremely dangerous. Their talent makes it harder to walk away even when doing so is the smarter course.

You could almost hear it when Kelly talked about Vick on Monday, noting how he is younger than Cowboys QB Tony Romo and almost the same age as Giants QB Eli Manning. It was exactly the kind of thing you say when you are trying to justify doing something. I know Kelly said it is an “open competition” between Vick and Nick Foles, but this is not exactly a challenge to Vick. He is the more talented quarterback. He lost his job to Foles at the end of last season, thanks to a concussion, and the kid showed nothing to insist on that being permanent, the way Colin Kaepernick supplanted Alex Smith in San Francisco.

What Kelly is betting on is Vick being his best chance for this year. He may be right about this. There is much to like about Vick: his athleticism, his toughness, his flashes of dominance at the position. He is also 32, and the last couple of years in Philly have been a disaster. It is impossible to separate him from the carnage. This is not a case of a guy not being surrounded by talent or opportunity. The great frustration of Philly is how they have found a way to do so little with so much. It is why Reid was fired.

I find it telling that Kelly is beginning by making the same mistake Reid did at the end, of believing in a Michael Vick nobody has really seen consistently since his early days in Atlanta. The Vick that coaches keep giving money to and building teams around seems to be based more on hope than reality.

This is not about dogs, or ability, or whether I like Vick. I do, by the way, because there is much to be said for screwing up, for atoning and for taking advantage of your second chance. This is mostly about why it hasn’t worked with him, or why it has only worked to a certain point. Because something always seems to happen, an injury or an interception, that keeps all of that crazy potential from turning into Super Bowls, championships or — lately — even winning seasons. And why despite knowing all of this Kelly is jumping in anyway.

This, of course, is exactly why guys like Vick are coach killers. They show you just enough to keep you coming back, to keep you believing long past when you should, to keep you thinking “it will be different this time, it will be different with me,” to keep you thinking we cannot give up on this guy quite yet. It is why so many coaches end up dying on the same hills, thinking, “How did I not see this coming?” That is exactly what Andy Reid had to be thinking on his way out the door, yet he probably understands better than most what Kelly just did. And if he were back for another year, he might very well have again gone all in with Vick.

It is the allure of the talent that ultimately kills you.

Tagged: Giants, Eagles, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Nick Foles

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