CHIP KELLY is 19-9 through 28 games in the NFL, pretty darned good for a coach who might not have his quarterback yet.
The question of who quarterbacks the Eagles next season isn't one fans are spending a lot of time pondering right now. (That is why you have sports reporters.) But it might have a big impact on whether Kelly can win a Super Bowl in the near future.
Nick Foles got good news from his CT scan Friday, but Foles is still at least a few weeks and continued healing away from being cleared for contact. Unless Mark Sanchez gets injured or self-destructs, Foles will not take back the reins for the final week or 2 of the regular season, even if he gets clearance.
When this season started, the biggest question we wanted answered was whether Foles is a franchise quarterback, a guy who can get you a Lombardi Trophy. He didn't prove he was before breaking his left collarbone Nov. 2 at Houston. He seemed close to proving he wasn't, though offensive-line instability and a flickering running game dealt Foles a tougher hand than Sanchez has been playing the past few games; the Eagles are averaging 35.3 points in Sanchez's four starts.
In any case, unless Foles ends up running the team again somehow, there won't be any push to renegotiate as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract.
Does that make Sanchez the 2015 QB? If he wins the Super Bowl 2 months from now in Arizona, sure it does. Give him all the money you can scrape together, problem solved. But even amid the euphoria of blowing out the Cowboys last Thursday, who out there really thinks that outcome is likely?
However the season ends, if it ends short of a championship, there will be questions about whichever quarterback plays the final game. Rare is the season-ending loss after which fans declare, "It's hard to imagine what more the quarterback could have done to win that one!"
If Sanchez plays as well down the stretch as he played in beating Dallas, he will be in a position to force some sort of decision, from the standpoint that he's here on a 1-year deal and if the Eagles want to keep him, they'll have to pay him starting-quarterback money, probably for more than a year or 2. Where would that leave Foles? Backing up for the final year of his deal, hoping the situation somehow becomes a "competition" again some time before the end of 2015. Wouldn't be that different from the 1-year setup Sanchez signed on for last March, really.
What happens if the season doesn't end in a way that makes Kelly confident in either Sanchez or Foles as the 2015 starter?
Well, that would be bad. The Eagles have needs - at corner, at safety, at linebacker. The age of the offensive line is getting to be problematic. Drafting or trading up to draft a franchise quarterback would drain resources needed to address those issues. And then you have the whole question of how soon you're contending for a Super Bowl with a QB who's a 2015 rookie, even if you made a good choice and actually found a QB worth building around.
Trade for Robert Griffin III? You'd want to do a lot of homework before putting your franchise in those hands.
The notion that Kelly is such a genius, he only needs a decent, B-minus-level QB to win it all is one that not many NFL people are going to embrace, unless and until Kelly actually does this. From February 2004 to February 2012, every quarterback who won the Super Bowl was named Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers or Roethlisberger. Their coaches tended to be pretty smart guys. Those coaches still needed the elite QB.
Maybe there's a glimmer of hope in the last two Super Bowls having been won by Joe Flacco and by this week's opponent, Russell Wilson. We don't know yet what posterity will say about the careers of Flacco or Wilson, but right now, they don't make many top-five lists. (Though Flacco was about as good as any quarterback has ever been in the 2013 playoffs. Same answer for anyone who wants to question whether Eli Manning is really all that good - right now he isn't, but when he won those two Super Bowls he sure was.)
There was a time when you could win a Super Bowl with a Trent Dilfer or a Brad Johnson and a really great defense (which, by the way, the Eagles don't have). Then they changed the rules to tilt the field ridiculously toward offense, and the game became all about the quarterback.
Kelly tries hard to make it not all about the quarterback. Forty-five runs, 29 passes at Dallas. Sanchez attempted to throw more than 20 yards twice, according to Pro Football Focus.
But you can't bend every game to fit that template. You saw what happened when the Eagles visited Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. And you saw yesterday that if Tom Brady is your quarterback, falling behind by double digits at Lambeau doesn't mean you're going to get thoroughly humiliated.
What do you root for here, if you're an Eagles fan? Right now, the simplest path to success is Sanchez. Strong play down the stretch, decent play in the playoffs, sign the veteran for a few years, keep Foles around for his final contract year, see what happens. If anything unravels that scenario, the path to that parade down Broad Street gets harder to follow.
Chip Kelly is scheduled to address reporters today for the first time since the Dallas postgame . . . Some fans were concerned about center Jason Kelce's bandaged hand, when TV showed Kelce appearing to be in pain. Kelce said afterward he banged the hand but it was of no consequence. The snap problems between Mark Sanchez and Kelce pretty much disappeared . . . Some of Pro Football Focus's inferences need to be taken with a grain of salt, but for what it's worth, that site ranks Brandon Graham as the NFL's most productive 3-4 outside linebacker on a per-snap basis. Graham played 24 defensive snaps Thursday, rushed 12 times, PFF said, got a sack, a hit and a hurry on Tony Romo. Overall, PFF says he has 34 pressures in 149 snaps.
On Twitter: @LesBowen