What Will Chip Kelly Do At Quarterback?

Since the middle of last season, the process for figuring out the Eagles’ quarterback situation seemed clear: The new coach would make the call.

Well, now there’s a new coach in place in Chip Kelly. He will be introduced Thursday as the man to lead the Eagles into the post-Andy Reid era.

Kelly’s first order of business will be getting his staff in place. But after that, attention will quickly shift to the quarterback position. The Eagles have decisions to make – beginning with the players currently on their roster.

At the end of last season, it looked like Michael Vick had played his final game as an Eagle in the team’s Week 17 loss to the Giants. There were some reports that Vick was anxiously awaiting to see where Kelly landed this offseason, but Tim asked him about the reports, and the veteran QB seemed to have no idea who Chip Kelly was.

“Who’s that, the Notre Dame coach?” he asked.

Vick turns 33 this offseason. His body took a pounding in 2012 – even before then, really. He’s not the same runner he was earlier in his career, although Vick can still flash his athleticism at times. If Kelly plans on running a lot of read-option, expecting Vick’s body to stay in one piece would seem like quite a leap of faith.

“I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw,” Kelly once said, per Chris Brown of Grantland. “I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm. We are not a Tim Tebow type of quarterback team. I am not going to run my quarterback 20 times on power runs.”

At the end of the year, Vick might have been ready to move on. But the guess is he’s got to be curious about what Kelly and the Eagles now have planned. Remember, the team has to make a decision on Vick by Feb. 6. If he’s still on the roster by that date, they owe him $3 million.

The other quarterback on the roster whose role remains up in the air is Nick Foles. At the end of the season, Foles was asked about potentially playing for Kelly.

“I think you know the answer — I have never ran the zone read; I’m more of a dropback [QB], but I’ve been under center, I’ve been in the gun,” Foles said. “If I can adapt I want to, but I’m not a zone read quarterback. Some people are gifted with different things, that’s just not one of my skill sets. I mean I can work on my speed in the offseason and get better at that, but I’ve always been a dropback in the pocket, been able to make plays on my feet, throwing the ball or running for a first down.”

It would be a mistake to think that Kelly is just going to take his college offense and run the exact same version of it in the NFL. One key in determining his success will be how he adapts and tweaks his methods to take advantage of defenses at this level. From an overall perspective, we know Kelly likes Foles. He coached against the quarterback three times in college.

“I’ll tell you what; I’m glad Nick Foles is graduating,” Kelly said after the 2011 meeting between the two teams, per Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen. “I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. … Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country.”

Foles’ Arizona teams went 0-3 against the Ducks from 2009-2011. But the quarterback performed quite well in those games, averaging 386.7 yards passing and tossing 10 touchdowns, compared to two interceptions.

Still, some, like Ron Jaworski, think Vick would be a better fit.

“Nick Foles will not run a Chip Kelly offense if he decided to come here, rest assured of that,” Jaws said on 97.5 The Fanatic back in December. “If a coach like Chip Kelly…that runs this up-tempo, spread, speed-style option, these guys come here, there might be a future for Michael Vick. I know he’s [32], I know he’s been beat up, but I’ll tell you, some of the things I’m seeing, Michael Vick can do the same things these guys are doing in the spread option.”

And finally, there is a door No. 3 in this scenario. Perhaps a trade for someone like Alex Smith. Or a first- or second-round pick spent on a quarterback. Many assume West Virginia’s Geno Smith could catch the Eagles’ eye, but remember, he did not show much as a runner in college. Smith had just 117 rushing yards in the last two seasons combined and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in college. That’s not to say he can’t run effectively, but he did not use his legs a lot in college.

One major decision has been made. Kelly will be the new coach. But life in the NFL usually means there’s another decision right around the corner. And for the Eagles, that means the focus will soon shift to quarterback.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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