A big smile appeared on Howie Roseman's face as he stood at the podium at the 2014 NFL combine, fielding a question about Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles. "I just like hear you saying twenty-nine touchdowns and two interceptions..." the team's general manager quipped, with a laugh. "Can you repeat that part for me?" It's clear Roseman is very pleased with how far Foles has come in his career progression.
Last year around this time, the Eagles' quarterback picture wasn't very clear. Michael Vick was brought back to compete for the starting job, and many questioned Foles' fit in Kelly's offense. Kelly announced there would be a quarterback competition in order to determine the team's starter. Vick ended up winning the job fair and square based on a good training camp and preseason. But Foles won it away from Vick after the veteran suffered an injury early on in the season. The results were more than desirable: Foles had a great season, and it's hard not to think the competition played a part in that. Foles and Vick pushed each other to play at their best.
This year things will be a little different. Foles is more of a proven quantity. And Vick, a pending free agent, will likely try to find a starting job elsewhere in the NFL. Roseman reiterated that there isn't a starting job for Vick in Philly. "When we talk about Mike Vick that there's not an opportunity for a starting spot, I think that's a reflection on Nick Foles."
Barring an unforeseen development, there's a very high chance Foles will be the Eagles' starter in 2014. That doesn't mean Foles will just be handed the starting job. At the same time, it's not like the Eagles are trying to get rid of Foles. "Nobody's saying we're bringing in competition for Nick Foles or we're outwardly looking for competition for Nick Foles. We're looking for competition throughout our roster. We've said that when we've had Donovan McNabb," said Roseman.
When the Eagles say they want competition for Foles, they mean it. It's not just lip service. The important thing is to realize what kind of competition they're talking about. As previously stated, they Eagles aren't looking to replace Foles. They're just aiming to make him even better. "Let's try to make a good player great, let's try to make a great player historic," Roseman explained.
This is a good strategy. Foles earned the right to be the serious favorite for the job with his performance in 2013. At the same time, he's still young and needs to be pushed. The Eagles don't want Foles to merely look better than lesser quarterback options on the roster. They want him to flat out dominate the off-season and head into next year looking strong as ever. That's exactly why adding competition matters.
How the Eagles will challenge Foles remains to be seen. Matt Barkley, a fourth round draft pick last year, will have the opportunity to prove himself by making a big leap forward in his second season. The Eagles could also explore free agency options, although the market isn't looking great. It's very possible the Eagles could draft a quarterback for the second year in a row under the Chip Kelly era.
No matter how the Eagles choose to address the quarterback position this offseason, it's clear the team believes in Foles as the future of this team. And until proven otherwise, they rightfully should.