Chip Kelly's first player move: Finding a quarterback

Will it be Nick Foles (left) or Michael Vick as the starting quarterback in Chip Kelly's offense? Or someone else? Nothing is "on the board" or off it right now, the Eagles coach said.
Will it be Nick Foles (left) or Michael Vick as the starting quarterback in Chip Kelly's offense? Or someone else? Nothing is "on the board" or off it right now, the Eagles coach said. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 18, 2013

If you were looking for new Eagles coach Chip Kelly to name his starting quarterback on his first full day on the job, then Thursday's news conference probably wasn't for you.

But there were words to be parsed and phrasings to be speculated on, and the general sense from this vantage point was that Kelly's starting quarterback for 2013 isn't likely on the current roster.

"There is nothing that's on the board right now, there's nothing that's off the board now," Kelly said. "Our sole focus and goal is that we're going to put an offense on the field that's going to score points. . . . Whoever that is, I don't know."

Kelly, officially introduced as the Eagles' 21st head coach on Thursday, had nice things to say about Michael Vick and Nick Foles. He didn't crown the veteran or the rookie as the franchise quarterback, either.

Neither Vick nor Foles is of that caliber, of course. The case once could be made that Vick was or potentially could be a franchise quarterback. He is slated to be paid like one. But the Eagles certainly will not pay Vick at his $15.5 million price next season.

The more pressing question with Vick's contract is whether the Eagles will keep him beyond Feb. 6. On that date, a provision guaranteeing him $3 million kicks in.

"It's pretty obvious that there is a first decision to make," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "We do have time to make it, and no decisions have been made on any person on the roster."

Foles, in six games down the stretch last season, showed enough promise that a case could be made to hand him the starting spot and roll the dice. If he were a first-round draft pick, the decision would be easy.

But there isn't much investment in third-round picks. And it's not as if the Eagles can carry over all of what Foles learned in his first season under Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. They certainly helped in his progression as a quarterback. But Foles now must learn an entirely new offense.

Conceivably, the Eagles could cut both and start over, and it would cost them very little. More than likely, Foles will stay even if he doesn't fit into Kelly's vision of his offense. The new coach said that he wasn't going to try and fit a pocket quarterback into a read-option spread offense.

"Our offense is always going to be tailored to who's playing," Kelly said.

He may have no other choice but to play Foles. But if he watches the film from last season and doesn't see a starter in the 6-foot-6, 243-pound quarterback, Roseman made it clear that the Eagles will do whatever it takes to get Kelly his starter.

"We told Coach Kelly, and what we told all the coaches [they interviewed] was that we would make sure that we had every resource at our disposal to get them the pieces in place that they felt they needed to win a world championship," Roseman said.

Getting that quarterback is much easier said than done. There is no Robert Griffin III in this year's draft - at least that's the general consensus three months before the draft. There are no attractive attainable free agents. There are a few backup quarterbacks, such as the 49ers' Alex Smith and the Seahawks' Matt Flynn, who could be acquired via trade.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie sounded optimistic.

"Nowadays there's a chance every year to find quarterbacks that can be successful fairly quickly," he said.

Kelly had great success at Oregon even though he didn't always have blue-chip quarterbacks. He certainly didn't have pocket quarterbacks. His last was Ricky Santos at New Hampshire from 2004-07. But that didn't mean his offenses weren't aerial.

"My quarterback last year - Darron Thomas, who is up in the CFL - we played in 14 games and he ran for 200 yards," Kelly said. "And everybody is like, 'You run a running offense.' Look at the statistics."

The Eagles hired the mind, not the scheme. But Kelly certainly has a prototypical quarterback in mind, or at least one he believes can run his speed offense, which requires a lot of quick thinking.

Some have said that a 25-year-old Vick would have been ideal for Kelly's system. But that Vick took as many sacks and had as many turnovers - quarterback cardinal sins in Kelly's eyes - as the aging QB we've seen over the last two seasons.

Still, it's possible that the Eagles will eat the guaranteed $3 million and keep Vick around just in case. What if Kelly sees something in the 32-year-old quarterback that makes him believe he can win with him? He wouldn't be the first.

He has less than three weeks to decide. Whichever choice the Eagles make regarding Vick, it will be Kelly's first significant roster decision.

Contact Jeff McLane at Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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