When do the Eagles start looking to the future at quarterback?
Michael Vick has 12 games, barring a playoff run, left on his contract.
The quarterback is on pace to set a career-high in passing yards and a career-low in turnovers, but with each loss for the clearly rebuilding Eagles, the likelihood that he would defy odds once again and return in 2014 appears to be nil.
"I think that's solely up to the direction that this ownership wants to go in," Vick said to The Inquirer last week. "Obviously, I love Philadelphia. I don't want anything more than to bring a championship to this city.
"But the most important thing for me is to keep playing consistently, giving this team the best chance to win. It's hard because . . . I think about my future, I think about me being on a one-year deal. But I don't know what's going to happen. I just want to win."
Who will win Sunday’s game?
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A victory over the New York Giants, coupled with a Cowboys loss to the Broncos, would have the Eagles tied atop the NFC East with a 2-3 record. So Chip Kelly and the team brass are likely far from thinking about next season.
But if the Eagles were to lose and fall to 1-4, despite the mathematical implications, it might be time to consider Nick Foles' eventually getting an opportunity to start. He has shown enough to warrant an extended look.
It would give the Eagles a head start on evaluating Foles' future as a potential NFL starter, and if the drop off from Vick is as minimal as Kelly has said, it would allow the team to stay competitive.
The unknown in this scenario is if Kelly believes he already has a grasp on Foles' capabilities. He first opted to bring Vick back for another year because of the obvious uncertainty about the second-year quarterback and then drafted Matt Barkley, albeit in the fourth round.
But Kelly has said that he can't completely assess a player until the action is live, and Foles has had limited time in his up-tempo offense. If he were to have success, at the most it would give Kelly his quarterback. Foles is signed for two more years. At the least it would give the Eagles one possibility for next season.
If Foles were to struggle, then the rookie coach could turn to Barkley and give the rookie from Southern California a look. If Barkley showed a hint of promise, it could give Kelly the budding quarterback most first-year coaches generally need to foster faith through a renovation.
The probability that either Foles or Barkley will exceed the investment the Eagles made in them, though, is slightly more than Vick's chances of returning. If either were to fail in place of Vick it would give a growing chorus what it ultimately wants - a better first-round draft pick.
It's extremely early in the draft process. Barkley was still a projected first-rounder this time last year. But there is a growing belief around the NFL that as many as eight quarterbacks could be drafted in the first round, with five prospects - Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Brett Hundley of UCLA, Tajh Boyd of Clemson, and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M - going in the first 10 selections.
Bridgewater was on display at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday against Temple. Also at the Linc: Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble. The Eagles were expected to have a handful of scouts in attendance. Kelly knows Mariota as well as anyone. He also recruited Hundley, Boyd, and Manziel. Each seemingly has the skill-set to thrive in Kelly's offense.
As much as Kelly wants to win - he said Thursday that progress should be judged solely upon wins and losses - his Year 1 plan was likely designed to get to Draft No. 2 with a greater chance of nabbing a potential franchise quarterback.
The Eagles are a long haul from the draft. But they have just 12 games - barring a playoff run - to decide when and if to pull the plug on Vick and less than that to decide if Foles and Barkley are better options than investing a high draft pick on a quarterback.
Vick has played well, but not well enough to suggest that Kelly will extend a one-year marriage of convenience. Despite the inevitable, the 33-year-old will forge on, if anything, because he needs another contract. But he said he's not looking beyond the Giants.
"On the plane ride back from Denver, I literally had tears in my eyes," Vick said of the Eagles' 52-20 loss to the Broncos last Sunday. "I want to win so bad. But I just use that as fuel and motivation for the next game. I just can't see the future that far."
But when will Kelly and the Eagles start looking ahead?