Why Chip Kelly Is Smart to Wait to Name Philadelphia Eagles Starting Quarterback

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Why Chip Kelly Is Smart to Wait to Name Philadelphia Eagles Starting Quarterback
USA TODAY Sports

Today is the day that every Philadelphia Eagles fan has waited for since January: the first day of Eagles training camp. 

For the first time this offseason, the entirety of the Eagles' 90-man roster is together and will practice at the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia. 

In January, a new era of Eagles football began. Andy Reid, the head coach for the Eagles since 1999, was fired and replaced by Chip Kelly, the former head coach at the University of Oregon. 

As Kelly arrived in Philadelphia, a whole lot of changes came with him. New practice techniques, new assistant coaches and a whole new direction for the team arrived in Philadelphia, exciting the local fans. However, while fans around the league have already started to see some of the innovations that Kelly will bring to the Eagles, there are still some question marks surrounding his football team. 

The No. 1 question: Who will be the starting quarterback come September 9, when the Eagles visit the Washington Redskins in their first game of the season? 

For many, the question comes down to three names: Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley. 

Vick, who has been on the Eagles roster since being released from prison in 2009 on dog fighting charges, has symbolized a completely enigmatic Eagles team over the last few years.

While Vick had a remarkable comeback season with the Eagles in 2010, his 2011 and 2012 seasons were anything but stellar. After having a plethora of talent in the last couple of seasons, Vick couldn't manage to lead the Eagles to more than eight wins in either year. 

Foles, who took over for an injured Vick during the middle of last season, represents a fresh start for the Eagles. Foles showed some definite promise last year while taking over the reins of the football team, but he also showed the typical signs of a rookie quarterback in the NFL: making poor decisions and turning over the ball. 

And then there is Barkley. An expected top-five pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Barkley decided to stay at the University of Southern California for his senior season to help lead the Trojans to a BCS National Championship. However, after a forgettable, injury-plagued senior year at USC, Barkley fell to the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, where Kelly and the Eagles decided to take a shot at him. 

The Eagles are entering unfamiliar territory when it comes to their quarterback situation this offseason. It really hasn't been since the pre-Donovan McNabb years that the Eagles didn't know who their starting quarterback would be come the start of the regular season.

After McNabb was traded to the Redskins from the Eagles, former Eagle Kevin Kolb was expected to replace McNabb as the quarterback in 2010. That was until Kolb was forced out of the Eagles' season opener that year with a concussion, which was when Vick took over. Since then, Vick has held onto the starting job.

In that regard, many fans in Philadelphia want to see Kelly name his starting quarterback for the season now, in order for the starter to build chemistry with the offense during training camp. However, as Dan Graziano of ESPN points out, Eagles players and fans shouldn't rush Kelly into making his decision too early: 

Unless they're holding their team fantasy football draft on the first day of training camp, there's no reason the Eagles players need to know by late July who's going to be their starting quarterback. Are we really to believe that the effectiveness of the offense in September rests on the naming of a starter in June or July? Does it make any sense at all to think that the receivers and the backs and the linemen would connect with Vick to such an extent that they wouldn't accept Nick Foles as the leader of their huddle if he showed up there in late August? 

Graziano is completely right. There's absolutely no need for Kelly to name his starting quarterback now, in late July. 

There is too much time between now and the start of the regular season for Kelly to name his starter immediately. There are several weeks of training camp and four preseason games for Kelly to evaluate his options. In my opinion, it is only until after all of those practices and games are complete that Kelly should name his starter. 

After all, Kelly needs time. He needs a bigger sample size than a couple of OTAs to make his decision. He needs to see if Vick is over his injury and turnover-filled past. He needs to see if Foles can make a significant jump in his sophomore season. He needs to see if Barkley can surprise everybody and be the best QB on this roster in his rookie season.

He will need time to see all of those things. The last thing he wants to do is make a rushed, poor decision in his first offseason in charge of the Eagles. After all, doing that may very well set his organization back a few years. 

Furthermore, the last thing Kelly wants is for one of his players to feel comfortable about his job security. After all, this team was 4-12 last season. While there is still plenty of talent on this roster, 4-12 is 4-12. Nobody's starting position is safe. 

Therefore, Kelly's key word of the offseason has been competition. Vick, Foles and even Barkley must enter training camp today knowing that none of them will be handed the starting job.

Vick knows as well as anybody that he had too many injuries and turnovers in his last couple of seasons. Foles knows how many mental mistakes he made last season. And Barkley...well, Barkley is just a rookie, and nothing is ever handed to rookies. 

While Kelly himself has stated that he will not name his starter until well into the preseason, that hasn't stopped many from guessing who it will be. Kelly, who was known for his up-tempo offense at Oregon, is expected to run the same type of offense in Philly. 

The natural fit, therefore, would be Vick, who is really the only one of these three who has the potential to be a mobile, fast-paced quarterback. However, according to Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kelly has recently stated that while mobility would be nice for his starter to have, it's not necessarily a requirement:

If the fact they have the ability to run, I believe that's an added bonus, but that's not the precursor to what we do. We've said it since day one. I want the quarterback that has the ability to run. I do not want a running back that can throw. We've never been that type of offense, and I think that's a misconception.

After a couple of rough seasons at Lincoln Financial Field, Eagles players and fans are excited for a fresh start. They are excited to see what the innovative Kelly can bring to this team, and this city. 

However, it's important that these players and fans give Kelly time. They need to be patient with him. 

Kelly has a tough task on his hands in his first season in charge of the Eagles. Success won't be had overnight. It's a long process, and it all starts with Kelly choosing the quarterback he wants to be in charge of his football team. 

And for that reason, it's important for the Eagles organization to be patient with Kelly while he analyzes all of his options at the position. 

If they are, expect Kelly to make the right choice and bring much-needed success back to the football field in the City of Brotherly Love. 

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