BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
People are often blinded by the comfort of familiarity. This is why Philadelphia Eagles fans have chosen to regurgitate that the starting quarterback for the Birds this upcoming season will be either Michael Vick or Nick Foles. This sentiment is shared mainly because this is all fans have seen.
Well ladies and gentlemen please take a moment to meet Mr. Dennis Dixon.
Aside from the occasional Matt Barkley reference, most fans have blindly followed the notion it will be Vick or Foles under center this season. The mere mention of Dixon is met with sheer and utter disbelief.
The faith in the former Oregon Duck is substantiated by first and foremost the lack of qualified quarterbacks currently in front of him on the depth chart. All will agree that neither Foles nor Vick have distinguished themselves as bona fide starting quarterbacks in this league over the last two seasons.
There are a plethora of reasons, or excuses depending on where you sit on the fence, why both quarterbacks have struggled. The lack of skilled opposition combined with a skill set built for Chip Kelly’s offense and you should be at the least a bit intrigued.
Dixon has also been coached by some of the best quarterback minds in the NFL. The Eagles quarterback has had the privilege of learning from Super Bowl winning and participating coaches and players. That journey began with his time in Pittsburgh backing up Ben Roethlisberger to his one season in Baltimore with Joe Flacco.
Drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round, one can fully understand the immediate request for drug testing when stating Dixon should win the Eagles starting job. Alas, it is not where he was drafted but by whom he was drafted.
While in Pittsburgh, the former Steeler’s quarterback coach was 17-year NFL veteran Ken Anderson, and his offensive coordinator was none other the quarterback’s guru Bruce Arians. Yes, the very same Bruce Arians who coached the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs and specifically helped Andrew Luck have one of the greatest rookie campaigns in NFL history.
Arians also was Peyton Manning’s quarterbacks coach during his first two seasons in the NFL.
Manning set five rookie quarterback records and Luck set seven rookie quarterback records under Arians’ tutelage.
Now no one is comparing Dixon to Manning or Luck, those examples illustrate just how brilliant of a quarterback mind Arians has. Dixon spent four years being taught by the coach and learning behind two time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger.
Dixon, in just limited playing, was able to gain the coach’s confidence. Despite Arians being extremely stringent in his time with Dixon and the coach remained adamant that the young quarterback execute from the pocket.
As a restricted free agent the quarterback languished in free agency before accepting a position on the Baltimore Ravens’practice squad. For some, landing on the practice squad could mean death to their NFL career, except for those who find opportunity in hard work.
It was on the practice squad where Dixon would eventually work with then Ravens quarterback’s coach and now Raven’s offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell. Ravens’ current signal caller Joe Flacco improved dramatically under Caldwell.
However, it was Caldwell’s ten seasons working with the Indianapolis Colts, six of those seasons he was Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach that is his claim to fame.
Caldwell would coach Manning to his first league MVP award (the quarterback would win three MVPs in all under Caldwell), to a then single season record for touchdown passes (49), and to Manning’s sole Super Bowl title.
Again no one is comparing Dixon to Manning, rather illustrating how being coached by Caldwell for a year will have a tremendous effect on Dixon. In Baltimore, Dixon would also show his competitive valor, in lobbying to play the role of Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III and San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Dixon had success at playing both roles, and Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees gushed at how effective the quarterback was at playing RG3. Dixon stated that the style of play was second nature to him, because it was the same offense he ran while playing at the University of Oregon.
Yes the Ravens did lose to the Redskins in overtime, nevertheless Baltimore did defeat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, but for Dixon the preparation was yet another opportunity to learn his craft. Now in Philadelphia the one time Heisman hopeful and projected first round pick has a chance to put those lessons to task.
It is not farfetched to believe the fundamentals taught by Arians and Caldwell will be on display early and often by Dixon in training camp and more importantly in the preseason games. Just as Dixon is familiar with Kelly, the new Eagles’ coach is equally as familiar Dixon, and as previously stated there is always comfort with familiarity.
Furthermore, the Birds are not equipped with a formidable starting quarterback. So why is it so difficult to fathom Dixon has just as good a chance as Vick and Foles to become the Birds starter? Why do people scoff when Dixon’s name is mentioned? If anything there should be an idealistic approach to the notion.
Considering Dixon’s chief competition for starting the quarterback position consists of one qb who in 11 seasons has won more than 10 games once, there should be little resistance the idea.
An athlete who is familiar with a system, who has experienced success in that system, who is confident in his skill set, and believes they have an opportunity in front of them is usually successful. This will be no different.
When Coach Kelly opens up camp he will be demanding four quarterbacks execute a system that will be foreign to three of them. Meanwhile, fans will be hoping those three quarterbacks find a comfort level Dixon will already have.
There is a thin line between the unknown and the incomprehensible. Dennis Dixon has learned how to play the position of quarterback from two of the best playing the position and two of the best coaching the position. So it should not be incomprehensible that he will be the starting quarterback come week one, solely because he is unknown.