This whole quarterback debate has gotten all gummed up with false narratives. There are a lot of people out there, especially Nick Foles fans, who cling to Chip Kelly's words about how he doesn't need a running quarterback, and that he can adapt his offense to whatever personnel he has at his disposal. Here's Kelly on that topic at his first Eagles press conference:
There’s perception and then there’s reality. The perception is we run our quarterback all the time and this is what we do. The reality is that’s not the case. One of the best qualities in a quarterback is durability and a lot of that has to do with play calling. Our quarterback is not going to get the direct snap like Dick Kazmaier did at Princeton in the single wing and have him run it 25 times, I can tell you that... That’s not the determining factor for me and I’m not married to whether we have to do this. I’m an equal opportunity scorer, and we’ll score any way we can. It’s all based on what our personnel is. I’m not married to try to take a quarterback who can’t run and make him run, and a quarterback who can’t throw and make him throw. It’s putting your players in the best position you can to be successful, and how you can score points.
That's what we wanted Kelly to say, and he lived up to expectations. You never want your offensive-minded head coach to be unable to work with players who don't fit into his perfect mold. That's a recipe for disaster. Kelly can build an offense around a more stationary quarterback. In Darron Thomas's last season at Oregon, he only ran the ball 4.3 times per game. Before that, Kelly designed a pass-first offense at New Hampshire to best utilize Ricky Santos. If he had Tom Brady or Peyton Manning on his team, I'm sure he could create a more than competent playbook around their skill set.
But there's a difference between what Kelly can do and what he wants to do. He had inordinate success at Oregon running a spread option attack that, at its best, utilizes quarterback runs (and threats to run). The NFL last year was a proving ground for those ideas, where zone read and option concepts worked at the highest level for playoff teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, and 49ers. If Kelly is going to build the best offense he can, why wouldn't he pursue a similar path, one that he has already won with? Why would he shackle himself to a quarterback like (the still unproven) Foles, who would instantly take away an entire dimension of the offense?
Fans can cling to his comments if they want, but Kelly's actions speak louder. Re-signing Michael Vick isn't my favorite piece of news. And the rumored imminent signing of Dennis Dixon won't solve any quarterback problems. But both moves suggest that Kelly isn't content with going forward with Foles, as much as he may like him as a person and a (limited) player. He needs to install his own offense with players who can run it. Neither eliminating quarterback runs from the playbook, nor installing a completely different package for the backup is an attractive option. To that end, I think there's a good chance the Eagles will trade Nick Foles this offseason -- or at least they should seriously consider it.
Foles is cheap and has some upside potential. He showed flashes at the end of last season that may or may not indicate he has a future as a starter in the NFL. That's not an insignificant asset. But if the Andy Reid era taught us anything, it's that selling high on quarterbacks can be a winning strategy. If Foles isn't in the plans for Kelly's offense -- and there's little reason to think he is, barring an offseason jump to "elite" QB status -- now is the time to get some value in return that can help the team. Stop clinging to Foles and start looking at potential draft picks in 2013 and 2014 who actually fit the system.
It's great that Kelly can adapt his offense to the personnel. But to do so in the extreme is foolhardy. Don't take away one of Kelly's best attributes, especially in a league that's already trending in that direction. If a running quarterback can help make the offense more explosive, we should all be in favor of that. End of story.
Photo from Getty.