Here’s the thing about declaring an open quarterback competition, as Eagles head coach Chip Kelly did after being hired: It makes people wonder who will eventually land the job. And before someone is installed as the starting quarterback, people wonder who’s playing the best and who appears destined to secure the gig.
That’s the way it works. Inquiring minds and all that, especially in football-mad Philadelphia.
So you probably want to know which of the many Eagles quarterbacks is clearing a spot for himself atop the depth chart. You want to know, but the Eagles don’t want to tell. Not yet.
On Thursday, the Eagles’ assistant coaches talked to the media. Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was among them. Reporters from various outlets dangled countless questions in front of him with the hope that he’d reveal which quarterback looks the best so far. Despite the verbal bait, Lazor didn’t bite.
“We’re very far away from calling our first competitive play,” Lazor said. “When it gets to that point, Chip is going to handle it the right way. For me, now, it’s a lot smaller picture than that. I’m just dealing with them being accurate on the throws and them making great decisions. When it’s time to run the football, just teaching them how to make the decisions on the run and how to physically run the right way with no pads on and the speed we’re going. And they’re doing great. When you get to the point where calling the right plays for the right guys matters, we’ll make the right decisions.”
Right. OK. But as competitions go, who’s performing above or below expectations?
“It’s too early to put a number on it,” Lazor said. “Just like with most competitions in this league, day-to-day, you have ups and downs – like the offense sometimes has against the defense. They’re working to improve. What I try to foster in that room, and what I think they’re doing a great job of, is just concentrating on themselves.”
While Lazor artfully dodged the attempts to have him handicap the race, he did discuss his charges and their unique respective situations.
A year ago, Michael Vick was cemented as the Eagles’ starter. Then he got hurt. Then the team underperformed. Then Nick Foles took his job. And now the veteran quarterback is in a daily competition where he’s being forced to prove his mettle.
“I find Michael to be extremely open to it,” Lazor said. “From the viewpoint of someone coming in, being new to the situation, I find him pretty enthusiastic to learn and improve. I didn’t expect anything different. He’s being very professional.”
Vick threw just 351 passes in 10 games last year. It was his fewest attempts in eight years, and his fewest games in nine seasons. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 2,362 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Foles, meanwhile, appeared in seven games in his rookie season, completing 161 of his 265 passes (60.8 percent) for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. Like Vick, things aren’t exactly stable for Foles. After being named the starter toward the end of last season, he finds himself in a battle for the starting job with Vick – and perhaps even Matt Barkley, whom the Eagles drafted in the fourth round (one round later than Foles was selected in the year before).
Lazor – who went back and studied all of Foles’ game tape from last season – said he saw a “very confident player” who looked “calm and poised out there, especially for a rookie.” If drafting Barkley has messed with Foles head at all, Lazor said he hasn’t seen it – even though Barkley declared that he wants to be the starter this season.
“I think Matt comes in with exactly the right attitude,” Lazor said. “I didn’t expect anything less. Matt is a quarterback. It’s easy to see why he’s had so much success in his career, from high school all the way through college. He understands how to play the position. He carries himself like a quarterback should on the field. He’s a leader. He demands respect. He works extremely hard. He puts in a lot of hours. He’s accurate. He can handle things happening quickly on the field and react to them and make quick decisions.
"He’s shown, so far, that he can learn and apply classroom knowledge to what he does on the practice field, which is a great trait for a quarterback. He’s athletic. He can throw the ball accurately on the move. These were all things that we suspected, and that’s why we took him.”
To review, Vick and Foles are handling the competition well, and so far Barkley is exactly what they expected him to be. The quarterbacks coach likes his quarterbacks. You probably wouldn’t expect him to say anything else in May. But, eventually, one guy has to emerge. Is there a timetable?
“When will someone emerge?” Lazor asked rhetorically, repeating the question. “That will happen when it happens on the field. When will Chip make a decision? You’ll have to ask Chip.”
And so it went. And so the competition continues.