Nick Foles was the Pro Bowl MVP, led the NFL in passer rating, won 10 of 12 regular-season starts, and still, it wouldn’t be a shock if the Eagles draft a quarterback this year.
Despite all of Foles’ accomplishments -- a 119.2 passer rating, third-highest in NFL history, 29 touchdowns to just two interceptions, a franchise-record 64 percent completion percentage, the best TD-INT ratio in NFL history -- the Eagles’ brain trust still does not speak of Foles as a firmly established long-term solution at quarterback.
Head coach Chip Kelly generally dances around the question, either cracking jokes -- “He’s our quarterback for the next 1,000 years” -- or he’s intentionally vague about Foles and his future: “Right now, Nick is that one guy.”
It’s easy to get the impression from Kelly that as much as he appreciates Foles’ ability, his search for a franchise quarterback is hardly over.
He insists constantly he’s not looking for a running quarterback, but the read option is obviously a big part of his offense. And the read option is more effective with a fast quarterback than a lumbering one like Foles, whose strength is in the pocket.
Ask Mike Smith about Matt Ryan, and he doesn’t talk about competition. Ask Ron Rivera about Cam Newton, and he doesn’t talk about competition. Ask Mike McCarthy about Aaron Rodgers, and he doesn’t talk about competition.
But ask Kelly about Foles, and that’s the first thing he mentions.
“There's always competition, and I think you can ask Nick that, too,” Kelly said after the 2013 season ended. “If you also have a guy that's not competing to be the starter with Nick, then what if Nick gets hurt and then all of a sudden the other guy goes, ‘Oh, my God, I'm not ready to play because I thought Nick was going to be the guy?’
“It's a cliché, but you are a chin strap away from playing in this league and when your opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of that.
“One of the things we do here is we compete and we have a bunch of guys that compete. Obviously you've got to have one guy. Right now, Nick is that one guy, but I don't think Nick has ever been afraid of competition. He showed me that the first time we had that.”
Which brings us to the combine and, ultimately, the draft.
Right now, Foles and Matt Barkley are the only quarterbacks the Eagles have under contract. If Kelly truly wants competition at quarterback, it probably won’t come from Barkley, and the Eagles are certainly unlikely to sign a veteran quarterback in free agency.
So the chance is very real that the Eagles will be drafting a quarterback in May.
And, as general manager Howie Roseman says, the Eagles’ coaches and scouts aren’t going to Indianapolis this week just to look at safeties, linebackers and receivers.
Roseman said the Eagles evaluate every potential draft pick.
“We look at everybody,” Roseman said in a recent interview. “You have to. You don’t go into it only evaluating guys based on what you need right now. In this day and age, so much changes, it’s almost impossible to determine what you’re going to need in a year or two.”
The Eagles have drafted four quarterbacks in the first four rounds in the last seven years, with Kevin Kolb in the second round in 2007, Mike Kafka in the fourth round in 2010, Foles in the third round in 2012 and Barkley in the fourth round last year.
Don’t be shocked if Kelly makes it two QBs in two years.
“We're always going to try to continue to upgrade at every position,” he said. “I think all of our players know that, and I think the guys that are true competitors really embrace that.”