Chip Kelly’s approach to his quarterback situation has been working just fine, so there’s no reason for the Philadelphia Eagles coach to change up now.
Two weeks ago, it seemed as if Kelly could and should name Foles the starter. The 24-year-old had just thrown for three touchdowns in a convincing victory at Tampa. He was named NFC offensive player of the week. The offense just looked more alive with Foles at the controls than it had with Vick for a couple weeks.
Kelly demurred. Then Foles scattershot his way to a miserable performance at home against the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. It was a small performance in a big game and Kelly’s approach suddenly looked pretty smart. He never anointed Foles his starter, so there was no risk of appearing indecisive or unsure.
Because of the concussion he received against Dallas, Foles was unavailable last week against the New York Giants. Vick played poorly and then left early with a reinjured hamstring. Kelly didn’t have to make a decision. When Foles was cleared, Foles assumed the starting job again.
That brings us to the present moment. Foles bounced back from that Dallas clunker with a game for the ages. It’s impossible to imagine Kelly sitting Foles down and saying, "Nice game, kid, now you’re heading back to the sideline." He doesn’t have to do anything. Vick’s balky hamstring has bought him another week, at least.
If Foles bombs in Green Bay on Sunday, Kelly will have the option of going back to Vick in time. If Foles is bombs-away in Green Bay, making that Dallas game even more of an outlier, Kelly has an easier time telling Vick he’s now the No. 2 guy.
Kelly clearly believes the Dallas game was the fluke and that the Tampa Bay and Oakland games are closer to the real Foles -- the Arizona quarterback Kelly coached against when he was at Oregon.
“Take the film out,” Kelly said. “We hit the crap out of that kid every single day. He completed a pass against us left-handed for 13 yards and had his helmet turned around sideways and got up and took the next snap. I’ve always been a big fan of his because I’ve seen him play and I’ve seen him play in critical games, and he always seemed to have great games against us. So really what happened in the Cowboys game was the first time I’ve ever seen that from him. And let’s knock on wood. Hopefully it’s the last time we ever see it from him.”
Foles employed his “24-hour rule” to move on from both the Tampa Bay success and the Dallas disaster. He said it will apply to his record-tying performance, too. Spend 24 hours on the previous game, then hit the mental reset button and start preparing for the next one.
“Nick has had a life full of life lessons the past couple weeks,” Kelly said. “If you spent too much time thinking about mistakes, you’re doomed to repeat them. If he needs anything to think about, he should think about what happened in the past couple weeks to him. It could change in a week.”
Five weeks ago, the Eagles went to Denver and got destroyed by Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 52-20. It was one of those games that seemed to show the gap between the Eagles and NFL excellence. Would they ever get that kind of next-level quarterback play? Could their defense become at least adequate?
On Sunday, Foles joined Manning as one of the seven men who have thrown seven touchdown passes in an NFL game. The Eagles' defense held the Raiders to 13 points before a garbage-time score gave them a total of 20.
From 52-20 in Denver to 49-20 in Oakland. Even the scores were similar.
Foles has to produce another decade of excellent performances to belong in a conversation with Manning. But if it were easy to do what he did Sunday, a lot more than seven quarterbacks would have done it by now. Maybe seven touchdowns was as fluky as 11-for-29 for 80 yards against Dallas, but doesn’t Kelly have to find out by the end of this season?
So Foles is the Eagles’ No. 1 quarterback. He should start as long as he’s healthy, unless he strings together a couple of Dallas games. And if Kelly never says a word about it, that’s just fine.