Chip Kelly’s arrival as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles doesn’t appear to bode well for former Arizona Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles, a pocket passer who just completed his rookie season with the franchise.
Foles has what is most often called “functional mobility” but not the kind of athleticism that Kelly’s quarterbacks displayed in his read-option offense at Oregon.
But as Kelly went through his introductory news conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, he hammered the theme that he will play to his personnel’s strength and reiterated his respect for Foles.
“I’m a huge fan of his,” Kelly said.
“He’s tough. That’s an attribute that I think a lot of people don’t understand — how hard it is and what toughness means to the quarterback spot, just to be able to stand in the pocket and throw the football.
“We hit him as many times as we could hit him (at Oregon), and he just kept getting up and making plays. He completed a 15-yard pass left-handed against us once. I remember just standing on the sideline shaking my head, going, ‘I don’t know what we have to do to stop him.’
“He’s a competitor. He’s accurate. So, I’m excited about that.”
Foles played against Kelly’s Ducks three times, throwing for 1,160 yards and 10 touchdowns.
After the 2011 game, Kelly said of Foles: “I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes.”
Based on all that, it’s too early to write off Foles as an ill fit under Kelly in Philadelphia. But the past won’t matter. Quarterback is the most pressing issue for Kelly and the organization, and about all he can promise right now is to keep an open mind.
The Eagles carried three quarterbacks last season — Michael Vick, Foles and Trent Edwards. Foles ended up starting six games after Vick suffered a concussion. Foles missed the finale because of a hand injury.
Vick has the necessary running skills, but here is another consideration: If the Eagles keep Vick, they have to pay him a hefty $15 million in salary next season.
“There is nothing that is on the board right now, there is nothing that is off the board right now,” Kelly said in regard to the quarterback position.
“I’m an equal-opportunity scorer. We’ll score anyway we can.”
Foles completed 60.8 percent of his passes (161 of 265) for 1,699 yards and six touchdowns last season. He twice passed for 300 yards in a game and was intercepted only five times in 265 attempts. But he won only one of his starts — that coming on a last-play throw vs. Tampa Bay — fumbled eight times and took 20 sacks.
The offseason should be fascinating as Kelly decides on the direction at quarterback. Stay with what he has? Make a trade? Find help in the draft in a thin crop of quarterbacks?
“Part of what we do offensively is understand what our personnel is and how do we maximize it,” he said. “If you’re going to ask someone to do something they’re not capable of doing, that’s a recipe for disaster.”