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Why won't Chip Kelly name a starting QB?
Nick Foles is the first quarterback in NFL history to have a QB rating of 149 or higher in consecutive games. (AP)
Maybe he didn’t mean to say it. Maybe he didn’t realize he was saying it. Maybe he just blurted it out because he was tired of avoiding it. Maybe he just loves playing games with the media.
Whatever the reason, head coach Chip Kelly on Monday finally declared Nick Foles his starting quarterback for the rest of the season: “Why would we change?”
Before he backtracked a moment later: “I was being sarcastic.”
Let’s be honest.
It’s no secret Kelly isn’t going to bench the record-setting Foles for injured veteran Michael Vick. Foles isn’t going anywhere.
Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdowns in a win in Oakland last week, then threw three more TDs in a win Sunday in Green Bay.
He’s the first quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 149 or higher in consecutive games. His 16 touchdown passes this year are second-most in NFL history by a quarterback before throwing an interception.
He has the best interception ratio in NFL history. His passer ratings of 158.3 and 149.3 the last two weeks are the highest ever recorded against the Raiders in Oakland and the Packers in Green Bay.
His 132.5 passer rating is highest in the NFL this year, and his 97.2 career rating is third-highest in NFL history among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 400 passes.
Obviously, Kelly isn’t benching him.
Especially because Vick is 33 years old, he’s been hobbled since hurting his hamstring against the Giants Oct. 5, he’s not under contract beyond this year, and he didn’t play that well the last few games before he got hurt.
But until Monday, Kelly wouldn’t even speculate about what would happen if and when Vick got healthy.
Monday, he finally did. And although he quickly backtracked, it’s pretty clear he has no plans to take Foles out of the lineup any time soon.
“I think what we've done for the last two weeks has worked for us pretty good, so we're going to stick with that formula,” Kelly said. “It's got us 16 touchdowns, no interceptions and two wins, so why would we change?”
Moments later, when asked to clarify his remark or confirm that he was actually naming Foles the starter for the rest of the season when he said, “Why would we change?,” Kelly claimed he was being sarcastic.
It should be noted that his tone when he said it was hardly sarcastic. In fact, he sounded totally normal and serious when he spoke.
But moments later, he had retreated to his usual position that Foles will get first team reps Tuesday and there’s no reason to commit to anything beyond that.
“I was being sarcastic,” Kelly said. “I thought that would go over big in this crowd. A lot of times questions coming this way, there's a lot of sarcasm. You have to be able to catch and receive, you know what I'm saying?
“We don't have a quarterback deal because one of our quarterbacks is out banged up. It may be a scoop for all you guys, but first-team reps tomorrow, Nick's gonna take 'em for Tuesday. I said that tongue‑in‑cheek all week long.
“That's the way it's going to be. We don't have to make any decisions on anything because Mike's not going right now.”
Foles has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,256 yards, 16 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 132.5 passer rating this year.
Vick has completed 55 percent of his passes with five TDs and three INTs and an 86.4 passer rating.
Vick has not gotten through a game healthy since September.
Foles has won three of his last four starts, all on the road. The Eagles, 5-5, have won four of their last six, with Foles finishing all four wins.
Foles has thrown 173 consecutive passes without an interception and just five in 401 career pass attempts.
“I think Nick's really, really smart with the football,” Kelly said. “Very rarely do you see Nick throw a ball where all of a sudden it's tipped, you know, when it's almost intercepted. ... I think he has a really good understanding of what we're doing. He doesn't really ever put the ball in harm's way.
“Most of the time, to his credit, he's going to the right spot where it should be. He does a good job of protecting the football, especially when the pocket breaks down. A lot of times that's where plays occur where all of a sudden it's turning a bad play into a worse play.
“Sometimes the right thing to do is just kind of pull it down and let's get the next snap off. I think that's what he's done. He's a real good decision maker. ... He is a better athlete than people think. He picked up a couple critical first downs for us again in that football game because he can make good decisions.
“So just really happy with how he's played in the last two weeks.”
Happy enough even to name him the permanent starter. Even if he claims he didn’t.