By Bill Campbell
Eagles’ Quarterback Situation
Last Monday, Chip Kelly discussed the Eagles’ quarterback situation with his full coaching staff. On Tuesday, he called Michael Vick and Nick Foles into his office. Once he spoke with them, he then shared the Eagles’ best kept secret with all 5 QB’s on his roster: Vick will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the 2014 season. Kelly’s decision, making the choice between the 33-year-old veteran and the 24-year-old youngster, was his most important one yet. By choosing Vick Kelly was telling everyone that he was more interested in putting a few wins on the board now with Vick rather than winning somewhere down the road with Foles. The coach has concluded that the promise of a successful season’s opening can be better accomplished with a veteran rather than with a young player who still is learning the position. The choice makes sense in many ways.
In Kelly’s words, “I think that Vick is ahead right now. Nick made it a tough choice. It was not a case of a guy going north while the other guy went south. After 2 pre-season games, it became obvious that Vick was outplaying Foles and was a good bet to continue his pre-season effectiveness after 2 ineffective years.” Vick has weathered some storms here in Philadelphia, most brought about by injuries. They could crop up again although we hope not with a stronger line protecting him from hits.
If Vick gets hurt, Kelly has indicated he wouldn’t hesitate to use Foles. “This is going to be a one-quarterback operation. We plan to ask for a lot from our QB. The season is long and young Foles should have the chance, probably more than one, to rewrite this narrative.” Though disappointed in the decision Foles handled it well saying, “In my mind-set, I’m going to be here. I want to be here. I want to be a Philadelphia Eagle and be a part of this team. I love this team. We have a really good thing going. I love the coaching staff.” Continuing, Foles acknowledged, “You never know what’s going to happen. You always have to prepare yourself as the starter which is the way to go about it.” You can’t ask for a better attitude than that from the runner up.
It’s difficult to start or finish well without a firm hand at the throttle, offensively or defensively and there was a sense of relief seeing the drama end since the QB selection has been dominating discussions at training camp. For whatever reason, as Kelly put it, it was time to see a group working behind a certain quarterback and time to see how that group would respond to that person. Additionally, Vick’s contract is up after this season and Foles, who’s far from a big money player, can’t get a new deal from the Birds until after this season even if he’s the league’s MVP this year. Foles got a chance to play last year as a rookie after Vick suffered a concussion in November against Dallas. He ended up starting 6 games and completing nearly 61% of his passes, finishing 5th in interception percentage. When you compare Foles and Vick, you have to weigh the issue of the two players’ experience, mobility, improvisational skills, durability, and size, familiarity with the coaches, respect among the players, pre-season performance and contract year. Vick probably wins nearly all of these. So Round One of the Eagles’ most interesting competition of the pre-season has been won by Michael Vick. Kick-off in Washington is on September 9th.
Penn State head football coach, Bill O’Brien, is still mum on his choice for starting quarterback for the coming season. The Nittany Lions will open against Syracuse at Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday, August 31st. O’Brien says he’ll name a starter before the end of this week, choosing either sophomore Tyler Ferguson or freshman Christian Hackenberg. When asked about his final selection last week, O’Brien said the choice “might not come until next week, it might not come until the first play of the Syracuse game.” Ferguson transferred from California Junior College and participated in spring football drills with the Lions. Hackenberg didn’t arrive until June but has looked good in camp. O’Brien indicated that he considered the two players to be even, saying, “We have two really good young quarterbacks and those guys will both have to be ready to play for us this year.” Sounds familiar.
Temple head football coach, Matt Rhule, has named junior Connor Reilly as starting quarterback for the Owls’ regular season. They open on August 31st against Notre Dame. Reilly beat out Clinton “Juice” Granger for the job but never has started a college game. He gets to do it out in South Bend. Not an easy task. We’ll be watching that one, for sure.
The Eagles have added former offensive lineman, Tra Thomas, to their coaching staff. He’s serving as an offensive assistant. Thomas had been working with the team as part of a minority internship coaching program and impressed Coach Kelly. Now he’s on the sidelines wearing a headset. He’s got to have plenty to add on that side of the ball.
A Massachusetts grand jury has indicted former New England Patriots football star, Aaron Hernandez, on one count of murder and 5 weapons offenses. Hernandez pleaded not guilty and remains held in a county jail.
Chip Kelly’s unconventional thinking also shows in his recent announcement that the Birds will practice on the field 5 days a week during the season rather than the 4 they did under Andy Reid. The Eagles used to come to their facility on Mondays to meet but didn’t start practice until Wednesdays under Reid. With Kelly the players will take Mondays off as do the other 31 teams but they will practice Tuesday through Saturday at the Linc. This will be a change for many players. The whole practice regimen is designed to make them most physically ready for game days. We’ll see if it pays off.
Robert Griffin III
Washington Redskins QB, Robert Griffin III, was fined $10,000 by the NFL for wearing unauthorized apparel before last Monday night’s pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. During warm-ups, he wore an Adidas T-shirt with the inscription, “Operation Patience” on it. The NFL has a contract with Nike and Griffin was fined for wearing Adidas clothing at a post-game conference last season. I guess he couldn’t find anything else in his closet.
Atlanta Braves outfielder, Jason Heyward, had surgery last week for a broken jaw which he suffered after being struck by a pitch. He could miss the rest of the season. He and pitcher Tim Hudson have incurred some serious fractures in recent weeks, both occurring in the New York Mets ball park. Hudson broke an ankle and was carried off in late July. Heyward has two plates in his jaw now. The Braves have a 15-game lead over second place Washington, but Heyward and Hudson are key players for Atlanta.
They’ll be missed in the stretch.
Roy Halladay got back for the 2013 season after all – on Sunday afternoon. Yes, that Roy Halladay who looked like his season and, maybe, his career was over in late spring. He underwent shoulder surgery and had been rehabbing in Florida, where he expected to stay a while longer. But he not only found his way back to the mound, he’s talking about the Phillies being only a player or two away from being a solid contender once more. Maybe by next season. Halladay didn’t regain the use of his fast ball yet but he’s a guy who’s talking the polar opposite of most concerning the Phillies these days.
Remember the Phils are a team that just fired the manager and finished an 18-inning game that went into the wee Sunday morning hours before they lost it 12-7 to Arizona, using whoever showed up on the mound without regard to past experience. They even resorted to using the new man, outfielder Casper Wells, to pitch! Wells went 0-7 at the plate and took the loss. The last player to become the losing pitcher and go hitless in a game was Jim Harris of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1942 in a 5-4, 16-inning loss to the St. Louis Browns. The difference was that Harris actually was a pitcher.
In the Phillies-Diamondbacks marathon on Saturday night, there were 712 pitches thrown, 117 foul balls hit. Outfielder Wells now has the highest ERA (67.5) of any Phillies pitcher ever to record an out, topping the legendary Nate Roberson (54.0) who somehow pitched in 2 games in 2010 without anyone realizing it. Wells is now 1 for 23 since coming to the Phils, with a batting average of .043 that brings him pretty close to having the lowest career batting average among Phillies players with as many at-bats. Pitcher Tyler Cloyd is now 2 for 23 including a double in the 16th inning, struck sometime between 1 and 2 a.m., only to be stranded at second base. The game ended at 2:12 a.m., having started 32 minutes before the Eagles kicked off in Jacksonville and ended 17 minutes before the Birds landed back in Philly after the preseason meeting with the Jaguars. It was the 6th longest game in Phillies’ history and the latest-ending one without a rain delay.
Since the Phillies had used every available pitcher in this epic, they had to awaken Roy Halladay in Florida and ask him to fly up for Sunday’s game. A tired set of Phillies took to the field that afternoon but Halladay made it back to Citizen’s Bank Park and looked surprisingly good, pitching a respectable 6 innings. After the game he said that’s he feels he’s improving as is the team, noting, “Over the last week or so, we’re starting to get that sense that we can overcome anything. Hopefully that carries over and that’s the attitude you have to have in baseball. It has definitely been a lot better than it’s been in certain points this season.” The guy believes his velocity will continue to pick up as he recovers. Let’s hope so. We’ve really missed him this year.
John Kruk left the TV booth at Dodger Stadium on a stretcher this past weekend after becoming dehydrated. He’s now an ESPN analyst and was in LA for the Red Sox-Dodgers game. We was treated at the stadium and cleared to return to his hotel where he was directed to drink plenty of fluids and rest. Kruk, 52, was a 300 hitter with 592 RBIs which he tallied while playing10 years in the majors with the Phillies and Chicago White Sox. He’s a good guy. Here’s hoping he’s doing well.
After the Eagles pre-season game against Jacksonville, Coach Chip Kelly talked about Michael Vick’s performance. “I thought he did a good job keeping plays alive at times but there are other times when you have to cut your losses and get back to the line of scrimmage and get the next play off.” Although he had looked encouragingly good against the Patriots and Panthers, Vick seemed to regress a bit against the Jaguars who are considered a weaker team than the first two. Eagles left guard, Evan Mathis, said, “Gus Bradley seems to know what he’s doing.” You might recall that the Eagles were about to hire Bradley as head coach until Chip Kelly reconsidered their offer. He’s now heading up the Jacksonville team. But so far no Eagle has been heard to dispute Coach Kelly’s approach to the game.
This Thursday evening the Birds will play most of their subs against the New York Jets. The Phillies have taken 3 from the Mets and, once they finish that 4-game series, will head to Chicago for the weekend. This weekend, the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament will be played at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts with Rory Mc Ilroy defending his title. In tennis, the opening rounds of the U.S. Open have started at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. Yesterday a young Haitian, 17-year-old Victoria Duval, scored a major upset over former Open Champ, Samantha Stosur, 5-7, 6-4, and 6-4. Her father, Jean Maurice, who dug himself out of the Haitian earthquake rubble 3 years ago, was there to see it. That’s the kind of story that keeps us tuned in and there’s plenty to look forward to watching in sports this weekend. See you next week.