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Chip Kelly brings open mind to Eagles' QB situation

reuben frank csnphilly

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 09:01 AM

Frank

Chip Kelly brings open mind to Eagles' QB situation

January 18, 2013, 7:00 am

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Here’s all we know about Chip Kelly’s plans at quarterback: He’ll have one.

Who will it be? Is he currently on the roster? Will he have to be a running QB or can he be a classic drop-back passer? Young guy? Old guy? Fast guy? Slow guy?

Not a clue.

Kelly, in his first full day as head coach of the Eagles, spoke at length Thursday about the quarterback position but only in general terms. He said it’s way too early to speculate about the future of Michael Vick and Nick Foles, but he did say there are a lot of misconceptions about the quarterback position in his high-powered spread offense.

He doesn’t have to be a crazy scrambler. He’s not going to carry the ball 20 times a game. He doesn’t need to be the next RG3 or Colin Kaepernick.

He just needs to be good.

“[There’s] perception vs. reality,” he said. “My quarterback last year [at Oregon], Darren Thomas, who is up in the CFL, we played in 14 games, he ran for 200 yards. Everybody is like, ‘Well, you run a running offense.’ Well, look at the statistics, it’s not that. We don’t run designed quarterback runs or we’re snapping the ball to him and then running quarterback power.

“Two years ago we played Collin Klein [of Kansas State] in the [Fiesta] Bowl game. The year before, Collin Klein carried the ball 317 times and [Oregon running back] LaMichael James carried it 271. They’re snapping the ball and he’s running. Tim Tebow, they’re snapping the ball, he’s running counter, he’s running power, it’s direct-snap stuff.

“I’ve never been that way. We’ve run zone-read concepts, man-read concepts, where it’s a mathematical game. If there is an extra defender in the box, your quarterback can read him and by controlling him and reading him he is basically blocking him.”

Don’t forget, it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick who reached out to Kelly recently to learn about his offensive concepts. Belichick’s quarterback, obviously, is no RG3.

So it’s all about finding a talented quarterback, not necessarily a mobile, athletic one.

“What Bill does in New England with Tom Brady is not a spread-option offense,” he said. “If someone tried to make Tommy run the zone-read, I think he’d get fired, to be honest with you. You need him to sit back in the pocket and throw the ball because he’s one of the all-time greatest quarterbacks ever.

“It’s about what tools do we have in our toolbox and what tools can we use based on the players that we have. I think what Jim Harbaugh has done in San Francisco and Pete Carroll did in Seattle is that they identified the strengths they had in Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, and they played to them.

“Mike Shanahan did the same thing with RG3, played to his strengths. It’s no different than what the Colts did with Andrew Luck and what Denver is doing with Peyton Manning and what the Patriots did with Tom Brady. Any great coach identifies what their personnel is and puts them in positions to be successful. You have a wide variety of talent at the quarterback spot.”

The Eagles have three quarterbacks under contract -- Michael Vick, their starter for most of the last three seasons; Nick Foles, who started the last six games last year; and veteran Trent Edwards.

Kelly is most familiar with Foles, who threw for 398 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon in 2011 while he was a junior at Arizona.

“I’m a huge fan of his,” Kelly said. “He’s tough. … I think a lot of people don’t understand how hard it is and what toughness means to the quarterback spot. To just be able to stand in the pocket and throw the football [is tough]. We hit him as many times as we could hit him and he just kept getting up and making plays.

“He completed a 13-yard pass left handed against us once and I remember just standing on the sideline shaking my head [saying], ‘What do we have to do to stop him?’ He’s a competitor, he’s accurate, so I’m excited about that.”

That said, Kelly made it clear that everybody on the roster -- at quarterback and at every position -- starts out even.

“I want to take a look at all of our personnel and try to make an opinion of what I think of them after seeing them on tape,” he said. “I don’t have any preconceived notions because I don’t think that’s the way to go about it.

“I’m going to look at everybody. If you can throw the ball and run, I’m going to take you out there. … I’ve followed Michael’s career and I understand what a talent he is.

“But there is nothing that’s on the board right now, there’s nothing that’s off the board right now. Our sole focus and goal is that we’re going to put an offense on the field that’s going to score points. That’s basically what we’re going to do and whoever that is, I don’t know that.”

Vick is due $15.5 million in base salary in 2013, with base salaries in future years of $12.5 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015.

But the Eagles can release him immediately after the Super Bowl and owe him nothing, absorbing only a $4.2 million salary cap hit.

General manager Howie Roseman said he and Kelly haven’t yet discussed how to handle that. They’ll have until Feb. 6 -- three days after the Super Bowl -- to make a decision.

“It’s pretty obvious that there is a first decision to make,” Roseman said. “We do have time to make that. No decisions have been made about any person on the roster. We did not tell any coach that we could or could not do anything about anybody on the roster.”

Surprisingly, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said the question of how to handle the quarterback position really wasn’t an issue when the Eagles interviewed Kelly -- or the other candidates.

They’re thinking long-term, so it’s not about who’s the quarterback in 2013, it’s about how best to move forward for the next 12 or 15 years and have the greatest chance to win a championship.

“No candidate was prepared to make that decision because they hadn’t studied it enough,” he said. “I think these coaches for the most part see a much longer-term situation, and they’re not judging where you are at at the exact moment.

“They’re trying to assess where they want to be with their football team down the road. And you don’t know what course that’s going to take. It’s impossible to know.

“So it wasn’t a short-term decision these coaches were making. It was really what kind of football team they want. Nowadays, as I said, there’s a chance every year to find quarterbacks that can be successful fairly quickly. That’s good for the league.”

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.