What Does Vick’s Return Mean For Foles?

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.Within 30 seconds of his press conference Monday afternoon, Chip Kelly announced the news of the day: Michael Vick had restructured his deal and would be back with the Eagles.

Minutes later, though, he reminded everyone to use pencil, not pen, for their February depth charts.

“There is an open competition,” Kelly said. “Michael knows that. Nick [Foles] knows that. Nick knew every step of the way what we were doing.  I wanted to make sure Nick was included in the plans, and I think both of them have outstanding qualities in terms of being quarterbacks in this league.  Both of them have started in this league.

“I also know in this league, you better have two, so I’m excited about the two of them.  They’re both going to compete.  And who the starting quarterback is to start the season off is going to be won on the practice field.”

The question is: Are you buying it?

Later during his media session, Kelly offered his most telling statement in terms of why the organization is hanging on to a soon-to-be-33-year-old quarterback who has 24 interceptions and 21 fumbles in his last 23 starts.

“You have to look at the landscape for other quarterbacks,” Kelly said, in between explaining why he thinks Vick can still be effective.

And that’s the truth. There is no Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III to go out and get right now. The options are Vick, Foles, someone like Alex Smith or the draft, which, by all accounts, is not top-heavy with QBs. What the Eagles did Monday is keep some of their options open. Vick very well could be the team’s starter in Week 1 of 2013. But that’s no given.

The story with Foles is a bit more complicated. Kelly has emphasized time and again that he can scheme around personnel. He’s said he doesn’t need a running quarterback. And that may very well be true. But by all accounts, he values a quarterback who can at least pose the threat of running.

I keep going back to the publication from the 2011 coaches’ clinic. This was Kelly in his own words:

I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want the quarterback who can beat you with his arm. If the defense forces him to run, he can do it effectively.

Kelly’s spread-option attack at Oregon required the threat of a quarterback running. If the defense had two high safeties, and you spread them out with four receivers, they can only have five defenders in the box. The offense has five blockers, a running back and the quarterback. At its core, it’s a simple numbers advantage.

But with Foles, that advantage doesn’t exist. Obviously, Kelly is not going to run the exact same offense in the NFL. And his background suggests he can be innovative enough to scheme around Foles’ strengths. But if he plans on running up-tempo practices that maximize reps, doesn’t it become somewhat detrimental to have two quarterbacks with such different skill sets?

“I don’t think it’s two different systems,” Kelly said. “Again, people try to look at what we’ve done in the past and where I’ve been and kind of paint it with one brush because everybody wants a sound byte to say your offense is this. I don’t think what we do offensively can be said in one or two words that we’re either this or we’re this.  We’re an equal opportunity scoring operation.

“There is a skill set that Nick has that really excites me about him.  And I had the opportunity to see him up close and personal for three years and I know what he can do. I’m excited to work with him.  I think we’ve got an older quarterback in Michael who is 32 now, and have a younger guy in Nick who is going into his second year. I think it’s the ideal situation for us moving forward this season.”

But again, today is Feb. 11. Free agency and the trading period begin on March 12. The draft is in late April. Training camp in late July. And Week 1 is seven months away. There’s a distinct chance that we’ll be writing about the Eagles’ quarterback situation plenty in the days ahead.

“We’re not ruling out anything right now,” Kelly said, when asked if he’d rule out a possible trade. “I think our job, and we know that from day one, is to put the best team on the field.  We open up the season on September 13th, or whatever day we open the season on.  So I don’t rule anything out, I don’t rule anything in.  But I know moving forward we, as an organization, had to make a decision what to do with Michael, and I want Michael to be part of this team.”

Fielding trade inquiries about Foles is absolutely an option for this organization. Given the lack of choices on the market (as mentioned above), he might have some suitors. Don’t get carried away. The Eagles aren’t going to get a first- or second-round pick for him. But perhaps a mid-round selection or a conditional pick? That’s possible.

Kelly and the Eagles made news with the Vick announcement on Monday. But the truth is, there are probably still plenty of chips to fall.

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