We'll see over the long haul how NFL players respond to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly. But his gift of relating to his players at Oregon has carried over to his probable starting quarterback with the Eagles.
When there were rumors at the Fiesta Bowl that Kelly would jump to the NFL, Oregon's players supported him and sounded genuinely excited for his opportunity. He left for the Eagles after pledging to stay, something that could have caused some hurt feelings. But his players almost unanimously supported him again. He has a way of reaching his players.
And it sounds like he's reaching Michael Vick.
After Thursday night's game against Carolina, Vick's second straight fantastic preseason performance that gives him a significant and perhaps insurmountable edge in the quarterback competition with Nick Foles, Vick credited Kelly for rekindling his love of football.
"I’m having fun playing football and I fell in love with the game again and I am thankful for that," Vick said, according to the team's transcript. "You’ve got to play this game with intense passion and purpose and I thank Coach Kelly for what he has done for me and that’s just giving me that confidence that I felt like I was losing at some point in my career."
The last couple seasons were understandably not all that enjoyable for Vick. He followed up his near-MVP 2010 season with a disappointing 2011, and then in 2012 his terrible offensive line couldn't protect him and he took a lot of punishment. He was eventually injured, which led to him being replaced by Foles, and then at 33 years old he had to get used to an entirely new offense under Kelly.
But, as many people predicted, Vick fits the offense very well. He has completed 13-of-14 passes this preseason, not counting a Hail Mary at the end of the first half against Carolina. He talks excitedly about how the offense can play even faster, while repeating constantly that he just wants to get better. This offense and Kelly have rejuvenated him.
"I mean I feel in rhythm all the time," Vick said. "I’ve felt in rhythm when I am in practice, just the flow of the way we prepare has had me in a position where I feel like I can do it all."
Before training camp, it looked like Foles had a great chance to win the job. He's nine years younger than Vick, and that's not insignificant on a team that has to rebuild a bit. But Vick at his best is still one of the more dynamic players in the NFL. It seems Kelly is pulling that out of him again.
"I mean when things don’t go well and when everybody is pointing the finger at you it can hurt your confidence," Vick said. "You could be one of the best players in the league and sometimes outside sources can maybe waver your feelings or emotions. I read everything that was said, I lived it, but when I first sat down with Coach Kelly his main concern and goal was to help me get back in tip-top shape, and get me to the point where I am comfortable and can believe in myself again. I thank him for that, so that is where the work ethic comes from now.
"I come in early, I train hard and I do everything they ask me to do and I encourage my teammates to do the same thing because I see how it is helping me develop as a quarterback even in the later stages of my career."