Andy Reid has always valued the No. 2 quarterback position as much as one of the Eagles 22 starting spots.
With the exception of Mike McMahon, Reids backup QBs since he got here have been guys who can start games and actually win games.
A.J. Feeley. Jeff Garcia. Kevin Kolb and then Michael Vick and Kolb again. Even Vince Young, who was terrible last year, at least had a very good pedigree coming in, with two Pro Bowls and a 30-17 career record with the Titans.
So whats the deal now? The Eagles have three quarterbacks behind starter Michael Vick, and Vicks inability to play a full season 2006 is the only year he started 16 games brings a ton of weight to the Eagles backup QB spot.
Reid has said that Mike Kafka, a fourth-round pick in 2010, goes into the offseason as No. 2. Trent Edwards, a one-time Bills starter who spent last year out of football, and rookie third-round pick Nick Foles are also in the mix.
Does one of them really have what it takes to win games in the NFL, like Feeley, Garcia and Kolb?
Kafka has thrown only 19 passes in his NFL career, but the Eagles are very high on him. Hes now entering his third NFL season, and the Eagles believe hes ready to be No. 2.
Kafka's got a lot of tools you look for in a starter, Eagles general manager Roseman said. He's got really good size. He's really smart. He throws with anticipation. He's a good athlete. There's no harder worker in the building. There may be guys tied, including Michael Vick. But he's really got a lot of the traits you look for. Another guy who's not had an off-season here, with us and with our quarterback coaches. We've always been excited about Mike Kafka, we continue to be excited about Mike Kafka.
Kafkas most extensive playing time came in the Eagles loss to the Falcons on a Sunday night in Atlanta Week 2 last year after Vick left the game with a concussion.
With the Falcons leading 35-31 and 4 12 minutes left, Kafka drove the Eagles from their own 9-yard-line to the Atlanta 22, when his perfect fourth-down pass for first-down yardage was dropped by Jeremy Maclin at the Atlanta 16-yard-line. Kafka was 7 for 9 for 72 yards in the game, including a 43-yarder to Maclin.
But its more than that game that has impressed the Eagles brass.
Its a feel, Reid said. You watch his work ethic. The guys a relentless worker. Ill come out of my office at 10 oclock at night, and hell still be in the building doing film study, or Ill get a knock on the door and hell want to come in and talk football. Hes kind of a gym rat that way. He wants to be the best.
You cant argue with the Eagles QB brain trust. Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and QB coach Doug Pederson love taking young quarterbacks with some ability, breaking down their technique, and then re-teaching them the position from the ground up.
The idea is, if they dont become a starter, the Eagles can trade em for picks. When Vick emerged as the Eagles long-term starter, they traded Kolb for what became Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin. Certainly made it worth drafting Kolb with a secon-round pick.
Reid said Kafka has already made some subtle changes to his technique that should make him more effective moving forward.
Hes done some things with his ball leverage and the cradle, where hes dropped it down a little bit, Reid said. He used to be a real high riser, and hes dropped it down where its nice and comfortable now, and it gives him a little bit more velocity and accuracy.
If the Eagles are so set on Kafka, why draft Foles?
Its an interesting question, and Reids answer is a simple one.
We just liked him, he said. We liked him in that position. Former Packers GM Ron Wolf taught me this a long time ago: You like one, better get him. Sort it out later.
Reid admits the Eagles didnt really need another quarterback, but he just likes stocking up. Even though he admits its kind of a risky move.
I think it's such an important position, you want to throw darts at the position with guys you feel good about, he said. I use this loosely, because I don't think it's a blind dart, but if you're in the third round, and the hit rate in the third round is 25 percent, and then you have a quarterback ... that you feel has a chance to be a starter, and that may be a 10 percent chance. Isn't it worth taking a more important position with a guy you feel good about at a priority position than it is taking another position?
We don't go into a lot of drafts feeling there's five or six guys we really want on this team. There's usually just a handful of guys. When you have a guy like that you feel good about, it's worth taking a shot, no matter who you have at the position. We've had success with that. Because we've had so much success in getting guys in here and getting them performing to their abilities, and either keeping them here or developing them and them going somewhere else, for us it's a risk we're probably going to continue to take, no matter who's on our depth chart.
So Vick is the starter, Kafkas No. 2, and Foles is a rookie third-round pick and isnt going anywhere. What does this mean for Edwards?
Consider him insurance. Hes started 33 NFL games, and Kafka and Foles havent started any. Most likely, barring an injury or regression from Kafka, Edwards will eventually be the odd man out.
But Roseman wouldnt even rule out keeping all four QBs. Which would be unusual but not unprecedented.
We would have no problem carrying a deep set at a position, if we felt that's where our strength was, and go lighter somewhere else, he said.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org