In case you are unfamiliar with popular opinion about the prototypical “Chip Kelly quarterback,” allow me to inform you that Nick Foles does not fit the mold. Ask any analyst or college football fan about what Chip Kelly wants in a quarterback and you’ll hear terms like “mobile” and “quick.” You can probably watch Foles scramble ten yards and watch paint dry in the same amount of time. That begs the question: Why has Kelly has kept the second-year quarterback out of Arizona around to compete for the much-coveted starting quarterback job?
While the media and fans fixate themselves on Kelly’s need for a mobile quarterback, Kelly himself has stressed that his quarterbacks must be intelligent, accurate, and able to make sound decisions at an up-tempo pace. The draft pick of Matt Barkley in the fourth round this past April helped improve Foles’ chances, as another traditional pocket passer would be given an equal chance at the starting job. This showed that a “Kelly quarterback” does not have to be mobile. Kelly also took every chance he had to heap praise on Foles, having seen his Oregon Ducks fall to Foles’ Arizona Wildcats in 2011.
Foles also helped himself by turning in a solid rookie season after being selected in the third round in 2012. Going into the 2012 season, Michael Vick was firmly entrenched as Andy Reid’s starter and it appeared that third year man Mike Kafka would be the backup. Due to preseason injuries to Vick and Kafka, Foles got his chance to play and he played phenomenally, earning the backup quarterback job behind Vick while Kafka was cut.
After Vick was inevitably hurt in Week 10 against Dallas, playing behind what had to be one of the worst offensive lines in history, Foles got his chance to play in games that mattered (somewhat, the Eagles were then in a free fall). Foles made six starts, many without top weapons such as LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and the entire offensive line. He showed flashes of brilliance; evading pressure at times, displaying poise and maturity beyond his years, throwing pinpoint passes, and even leading a last-second game-winning drive in a thriller in Tampa Bay.
Despite these flashes of brilliance, Foles compiled a very poor 1-5 record in his six starts. The offense was limited to short, quick passes because the offensive line simply could not protect a quarterback on a five to seven step drop. He also made his share of rookie mistakes, and ended up throwing six touchdowns to five interceptions in the time he played, which is exactly proportional to Michael Vick’s total of 12 touchdowns to ten interceptions.
Critics will say he is incapable of leading a high-scoring NFL offense. Believers will say he did the most he could have with what he was given and with a year of experience, a healthy line and receivers, Foles could blossom into a star.
When Michael Vick was re-signed in February, many figured Kelly found his quarterback and Foles’ time in Philly was nearing its end. In interviews during minicamps this spring, he showed an edgier side to his usual laid-back personality. He was clearly agitated that he was viewed as an afterthought in the quarterback competition, and now he has a very, very strong chance to beat out Vick and Barkley. Foles is a smart kid, and has impressed coaches this spring with his ability to pick up the new system. He has also displayed increased maturity and improved leadership skills as a second-year quarterback.
There is plenty of work ahead of Nick Foles in order for Chip Kelly to commit to him as the quarterback. However, in a matter of months, Foles has gone from an afterthought who some believed was on his way to Andy Reid’s Chiefs to arguably the front-runner for the Eagles’ job. With a strong camp and preseason, it is very likely that Nick Foles will surprise a great amount of people who still believe Michael Vick has the battle won before it even starts.