Head coach Chip Kelly leaves everyone guessing when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback situation.
Despite Foles' brilliant seven touchdown performance against the Raiders, Kelly still hasn't officially named a QB starter. Kelly has stated multiple times that the starting QB job depends on health.
But if Foles is playing so well, why won't Kelly just commit to him as a starter? Perhaps it's because he wants to make sure Foles isn't just handed the job. Kelly's affection for competition is no secret. The Eagles held a quarterback competition for most of the off-season. Now, it's up to Foles to keep working hard and prove he has earned the job. Complacency could result in a bad performance, such as Foles' outing versus the Cowboys.
On the other hand, it's possible Kelly won't commit to Foles because he doesn't believe him in the long-term. Earlier this season, when Michael Vick initially suffered a hamstring injury, I wrote what Nick Foles could do to win the starting job. The key takeaway is that he can't leave any doubt in Kelly's mind. It's up to Foles to play at the highest level possible and give Kelly no reason not to play him. Foles might have a chance to do just that in the remaining games, assuming he gets the chance. Even then, it's no guarantee Foles' best efforts will be good enough by Kelly's standards.
Kelly might decide to play Vick when he returns from injury. This may appear a short-sighted move, but it could be argued that it's just the opposite. Vick himself isn't a long-term piece in Philadelphia, but his dual-threat mold could be. Consider for a second that there is a chance Nick Foles isn't Chip Kelly's ideal fit. It's not that Kelly needs a mobile quarterback, but it may be his preference moving forward. Perhaps he feels his ideal offense is ultimately limited with Foles. If that's the case, playing Vick is preferable to playing Foles because the goal is to establish Chip's system. Building the offense around Nick Foles may not be in Kelly's plans. But then ask yourself, does Kelly value building the system more than he does winning now?
The fact that playing Vick bodes well for the future of the Eagles is ironic. A number of Vick detractors claim the exact opposite: that playing Vick now is a short-sighted decision that doesn't make sense. This is a fair claim to a certain extent. Vick is a known-commodity. He has trouble staying healthy and he is turnover prone at times. At this point in his career, Vick has more than reached his potential ceiling.
The argument for Nick Foles starting the rest of the year then seems clear. Not only is he playing well now, but he's arguably outplayed Michael Vick. Kelly is a man who does everything for a reason. If Foles gives the Eagles the best chance to win, it only makes sense for Kelly to stick with the young quarterback.
Plus, Foles playing the remainder of the season gives the team a chance to evaluate him more closely. The decision to play Foles isn't only about winning now, but figuring out if he can be the Eagles' future franchise quarterback. This argument isn't as simple. Again, Kelly is a man who does everything for a reason. It's hard to imagine him playing Foles for the sake of evaluation. Kelly cares about wins. His purpose here is not just to evaluate.
In the long term scope, the Eagles need a reliable answer at quarterback in order to sustain future success. So is Foles enough to be that "franchise quarterback" that Jeff Lurie deemed the organization's number one priority? It's unclear, but it's hard to say there isn't at least a chance.
Some are high on the chances of this possibility, such as those over at ChipWagon
Clearly I am lot more convinced that Nick can be the franchise QB this week than I was last week. I was joining the dialogue that it's likely the Eagles answer at franchise QB isn't Foles. However a HOF performance like we saw from Foles on Sunday, allows you to look through his young career with a different lens. Games like that don't happen by accident. And if you combine that performance with his limited body of work, it's hard not to get excited. So take notice NFL, Nick Foles is the next big thing
Others are skeptical, including Brian Solomon:
Foles simply can't count on the type of luck he's had so far with defenders falling down, receivers wide open, and more. He also eventually will start throwing interceptions. Last year he threw them on just 1.9% on all throws, but Football Outsiders' adjusted interception rate showed a more pedestrian 4.2% after accounting for defenders dropping would-be picks.
The first takeaway here is that SuperNick's current outsized numbers will almost certainly come back to Earth. He may be good the rest of the year, but he won't be that good. The second takeaway is more important, though. Foles' improvement is only over a small sample, but it may not be an anomaly. Kelly is putting his quarterbacks in a great position to succeed, and when defenses change to prevent that, it will only give McCoy more room to run. If the Chip's scheme looks this good with competent QB play from a limited upside guy like Foles, think about what it might do with a true top-tier talent at the position.
The franchise quarterback question isn't a question that needs an answer right at this moment. There is still plenty of season left. The problem with looking too far ahead in the future is there are too many variables. Kelly's priorities aren't confirmed and clear. Foles needs to show more consistency. Vick's health status is in question. It's difficult to draw definitive conclusions at this time.
So while waiting for the quarterback picture to become clear, one can only speculate. It seems the best approach is to mirror Kelly's attitude: approach the situation day to day, week to week. It's extremely tempting to look ahead, but there's no crystal ball with all the answers. The most effective course of action is to wait to see how the rest of this season plays out.