Sanchez is the Eagles' QB; there is no controversy

ALTHOUGH IT MAKES for intriguing sports debate, the Eagles have no quarterback controversy.

A controversy implies that head coach Chip Kelly actually has a choice between starting Nick Foles or Mark Sanchez.

He does not.

Foles has a fractured clavicle on his left (non-throwing) side. The most optimistic estimate is that it will be a 4- to 6-week healing process.

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Last season, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed 8 weeks with the same injury.

This isn't like last year for Kelly, when the week-to-week status of injured starter Michael Vick meant week-to-week questioning of whether Foles would keep the starting job when Vick got healthy.

There was also plenty of time left in the season to debate whether Vick or Foles gave the Eagles the best chance to be successful.

Working on the most favorable belief in Foles' ability to heal, he will likely be unable to play until at least Dec. 14, when the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys in the 13th game of the season.

If the Eagles' ultimate goal is to make a deep run into the NFC playoffs and win the Super Bowl, then even the strongest Foles supporters should hope he is not required to take another meaningful snap this season.

The reasons are simple.

If Foles has recovered by that Dallas game and Kelly has any reason to consider starting a quarterback who has missed the previous five games, it will mean Sanchez has failed.

And if Sanchez fails to play up to a level at which he keeps this job, the Eagles will likely have lost the opportunity to make that deep playoff run.

The Eagles are 7-2 and a half-game ahead of Dallas in the lead in the NFC East. They are tied with the Detroit Lions - a game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the best record in the NFC.

The Eagles' next four games could determine whether they are positioned to get a first-round bye in the playoffs or even capture home-field throughout.

Foles probably will not be an option for Kelly.

The only possible quarterback controversy for the Eagles that could arise during this critical stretch of the season would be a choice between Sanchez and the guy who followed him at the University of Southern California - Matt Barkley.

I don't think any Eagle fan wants to see that discussion come about.

Yesterday, Kelly scoffed at a current notion being tossed around that any quarterback can succeed playing in his system.

"If anybody thinks that anybody can play in our system, they can't evaluate quarterbacks," Kelly said. "I think it's a disservice to the guys that have played quarterback for us to say that just anybody can play that position.

"We've just been fortunate.

"We had [Vick], who is an outstanding player. Then Mike got hurt and the fact [is] that we had an opportunity to get [Foles] in there, who is a starter in the National Football League and had a tremendous run there before he hurt his clavicle.

"Then the fact that we have Sanchez is just a credit to what we have here from a depth standpoint. I don't think those guys get enough credit for how good of quarterbacks they are."

Now is not the time to worry about what is fair to Foles and what any of this might mean to the long-term status of the Eagles' quarterback situation.

No matter how things play out, Foles, who is under a contract that is favorable to the team for another season, will get the opportunity to reclaim his job.

You want that to be a concern of next season, not the latter stages of this one.

Right now, there is a real opportunity for the Eagles, and much of it will hinge on the play of Sanchez.

Sanchez does not have to be as good as he was on Monday night, when he made his first NFL starter in 1 1/2 seasons and completed 20 of 37 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 45-21 beat-down of the Carolina Panthers, but the Eagles will need him to play damn close to that.

On Sunday, the Birds travel to Green Bay (6-3) for a short-week game. They then host the Tennessee Titans before traveling to Dallas for another short-week game on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys.

The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks then come to Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 7.

That is a playoff-positioning gantlet the Birds must manage successfully.

The Eagles' ideal scenario would be for Sanchez to do exactly what Foles did last season when injury opened the door for him to take Vick's job.

You want Sanchez to grab the wheel and steer this machine the way Foles did a year ago when he, shockingly, guided the Eagles to the NFC East title.

Given where the Eagles stand, the potential rewards could be even greater if Sanchez plays well. Should the Eagles go 3-1 over the next four games, they will be positioned to make something special happen down the stretch and into the playoffs.

What you don't want is for Sanchez to stumble and bumble and take the Eagles' chances down with him.

You don't want Kelly, out of desperation, to have to turn back to Foles, if he is available, and try to salvage a playoff bid from the three NFC East games - Dallas, at Washington and at New York - that end the regular season.

Right now, the Eagles have no actual quarterback controversy. If one arises when/if Foles does come back, a potentially special season is likely to be in jeopardy.

 


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @johnsmallwood

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood