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The Eagles and the Future at Quarterback

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Nick Foles emerged in 2013 as the answer at quarterback. But highly inconsistent play this year might have changed things. Is he the answer? If not, who is?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

1,000 years is a long time. But sometimes it can seem like the blink of an eye.

Chip Kelly jokingly told the media last season that Nick Foles was his starting quarterback for the next thousand years. Kelly was both praising Foles and picking on the media. There were incessant questions about who should be the Eagles quarterback, short and long term.

Foles never looked like the Kelly quarterback last year, but boy did he play like it. He threw 27 touchdowns and only had two interceptions. Foles even ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns. He kept the defense honest by running when they gave him room. Foles spread the ball around as a passer. He was willing to throw to any and everyone. Maybe most important of all, he didn't turn the ball over.

Maybe Foles was the answer.

The 2014 season has not gone according to plan. Foles was up and down in the offseason and that carried over to the regular season. He had two interceptions after two games this year. There have been critical interceptions and fumbles that have hurt the Eagles this year. Certainly a banged up offensive line has to be factored into those mistakes.

But Foles has had other issues. His deep accuracy was terrible until midseason. He failed to see open receivers more than a few times. He struggled in the Red Zone. Foles hasn't run the ball as much or as effectively this year. The magic of 2013 hasn't been there.

His critics will tell you that Foles has been exposed and he needs to be replaced. At his best, Foles is awkward to watch. He's not a smooth athlete. He doesn't have a weak arm, but will never be mistaken for Brett Favre. One other issue with Foles is injuries. Kelly has a saying that "the number one ability is durability". Foles has missed starts in all three NFL seasons due to injury. That doesn't help his cause.

Kelly says all the right things about Foles publicly. We don't know if he feels that way privately. Foles is a high character guy and I don't doubt that Kelly loves him as a person. The question is whether he sees him as the answer at quarterback. Remember that Kelly inherited Foles from the previous regime.

The only quarterback that Kelly brought to Philly and who has started is...Mark Sanchez. Could he be the answer? The arrow is pointing toward "No" right now, but let's see how the next few weeks go. Sanchez has the right combination of athletic ability and pocket passer skills. The problem with Sanchez is that he developed some bad habits with the Jets. He was a turnover machine in New York. If Sanchez continues to play that way with the Eagles, he'll be one-and-done or relegated to backup status.

What about Matt Barkley? It just seems that he's not adjusted well to the NFL. He was the best player in high school and stood out like a sore thumb. He was a great college player. Suddenly in the NFL he's not the best. Many players struggle with that adjustment. Beyond that, I think being the number three quarterback and having to work his way up the ladder has affected him. Barkley has an NFL work ethic and does everything he can, but it isn't paying off and I think that frustrates him.

I love it when fans say the Eagles should go get Marcus Mariota in the next draft. That sounds like a fantastic plan. I'm sure the Jets, Bucs, and Rams will probably pass on Mariota since they are so stacked at quarterback right now. The problem with being 7-3 is that you are too far back in the draft to move up for a quarterback. There are just too many teams between the Eagles and the top few picks to realistically imagine the Eagles have any chance to get Mariota. Reuniting him with Kelly would be a great story, but it will likely have to be fiction for now.

Beyond the obvious teams who need a quarterback, there are other teams who could be interested. The Bears and Titans could be looking for their guy next spring. Even the Giants and Skins could go for a quarterback. All of the teams I've mentioned have one thing in common...a losing record. That means they'll be in much better position to draft Mariota or move up for him. Feel free to dream of seeing Mariota in an Eagles uniform, but understand that it is beyond unlikely to happen.

Sadly, the draft isn't loaded with good quarterback prospects. The Eagles could go for Brett Hundley from UCLA. Kelly has worked with mostly pocket passers with limited physical tools since coming to the NFL. Maybe he'll decide that he's willing to take a player with great raw ability who needs a lot of coaching. Hundley can do special things on the field. Or maybe Kelly will fall in love with Connor Cook or Bryce Petty. There is only one ideal choice and the Eagles aren't likely to get him.

Kelly could look around the NFL and see if he can acquire someone that another team is down on. Robert Griffin III might be available in the offseason and he would be a very good fit for what Kelly likes to do. The Vikings could get rid of Christian Ponder. The Bears might look to deal Jay Cutler. Would the Niners make Colin Kaepernick available?

Simply put, there aren't a lot of great options for a team like the Eagles. Foles just might be the quarterback in 2015. And he could still be the long term guy. Young players can be erratic. Maybe missing time will turn out to be a good thing and he'll come back playing better than ever. But right now the position is unsettled and that means Kelly and the team will continue looking around. You never know where or when you'll find Mr. Right.