PHILADELPHIA — Before Chip Kelly burned his boats, here's hoping he noticed the wreckage along the coastline.
They are the ruined vessels of other captains lured toward the rocks by the siren song of Michael Vick's physical gifts. They were coaches who saw the rocket arm and the tailback speed and believed they could turn Vick into a championship quarterback.
They were Dan Reeves and Jim Mora Jr. and, most recently and painfully, Andy Reid. If Kelly knows about Cortes, the Spanish explorer who burned his ships to remove the possibility of returning home from his men's thoughts, he probably knows about Odysseus, lashing himself to the mast to resist the sirens.
Lash yourself to the mast, Chip. You'll thank us later.
With Reid's departure after two disastrous Vick-centric seasons, it seemed all but certain that the 32-year-old QB would be gone, too. Kelly represented welcome change after 14 ever more claustrophobic years under Reid. A new offense, a new direction, a new quarterback — it all felt fresh.
Then the Eagles announced that Vick will be back with a newly renegotiated contract. And you had to wonder if the sirens' song had gotten to Kelly during those long hours of watching tape of the team he inherited.
"I look at his skill set, first and foremost," Kelly said Monday. "What he can do, how he can throw the football, how he can beat people with his feet, there's a lot of different factors he has. ... For Michael Vick, there's a change of scenery but not a change of address."
It was hard to hear that and not detect, in the background, the sweet song of the sirens.
"With the right coach ... with me ... this guy could be the greatest QB in the league!"
When Kelly watched Vick throwing the ball to opponents and fumbling it away, he didn't see a deeply flawed, injury-prone QB. He saw the product of some other coaching staff's flawed approach.
"Some systems that you run don't ask him to get the ball out quick," Kelly said. "Do I think he can get the ball out quick? I think he's got an unbelievable release. It's up and out. I don't know what he was asked to do in the past. That's our job as coaches, to put him in a situation where he can get the ball out quickly."
New quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was a rookie NFL assistant coach on Reeves' Falcons staff in 2003.
"I had a chance to see (Vick) do things on the practice field I hadn't seen people do in person," Lazor said. "So I know what Michael's skills are."
All the game tape in the Eagles' AVID database won't show Kelly what he really needs to understand Vick: the repeated, and repeatedly ignored, vows to change his style to avoid punishing hits; the scorched earth he left in the locker room after a humiliating season-ending loss to the Giants; the incredible knack for turning the ball over at exactly the most excruciating moment in the course of a game.
For a brief flash in 2010, Vick was brilliant. Just brilliant enough to convince Reid to heed the siren song and commit himself to Vick. Like Reeves and like Mora — whose father, Jim Sr., memorably labeled Vick a "coach killer" — Reid wound up wrecked on the rocks.
There was a hint that Kelly hasn't been fooled. He referred to the "quarterback landscape" in explaining his decision to have Vick and Nick Foles compete for the starting job.
That can easily be interpreted to mean there just isn't anything better out there — not via trade or free agency and not in this year's draft. If that's how Kelly sees it, then it makes some sense to hang on to the assets that already are on the roster. If Vick winds up being his best option at the end of training camp, then so be it.
But that would represent a very disappointing start to Kelly's tenure here. If you accept that Vick is not going to be the QB here if and when the Eagles return to championship caliber, then starting him in 2013 equates to wasting a season.
It would be better to burn the boats than to burn another year.