There are a lot of questions about what’s going on with Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ QB situation, especially after the team spent a fourth-round pick on Matt Barkley over the weekend.
So here’s my attempt to make sense of it all (or at least some of it). Let’s go player-by-player, starting with the new guy.
I was as surprised as anyone that the Eagles moved up a few spots in the fourth round and took Barkley. To be honest, when I was doing my draft prep, I thought there was no chance of him landing in Philly.
But I was wrong (hey, it happens).
It’s important to look at where Barkley was drafted. Some are running with the storyline that the Eagles have found their quarterback of the future, arguing that the selection will greatly affect the moves they make going forward. But in reality, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Take a look around the league at the other 31 projected starting quarterbacks – 23 were first-round picks, and three were second-rounders. Only five – Matt Schaub (third round), Russell Wilson (third round), Tom Brady (sixth round), Matt Flynn (seventh round) and Tony Romo (undrafted) – were taken after the second round.
If you make the qualifier the fourth round (when Barkley was taken) or later, you’re left with three QBs – Brady, Flynn and Romo.
Let’s look at it a different way. From 2008 to 2012, 38 quarterbacks were taken in the third round or later. Forget performance. Guess how many have even started more than eight games? Three: Colt McCoy, John Skelton and Wilson. In the last five years, only one quarterback (Skelton) taken in the fourth round or later has started more than eight games.
So, what’s my point? The Eagles did not take Barkley with the expectation that he would become their quarterback of the future. They saw value with him in the fourth round, and they pulled the trigger. I have no problem with that. Perhaps he’ll end up surprising like Schaub, Wilson, Brady or Romo. After all, at one point, Barkley was thought to have first-round tools.
But that’s not the expectation. The truth is that, given where he was selected, if Barkley gives the Eagles a bunch of good years as a backup, the pick should be considered a successful one.
This was not about the Eagles finding their QB of the future. This was about giving themselves options. They don’t have a clear No. 1 QB on their roster. Maybe Michael Vick will be a better fit in Kelly’s system. Maybe Nick Foles will show improvement with a better offensive line. Maybe Barkley will surprise and prove to be the QB many thought he was after the 2012 season.
But the other scenario is that none of the above happens, and the Eagles find themselves in a similar situation next offseason, looking to draft a quarterback in the first or second round.
Foles should have been happy when he heard about the Barkley selection.
All offseason, Kelly and Howie Roseman have said the team’s plan was to see what it had in Foles. And that message was not just for public consumption. It was communicated privately to Foles’ camp and to other teams that might have had interest in trading for him.
Maybe Foles believed them all along and was comfortable with his standing on the team. But if it were me, I would have had some doubt in the back of my mind after the Eagles decided to bring Vick back. The Barkley pick, though, showed Kelly is willing to have some flexibility when it comes to the quarterback position. The Eagles spent a fourth-round pick on a QB with limited mobility. That means they’re open to giving Foles a shot.
Sure, you can say he now has more competition, and that’s true. But if Foles doesn’t think he can beat out Barkley, then that’s on him. This was about getting a fair shake. And by all accounts, Foles is going to have a chance to earn the starting nod this offseason.
The idea that the Barkley pick means Vick will be cut is silly. For starters, the Eagles have already paid him $3.5 million when they didn’t have to. They could have been off the hook completely and just cut him earlier this offseason. Vick is now due an additional base salary of $3.5 million that will be paid throughout the course of the season. There’s really no reason to cut him now.
The other factor that can’t be overlooked is he’s the only QB out of the three listed here who can run the read-option. While Kelly’s actions show that he’s willing to go with a quarterback who can’t run, he certainly is not opposed to having one who has the ability to make plays with his feet. That’s assuming, of course, that Vick proves capable in other areas like accuracy and decision-making.
Chris Brown of Grantland wrote a piece on Kelly and the Eagles’ offense yesterday. Here’s a point that relates to Vick:
But this line of thinking still has to be tempered with a bit of realism. Kelly is clearly bright, committed, and open-minded, but the idea that he can step into the NFL and run any offense — spread, pro-style, West Coast, Coryell, Wing-T — seems implausible. He shredded college football running a very specific attack based on very specific principles, and the mathematical advantage he gained from having his quarterback be at least some kind of a threat to run was a central tenet. He might be able to adapt his offense to his players and coaches, but this is not the same thing as continuing and growing what worked at Oregon.
We don’t know exactly what kind of offense Kelly is going to run. We know that the Eagles are going to run no-huddle and push tempo. We know that they’re going to rely on a running game and athletic offensive linemen. But beyond those things, scheme will very much depend on personnel, and more specifically, the quarterback. Remember, Kelly has had a total of three practices so far. He’s nowhere close to making any final decisions.
Also remember that Vick only signed a one-year deal. All along, he seemed like a “band-aid” option until Kelly found his quarterback of the future. The drafting of Barkley does not change that.
Vick will have his chance to win the starting job, but he won’t be handed anything.