Plenty of time to pick Eagles QB, Kelly says

Chip Kelly says the Eagles "have until Sept. 9" to name a starting QB, "so we'll see how it works itself out." AKIRA SUWA / Staff
Chip Kelly says the Eagles "have until Sept. 9" to name a starting QB, "so we'll see how it works itself out." AKIRA SUWA / Staff
Posted: July 13, 2013

 The chance for Chip Kelly to evaluate his quarterbacks has been limited to two months of offseason work that did not include pads, contact, or a live pass rush for his passers to sidestep. Only two-thirds of the offense has been installed.

That's why the Eagles coach has elected to exercise patience in the quarterback competition, withholding judgment until it's necessary - or obvious - to make a decision between Michael Vick and Nick Foles, and potentially even Matt Barkley.

"We're going to have to name a starter at some point in time," Kelly said during a wide-ranging interview after the team's spring minicamp. "That's why I think it would be unfair right now, because there hasn't been enough situations to evaluate. If someone said, 'Hey, we have to play a game tomorrow,' we have to make a decision. But we don't have to play a game tomorrow. We have until Sept. 9, so we'll see how it works itself out."

The Eagles' rookies report to training camp July 22. The entire team will check in by July 25. The first preseason game is Aug. 9, and the regular season opens Sept. 9.

Vick has said he would prefer for a starter to be named before training camp begins, but Kelly still has more he needs to evaluate before determining who will be under center.

Practices intensify during training camp, with a more realistic pass rush. But quarterbacks still wear the red jerseys that indicate they cannot be hit, so preseason games are also likely to factor into Kelly's evaluation. He said there's nothing to be gained by naming a starter now.

"You want to make sure you take the whole body of work into consideration," Kelly said. "If in practice three they have a [bad] practice, do they come back in practice four and bounce back pretty good? Or have you made your decision after practice three? We're not forced to make a decision soon, and I don't think the positives of making an early decision outweigh making sure we make the right decision."

Until a quarterback is named, the competition will be a daily source of intrigue. Vick said he was tired of answering questions about it, and the other players also have been asked to offer their take on the competition. That will not stop, either. Kelly expects as much.

"It's the nature of the game," he said. "I understand that there always seems to be a question; I've had it every time we've had to make a decision on the quarterback. Every day we come off the practice field they want to know, 'How did the quarterbacks do?' No one was like, 'How did the gunner on the punt team do? Did you make your decision on that?' . . . For us, as coaches, we evaluate every position similar to evaluating the quarterback position."

Kelly acknowledged that the competition could become tense, but he believes that would be the case for any position. Quarterbacks simply receive more attention.

Waiting to make a decision is not unusual for Kelly. At Oregon last season, Kelly did not name Marcus Mariota the starting quarterback until Aug. 24 - one week before the season opener. In 2010, Kelly did not name Darron Thomas the starter until one week before the season opener.

Russell Wilson was not named a starter in Seattle until Aug. 27 last season, after what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a "legitimate competition." Kelly cited the Seahawks and Wilson as an example of someone earning the job in a competition.

"Everywhere I've been it's played itself out on the field. Does that mean it's going to happen here? I don't know," Kelly said. "But I've never been in a situation where we've had to make a decision and it's like 50-50, pick it out of a hat. Somebody over the course of time has stepped up and has won the battle. That's what you're hoping to have happen again here, and hopefully it's evident to everybody, like, 'There's no question that it's this guy because his game stepped up.' "

That doesn't mean Kelly won't change his mind, even after he names a starter. He said he "reserves the right to change everything," and continued to emphasize that even starters "need to understand that it's always on the line."

But for the first time since 1997, the Eagles will enter camp with an open competition for starting quarterback. And the date that matters to Kelly is not July 25 or Aug. 9, but rather Sept. 9, when somebody needs to takes the Eagles' first snap on offense.

"Best part about it is we have to," Kelly said. "We can't call a timeout and say we're not ready."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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