Now that Chip Kelly is officially in charge of the Eagles player personnel department, it will be interesting to see how Philadelphia's coach operates in the offseason. The Eagles have a lot of needs to address, but the quarterback position will, naturally, draw the most interest.
What will Kelly do at quarterback? Will he stay put with Nick Foles? Will he try to acquire a reclamation project in a trade? How about the 2015 NFL Draft? Is Marcus Mariota an option? These are all questions on everyone's mind, or at least mine. So let's talk about it.
• This is really good or really bad for Nick Foles. Nick Foles struggled in 2014. Yes, he didn't have an ideal offensive line. Yes, some natural regression was to be expected. You can make all the excuses you want, but the bottom line is he wasn't good enough. He was leading the NFL in turnovers before he suffered a shoulder injury. Speaking of, it's fair to wonder if he's injury prone because he holds onto the ball longer than most quarterbacks do and doesn't have the mobility to escape pressure. Some will point out that Foles was 6-2 as a starter, but some of those games wouldn't be need to be as close as they were with better quarterback play. Why settle for "good enough" at THE premium position? Simply assessing Foles on wins doesn't account for the fact the Eagles were scoring return touchdowns on special teams and defense at an historic rate.
But perhaps there is optimism to be had for Foles. He obviously played at a high level in 2013. Foles is a hard worker and fits the Eagles culture. Kelly seems to value continuity and Foles knows the scheme. If Kelly really likes Foles, perhaps he'll try his hardest to make sure Foles' contract is extended at a relatively rate. It's hard to see why Foles would agree to such a deal, but it's at least a possibility consider Foles is now eligible to be extended.
On the other hand, Kelly's increased power could be really bad for Foles. Following the season, Kelly didn't offer a strong commitment his 2014 starter. It wouldn't be surprise to Kelly take a look at other options. Which leads us to the next point...
• What's stopping Chip Kelly from trying to get Marcus Mariota? The answer to this question is likely "the teams, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at the top of the NFL draft order who also need a quarterback." But that doesn't mean Kelly won't try to do everything he can to trade up for his former quarterback. That kind of trade up would require a lot of picks from the Eagles. It's certainly not the most realistic scenario.
Perhaps the Eagles won't need to trade up as high as some think. It's way too early in the draft process, and Mariota hasn't even officially declared, but think back to last year at this time when Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was pretty much the consensus No. 1 pick. Or at least a top 5 pick. By the time the draft rolled around, Bridgewater ended up going all the way at pick No. 32 to the Minnesota Vikings. Johnny Manziel also went lower than some expected. Mariota might not have the same kind of fall, but it's worth considering that he could drop a bit. If that's the case, an Eagles trade up could become even more realistic. And with no one to stop Kelly from offering what it takes, it's something to keep in mind.
• Chip Kelly doesn't have the luxury of waiting around for an answer. Whether it's Foles, Mariota, or someone else, Kelly needs to come out of the 2015 season with some kind of solution at quarterback. If not, Kelly could be entering his fourth year of his five-year contract in Philadelphia with an unsolved answer at the most important position in the entire sport.
If Kelly sticks with Foles next season and he's able to rebound, the Eagles will be in the position to offer him a contract extension. If Foles' performance is unsatisfactory (or he gets hurt again), however, things get tricky for Kelly. If Foles doesn't prove to be the answer, Kelly is left with virtually nothing to work with. Foles will be a free agent after the 2015 season.
This is why it's so imperative for Kelly to hedge his bet when it comes to Foles. The Eagles coach can't really afford to put all of his eggs in one basket and merely hope Foles doesn't struggle.
• Chip Kelly's personnel savvy will be strongly tested. There are really no slam dunk options when it comes to addressing the QB position. Free agency isn't likely to offer any solutions, though it might be worth kicking the tires on a reclamation project like Jake Locker. The Eagles might opt to bring back Mark Sanchez but they've seen he's nothing more than a backup.
There could be some interesting options on the trade market. The likes of E.J. Manuel, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, and Robert Griffin III could potentially be available, but there's no guarantee. All of those quarterbacks are not without their warts, either.
As for the 2015 NFL Draft, well, we already talked about Mariota. Beyond him, Jameis Winston could fall but it's hard to see him being a culture fit for Kelly. Maybe the Eagles coach shows his PAC12 bias and drafts UCLA's Brett Hundley. Late round options could be in play, though they won't be likely to offer much, if any, kind of real solution.
Like I said, there's no easy answer. But failing to address the position entirely is a very risky option.
• For better or worse, Chip Kelly is likely stuck with Foles for 2015. The change in the Eagles power structure does not change the fact that Foles is likely to be the Eagles starter in 2015. The lack of realistic alternatives means that Foles will be the starter by default. Knowing this, it's up to Kelly to do as much as he can in the offseason to make sure Foles is given the best situation to succeed. Foles was at his best in 2013 when the Eagles' elite run game took pressure off of him so that's the model they'll want to emulate again. With respect to efficiency, the Eagles run game was merely mediocre in 2015. Investing in the offensive line and/or the running back position could be crucial. Whether Foles may or may not be the long-term solution is up for debate. As far as the 2015 season is concerned, this model gives the Eagles the best chance to win.
• Chip Kelly needs to live and die by the quarterback he chooses. Shortly after Kelly's new power was announced, I wrote about how the Eagles will live and die by Kelly, and why that's a good thing. In short: if Kelly fails, it's all on him. There is no one else to blame. The worst case scenario would have been Kelly failing due to someone else's mistakes.
The same kind of logic applies to the quarterback position. If you're an Eagles fan, you obviously don't want to see Kelly fail. But if he does fail, you at least want to see Kelly fail with the quarterback that he chooses. Kelly didn't draft Nick Foles, so it's easy to wonder who he would pick to be his quarterback if given the chance. Maybe Foles can prove to be Kelly's guy despite this. Who knows.
What I do know is that it would be a shame for Philadelphia to waste the Kelly era on substandard quarterback play. It would be a shame to see Kelly fail because he couldn't get the quarterback that he needs in order to be successful. Though it does not guarantee it, Kelly's power gives him a better chance of securing his quarterback. Only time will tell if it works out.