Bob Ford: Is Foles the one, or just another QB for the Eagles to flip?

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The Eagles drafted quarterback Nick Foles with the 88th-overall pick in the NFL Draft. (Danny Moloshok/AP)

The first quarterback drafted by Andy Reid went down the corridor one way at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday as the most recent one was headed in the other direction. If Donovan McNabb took note of Nick Foles, a 6-foot-5 doorstop from Austin, Texas, and the University of Arizona, who is kind of hard to miss, that note went unrecorded.

"I saw Donovan in the hallway but didn't have a chance to speak to him," Foles said.

McNabb was in the building to lend his presence to the retirement news conference of Brian Dawkins. Foles, one of the Eagles' third-round draft picks, was making his first trip to the team's headquarters for the standard routine of getting a physical, playing meet-and-greet with the organization and the media, and to start cramming for the May minicamps.

"Now I have four big playbooks that I get to look at over the next two weeks, so I'm looking forward to that," Foles said.

It is a popular theory in the NFL that Andy Reid, always, and Marty Mornhinweg, since he's been here, make the Eagles a natural incubator for quarterbacks. Along with position coach Doug Pederson, they break them down and work on their passing motion, their footwork, their balance, and their education in the nuances of a pro passing offense.

"If a quarterback gets an opportunity to play like Kevin [Kolb] . . . he was able to play well for us, and you see how it works out," Reid said. "Even with Michael [Vick] - which is the same with most quarterbacks - they keep learning until the day they retire. Even with Michael, you saw that maturation process take place in this offense, and that's satisfying. That's why we do it. We're really teachers. That's the satisfying part."

Poll

Are you satisfied with the job the Eagles did in addressing their most pressing needs in the draft?

However, what the Eagles have been able to do more than anything with the quarterbacks they have drafted, excluding McNabb, is get a reasonable backup and, eventually, move them along for something of value.

If Reid were a real estate agent and quarterbacks were houses, he would be a "flipper," able to take undervalued properties, shine them up, add some curb appeal, and put them back on the market.

With the drafting of Foles, it could be that the Mike Kafka listing is about to become available. Kafka, taken in the fourth round in 2010, has been coached up and taught the system, but he is generally still the same smart but modestly equipped quarterback who came out of Northwestern. What he has now is a diploma from the Eagles School of Quarterbacking, and apparently that means something around the league. We'll find out soon.

It is unlikely the Eagles spent a third-round pick for a player they don't believe will make the roster. It is also unlikely that they will cast off the NFL experience, albeit skimpy, of free-agent signing Trent Edwards to keep both Foles and Kafka. With Vick as the starter, a team is well-advised to keep a reasonable backup handy. So, it doesn't figure the Eagles would go with the two younger guys and their combined 16 professional pass attempts.

The Eagles have played this game before, and quite well, even when it came time to move beyond the tired soap opera that was McNabb. When they traded McNabb to the Redskins in 2010, the Eagles received a second-round pick in that draft (Nate Allen) and a conditional pick in the 2011 draft.

That turned out to be a fourth-round pick that they used to trade down in the same round for another pick (Casey Matthews) and also acquire a fourth-round pick in this year's draft. That pick was traded away (along with a sixth-round pick) so they could move up in the first round and grab defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

To sum it up, they got Allen, Matthews, and the difference between the 12th pick and the 15th pick in this draft in exchange for a guy who, one year later, was traded again for two sixth-round picks and, a year after that, is out of work.

Not bad, but that doesn't really count among their mop-and-swap successes with young quarterbacks. The stars there are A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb.

Feeley, a fifth-round pick in 2001, hung around and played a little before being traded for a second-round pick to Miami in 2005. The pick didn't turn into much, receiver Reggie Brown, but neither did Feeley, who flopped in his trial as a starter for the Dolphins. And even with the diploma.

Kolb, as ever, is a more complicated mess. He was taken in the second round in 2007 and despite having a limited arm and mobility, he was going to be the starter in 2010 until a concussion opened the way for the Michael Vick Experience v.2.

The Eagles traded Kolb at the end of the lockout for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick in this draft. They took that pick, dropped down in the round in a trade with Green Bay, came away with defensive end Vinny Curry, and picked up the fourth-round pick with which they took cornerback Brandon Boykin. That's not a bad deal in exchange for Kolb, who lost his job to John Skelton in 2011, then suffered another concussion, and may never start another game in the NFL.

It's all great as far as it goes, but it still means the Eagles haven't gotten a proven starting quarterback out of the draft under Reid with the exception of the second overall pick in the draft. Finding and developing a Tom Brady or a Kurt Warner is still a trick that has eluded them.

Maybe Nick Foles will be the one, and as the past and the possible future exchanged places in the hallway on Saturday, you got the sense that maybe the Eagles are due for that. If not, there is always the secondary housing market, and this franchise knows how that one works.

 


Bob Ford: Andy Reid's QB Draft History

1999   Donovan McNabb   Syracuse      1st round (2)

2001   A.J. Feeley            Oregon         5th round (155)

2004   Andrew Hall          Delaware      6th round (185)

2007   Kevin Kolb            Houston         2d round (36)

2010   Mike Kafka            Northwestern   4th round (122)

2012   Nick Foles            Arizona         3d round (88)


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @bobfordsports. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns.