QB controversy will simmer a while longer
There are enough layers to this Eagles quarterback situation that if you stacked them one upon the other you could build a skyscraper as high as One Liberty Place.
Trying to figure out what is the best solution for now, next week, and next year is useless because so often there is no rhyme or reason to the way these things sort themselves out. (See Tom Brady, New England; Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco; and Kurt Warner, St. Louis.)
Based on what was said after Tuesday's practice at the NovaCare Complex, Chip Kelly has an easy decision to make for the second week in a row. Michael Vick, despite participating in practice, did not sound like a man whose pulled left hamstring would be healed enough for him to play when the Eagles go against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I feel it getting better," Vick said. "It's just when I try to work it, it's still there. I think another week of rehab will put me in a position where I can gain some confidence in it and [in] doing the things I normally do."
That, of course, would include running faster than most quarterbacks in the NFL. Without that weapon in his arsenal, Vick would not have won the preseason quarterback competition with Nick Foles in the first place. It would make no sense for Kelly to play the lesser of his two quarterbacks in a game that will decide which team is guaranteed first place in the NFC East at the season's halfway point.
At some point - possibly as soon as the Oct. 27 rematch with the New York Giants - Kelly will have to make another definitive decision about his quarterback that could impact the rest of this season and the ones beyond.
When that time arrives, there is really only one question that matters and one person who can answer it: Who gives the Eagles the best chance of winning right now?
Next season doesn't matter, because you can't assume any of the big-name college quarterbacks entering the 2014 draft will be better or even as good as Vick or Foles. (See Akili Smith and Ryan Leaf.) You also can't assume that the Eagles will make a quick exit from the playoffs if they get there.
Nobody thought much of the 49ers when they arrived in Philadelphia for the fourth week of the 2011 season, and people thought even less when they fell behind the Eagles by 20 points early in the third quarter. The 49ers rallied to win behind quarterback Alex Smith that day, won 13 games that season, and reached the NFC championship game.
Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl the next season. Yes, San Francisco's defense was more advanced than the Eagles' defense is now, but this league is unpredictable.
Picking a quarterback who could win now didn't seem like a pressing issue at the start of training camp, when the idea of the Eagles' competing for the NFC East title was as preposterous as Kelly's being the longest-tenured coach or manager in Philadelphia by mid-October. But even then Kelly answered the question by going with Vick because he thought he had slightly outperformed Foles.
Winning now, with a 33-year-old Vick, was more important to Kelly than finding out whether the 24-year-old Foles could be his quarterback for 2013 and beyond. At the time of the initial decision, Kelly praised Foles' exhibition work and said it was important to have two quarterbacks in a league in which the meat grinder often swallows the starter. He obviously knew Vick's track record.
What Kelly couldn't have known absolutely then but certainly does now is that he can scheme his offense with Foles just as easily as he can with Vick, even though they have dissimilar skill sets. Kelly might even think he can run it better with Foles, but good luck getting him to say that.
We'll only know how he truly feels when Vick and the Eagles trainers tell Kelly that the opening-day starting quarterback has a healthy hamstring again.
If Kelly's answer is Foles, it will create an interesting situation in the Eagles locker room. Foles, Vick, and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur painted a happy face on the quarterback situation as it currently exists.
"I think we've got a good quarterback room," Shurmur said. "Those guys all work well. My experience with quarterback rooms, if the room is not right, then it's hard for the starter to play well and it's hard for the guys who are not starters to develop."
The one dynamic of the Foles-Vick relationship we haven't seen yet is what happens if Foles is the starter when Vick is healthy and the games still matter. When Foles played over a healthy Vick a year ago, the Eagles were in the midst of a monstrous free fall.
This ongoing quarterback controversy is obviously not a black-and-white situation. Vick, who has played well enough to have the 12th-highest passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 100 throws, has not done anything to lose the job as the Eagles' quarterback.
In a locker room where Vick is a popular leader among his teammates, the decision to go with Foles could be met with mixed reaction.
That should not influence Kelly's final decision, but it is another layer to a situation filled with tons of them.