Chip Kelly On Operating Without A Franchise Quarterback

PHOENIX — Chip Kelly referred to quarterback as the most important position on the field multiple times during his 70-minute session with reporters at the owners meeting Wednesday.

He also made it clear that he does not view it as a death sentence if your team does not have a franchise signal-caller.

“We still have to play,” said Kelly. “So if you don’t have a franchise quarterback you can’t just throw your hands up before the game and go, ‘We don’t have Tom Brady so we’re screwed today.’ Every coach’s job is to put their players in position to make plays. You have to adjust and you have to adapt, and I think that’s where people make mistakes.”

Kelly referenced Mike Shanahan drastically altering the offense when RGIII got hurt and Kirk Cousins went in. He also brought up John Fox making the playoffs with Tim Tebow and then Peyton Manning in Denver. Two different skill levels and styles, but Denver was able to make alterations and maximize the talent at that position.

Now we come to a most interesting part of this conversation.

As a follow-up, Kelly was asked if his system can de-emphasize the importance of a traditional, superstar, marquee quarterback.

“Yeah,” he said, “because we didn’t have traditional, superstar, marquee quarterbacks at Oregon.”

And he’s right. Last year his QB was Marcus Mariota (32 TD, 6 INT); he had Darron Thomas in 2011 (33 TD,  7 INT) and 2010 (30 TD, 9 INT); in ’09 he went with Jeremiah Masoli (15 TD, 6 INT); and his first season as offensive coordinator he mentored Dennis Dixon (20 TD, 4 INT). The machine continued to hum regardless of who was under center, and the Ducks had 10 or more wins every year Kelly was  head coach.

This is a different league, however. And it should be noted that there is fine print on the recent NFL examples Kelly referenced.  Tebow’s Broncos went 8-8 two years ago but came out on top in a week AFC West and snuck into the postseason (where, granted, they won a game). And while Cousins performed well in place of RGIII, he only started one game. Teams with elite quarterbacks have long dominated the NFL.

Kelly knows this and is most definitely in search of an answer at quarterback. He decided to keep both Michael Vick and Nick Foles around, wanting the chance to work with the quarterbacks before making the all-important decision of which direction he wants to go in. And the Eagles are sniffing around some QBs in the draft as well. They have already worked out Geno Smith, and will travel to Tallahassee next week to hold a private workout with EJ Manuel.

The plan, once the quarterbacks are collected and practices begin, is to open up a full-fledged competition for the No. 1 job.

“I don’t think you gain anything by naming a quarterback coming out of minicamps or naming a quarterback coming out of OTAs or naming a quarterback even in the first week of practice,” said Kelly. “The thing that’s unique in terms of how we practice is everybody is going to get a lot of reps, so that’s the key.”

Kelly said that he is not really a fan of  a two-quarterback system.

“[At Oregon] it was always distinct that one guy was the guy,” said Kelly, “and he separated himself because we allowed that evaluation process to be extended.”

Expect an extended evaluation process to happen in Philly as well. The hope is that Vick or Foles or maybe even a draft pick will distinguish himself and provide the stability that every franchise craves.  Finding a star quarterback is the mission and desired outcome, obviously, but Kelly will have a Plan B if it doesn’t immediately come to pass.


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  • ICDogg

    I agree that in a rebuilding year the extended evaluation to determine the starting QB is the right idea but hopefully you don’t have to go about doing that again year after year.

  • Graham

    2 wins
    a he missing

    not the usual from you guys, but it’s all good beggars can’t be choosers!

    • Myself

      1. Spell check
      2. Punctuation.

      • ICDogg

        3. Comprehensibility

        • ErickW

          4. Made my brain hurt :(

      • Graham

        What do you mean by this?

    • PaoliBulldog

      I’m afraid to point out that the AFC West was “weak,” not “week.”

  • ICDogg

    “I was told there would be no math.”

  • jabostick

    I thought Seattle provided a good blueprint for letting the players work it out in camp and not getting caught up in naming a starter early for the sake of a QB’s self-esteem.

    I think I agree with Chip’s statements about a franchise QB too. Even the definition for what is a franchise QB seems pretty fluid/suspect.

    • ICDogg

      All true.

    • theycallmerob

      very well said

  • dislikedisqus

    I have a hard time envisioning Vick buying 100% into the extended competition approach.

    • atlvickfan

      He has no choice at this point, and I think he knows that.

    • limodriver27

      I have a hard time envisioning Vick digesting the defensive fronts he’ll be faced with. Three mil or no 3 mil, if he can’t recognize/call the right play, he’ll be wearing a visor on the sideline. CK mentioned in his morning sit-down that as soon as one guy in a group learns his point, he moves on to the next point, leaving the others to learn it on the fly or from coaches. He doesn’t hold anyone’s hand. It wouldn’t shock me if either of his Oregon-based QB’s started in Sept. They have the knowledge of what CK expects.

      • DunedinEagle

        Well if that’s the case I guarantee you Star Ship 7 will be riding the pine until an injury occurs.

  • atlvickfan

    As long as the offensive line is healthy, Vick will be fine.

    • DunedinEagle

      If by fine you mean fumble prone, interception happy and mentally over matched than I completely agree with you.

    • Absecon

      Fine doing what?! I don’t see him penciled in as the starter yet….

  • Tblitz25

    MANUEL…. Is Kelly’s definition of an ideal QB

  • Rick H

    My guess is Vick will play his way out of the position. Whether that is in training camp or in the regular season or through injury (due to the way he plays) then they will go to plan B. I still believe that Foles outplays him and Kelly will really see the high football IQ of Foles and go with him. All bets are off if they really do take Gino Smith and honestly right now they have me fooled.

    • DunedinEagle

      I hope your right but my gut tells me they are going to trade Foles during the draft and pick Smith or Manual. I will proceed to vomit and change my allegiance.

      • Sensei

        Please leave then

  • eaglesanch

    I just don’t see the Eagles going for a QB early. I see smoke and mirrors with the West Virginia trip to see Geno Smith, and the upcoming trip to see E.J. Manuel. I see them trading back for more draft picks, and rebuilding through the Draft. Matt Scott is a great pick if he can be had in the later rounds, but Foles will get his shot. There are a lot of holes on this team that need to be addressed, that can be filled through the Draft.

  • dux

    Chipper has a history of not pussy footing around on QB selections, If you don’t pick up the system quick enough or make too many bad reads you find yourself wearing the visor. My question is Vick ready to compete for the starting job or take the FU attirude of not going into camp as a named starter? Do like Geno Smith’s tools however.

  • Max Lightfoot

    Like Chip’s presser style so far – challenging the assumption of the question without resorting to nastiness. We’ll see how that works halfway into the 2013 season in Philadelphia, huh? I’ve read that he has quite a temper, which I can tolerate if he’s a good coach. And I think other fans can as well. At least it’s better than a series of walrus grunts and harrumphs from you-know-who!

  • The Kelly scheme demands that the QB make reads at the line of scrimmage and then makes split second decisions. Vick will not be a candidate for this type of offensive plan. He is an amazing athlete who’s success has been due to his natural abilities. But scrambling around like he does goes against a Kelly scheme. Dixon maybe. He has played for Kelly and understands the discipline needed.