By DAN GELSTON
PHILADELPHIA — Michael Vick took a pay cut and had to compete for his job when he returned to the Eagles.
Part of the choice had to do with the up-tempo offense mapped out by new coach Chip Kelly.
“I just thought,” Vick said, “this was the best opportunity, the best fit for me.”
Turns out, Vick was the best fit for Kelly.
With his first chance to put his stamp on Philadelphia’s offense, Kelly named Vick the starting quarterback on Tuesday, giving the veteran the nod over Nick Foles after a sterling effort in the preseason.
“He’s our starter for the season,” Kelly said. “It’s not a one-game trial basis.”
There wasn’t a lot of suspense with Kelly’s decision, which was announced after practice on Tuesday, and after the coach met with both players. About the only surprise was the timing — Kelly had hinted he might not name a starter until closer to the opener. But Kelly, in his first season after coaching at Oregon, ended the mystery and will have Vick taking the snaps when Philadelphia opens the regular season at Washington Sept. 9.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Vick said. “I told him, ‘Thank you, I appreciate it and I won’t let you down.’”
Vick has been solid in two preseason games, and Foles, in his second season with the Eagles, has struggled to grasp Kelly’s multifaceted offense. Vick has thrown for 199 yards this preseason and will take a 113.2 quarterback rating into Friday’s game at Jacksonville (0-2).
Foles has been sacked six times in two games, and has a quarterback rating of 65.5, after showing flashes as a rookie last season while Vick was injured. Vick played in just 10 games last season, while Foles topped 340 yards twice as a rookie.
The Eagles (1-1) are coming off a 4-12 season, coach Andy’s Reid’s last, and haven’t made the playoffs since they won the NFC East at the end of the 2010 season.
“We had a good amount of tape, a good amount of us seeing them on the field,” Kelly said. “And seeing them in a lot of different situations, and wanted to put a guy in place, if we could, in enough time to get us to prepare the season.”
Kelly has only shown flashes of his up-tempo offense in the first two preseason games and defenses already seem tired and confused while the Eagles are moving the ball with ease. The first-team offense led by Vick and Foles has four touchdowns on eight-plus possessions in two games. One drive ended with an end-zone interception and two others ended with fumbles.
Behind Foles will be Matt Barkley, a rookie from Southern Cal.
“The competitor in me, you always want to be the one on the field playing,” Barkley said. “At the same time, I love Mike. We’ve gone about it the right way. We’ve kept our great friendship and we’ve pushed each other. I’m proud of him. I’m going to do anything I can to help him become the best quarterback possible.
“I’m excited for him. Nothing changes in my preparation. I’m going to prepare the same way.”
Vick had a breakout year under Reid in 2010, leading the Eagles to the division title, winning The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year award and starting in the Pro Bowl. But he’s battled injuries and inconsistency the last two years.
Now 33, Vick sustained a concussion in Week 10 last year and Reid decided to let Foles play the rest of the way because the Eagles were in last place. Vick returned to start the season finale against the New York Giants because Foles was hurt. He finished the year with 2,362 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He lost five fumbles.
“I think Mike is ahead right now. I think Nick made it very difficult,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t where one guy went north and the other guy went south. I think both of them upped their games.
“But at this point in time Mike’s ahead.”
The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback agreed in February to a restructured three-year contract with the Eagles, just two seasons after signing a $100 million extension that included $35.5 million in guaranteed money. The new deal is essentially for one year, however.
Vick could earn up to $10 million in 2013 if he meets all performance incentives. He was slated to earn about $16 million this season, including a $3 million roster bonus.
Vick has missed 11 games because of injuries over the last three seasons.
A former No. 1 overall pick by Atlanta, Vick was signed by Philadelphia in 2009 after missing two years because he was in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. He came in as the No. 3 quarterback behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.
After McNabb was traded and Kolb was injured in the season opener in 2010, Vick took over and was outstanding. He had career highs in yards passing (3,018), completion percentage (62.6), touchdowns passing (21), touchdowns rushing (9) and passer rating (100.2).
He might not hit those numbers again — even if Vick believes he’s still capable of playing like his old self.
“It don’t stop here. This is just Day 1,” he said. “I’ve still got to prove myself.”