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The quick, frenetic, laser-like pace of Chip Kelly’s offense and his practices aren’t synonymous with the head coach’s process of finding the right man to command his huddle.
Kelly on Monday downplayed the appearance of any personnel grouping and dismissed any depth chart question after reporters were granted their first access into his wild and crazy practices.
“It’s May 13,” Kelly said more than once.
The two frontrunners of this quarterback marathon, a competition that involves four different candidates, later suggested that months could pass before Kelly names his starter.
“I can't tell you when guys start separating,” said veteran Mike Vick, who took the most first-team reps, sharing them with second-year pro Nick Foles. “Coach Kelly is going to make a determination on what he feels is best for our football team. I think Nick, myself, Matt [Barkley] and Dennis [Dixon] want to continue to try to be the best we can be each and every day and compete amongst ourselves.”
Those days of competition could last well into the summer and perhaps, Foles hinted, right up to the Sept. 9 season opener against the Redskins on Monday night.
“Hey, with Chip, anything is possible,” he said. “I think you all know that.”
There could be some lead-horse jockeying over the next few camps and OTAs and throughout the early part of training camp, but Kelly so far has shown to be true to his word. He has frequently said his quarterback competition would be all inclusive, unbiased and extensive.
Before any separation can take place, each one must grasp an entirely new offense with its own terminology and unique system of communication in which the huddle is replaced by an intricate pattern of hand signals from the sidelines.
The quarterbacks are also adjusting to all snaps taken from the shotgun, read-option and zone-read concepts in the playbook, limited time at practice to make corrections with coaches and, perhaps most notably, music blaring from loudspeakers.
Vick seemed much more concerned with having the offense grasped than the percentage breakdown of reps between himself and the others.
“I just try to make the most out of each and every snap I get,” he said, “just try to be the best at my decision-making and help get guys lined up to make sure our offense moves smoothly. That's the most important thing. I'm having a good time learning everything and making the adjustment well and the transition has been great so far. It's football.”
He later added: “It’s still early. We still have a long way to go. There's a lot of thinking that has to be done. There's a lot that goes into our scheme and our game plan.”
For the 14 years that preceded Kelly’s hiring, a quarterback who made the wrong read or failed to line up his receiver properly would get an earful from either coach Andy Reid or an offensive coordinator.
Under the new system, with music blaring and with Kelly in perpetual motion around the field, there isn’t time -- or enough silence -- for quarterbacks and coaches to discuss things that went right or wrong. Corrections take place in the classroom and during film review sessions and are expected to be carried out at the next practice.
“The thing is, we're so used to getting in the huddle and going back and talking to the coaches. There's no time for that,” Vick said. “We’ve got to go. We’ve just got to keep going, and that's good because that's what you’ve got to do in a game. Everything is not going to be perfect, but you’ve got to keep moving.”
Foles said he’s “gaining a little more confidence” with each practice, even with the number of options plays that favor mobile quarterbacks and the new communication system.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel like I’m picking it up well. I feel like all the quarterbacks are doing a good job in the film room with [quarterbacks] Coach [Bill] Lazor, he’s really doing a good job teaching us. And then the best way to go out and learn is to actually run the play and do it correctly, or if you make a mistake you learn from it then.”
In his heart, Vick said, “I always feel like I’m a starter in this league until the day I can't run anymore or I can't throw anymore.” Foles echoed the same sentiment, telling reporters that he’s working toward claiming the starting job after going 1-5 last season after taking over for a concussed Vick.
“I feel like whoever the quarterback is that can win games is going to be the one that plays,” Foles said. “It’s that simple. It’s that way on any team.” Vick was asked if the team would benefit from a starter being named sometime this summer, not just a few days before the opener. Would it be better for skill position players and linemen to have one quarterback with whom they could establish some rhythm and symmetry.
He again cautioned against looking too far ahead.
“The thing is, none of the quarterbacks are focused on being what everybody wants right now,” he said. “You know, we’ve got to learn this system. We've got to understand it to go out and do it each and every day and get better every day before somebody is thrust into that position.
“We all feel like we can do it , and we should feel like we can do it. I feel like I can do it. But I know there's a lot I’ve got to learn...And then once I do that I can go out and play free.”