The Philadelphia Eagles experienced a shortlived rebirth under Chip Kelly, overwhelming the Washington Redskins with their new head coach's innovative offense. Since then, however, the Eagles have lost three games on the bounce to put the skids on the hype train surrounding the former Oregon Ducks mastermind.
The Eagles are lacking talent in a number of positions, demonstrated as they picked fourth in the 2013 NFL Draft, but there are still major question marks at the quarterback position, despite Michael Vick signing a restructured contract in February.
Vick, who will be 34 by the time free agency begins, is still suffering inconsistencies that have plagued him in recent years, and with his contract winding down, Kelly may see it as a priority to land his quarterback of the future. Second stringer Nick Foles doesn't possess the necessary skillset to succeed in Kelly's fast paced offense, whilst 2013 draft pick Matt Barkley looks set for a career as a backup, so what options does the draft hold?
Kelly's offense is predicated on quick passes at breakneck speed – with some read option plays mixed in, it doesn't hurt to have a mobile quarterback. Two names jump off the page when searching for a potential Eagles target that fit this mould.
The first is Marcus Mariota, the redshirt sophomore from Oregon. Mariota was incredibly successful playing under Kelly for the Ducks in 2012, and whilst there are no guarantees that the 19 year old declares for the draft, you'd have to assume Kelly would be interested in a reunion. The only problem is that it's unlikely the Eagles will have a high enough pick to land Mariota, should he declare.
The second option is one of the most polarising figures in college football – Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
“Johnny Football”, as he has become known, became the first player in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman last year, producing dazzling displays with both his passing and running ability.
However, it's Manziel's off-field demeanour is what has made him such an interesting character. With major doubts over his attitude to training – and a rather exuberant lifestyle – some people have concerns that he doesn't have the maturity to make it in the NFL. Throw in that he's undersized, doesn't have great arm strength and needs to work on his decision making and you begin to see why draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. declared that Manziel is not worthy of a first round pick.
However, Manziel has something of a history with Chip Kelly. Upon leaving high school, Manziel committed to play for Kelly at Oregon, before changing his mind, deciding home was where the heart is and staying in Texas. Manziel admitted in an interview three years ago that Kelly told him how he'd fit in his offense.
“I diagrammed some of my favourite plays at Tivy [Manziel's High School], and one of the Oregon coaches said, ‘We literally run the exact same offense with different terminology.”
“Kelly said I was perfect for their system, and I knew I was going to accept as soon as they offered.”
With this in mind, you being to wonder whether Kelly will finally realise the possibility of working with Manziel in the upcoming draft – should Manziel declare. Given his rather public spat with the NCAA, that seems likely at this point. A mobile, maverick quarterback with a maverick head coach. It might just be the perfect fit – and Manziel's best chance of success in the NFL.
image: © sydneyduhh