Chip Kelly's QB conundrum was inevitable

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
6:50
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Chip Kelly didn’t hesitate to identify the reason his team has scored a total of 10 points in two home losses to NFC East rivals.

“Right now,” Kelly said, “we’re unstable at the quarterback spot and we are not playing well at the quarterback spot, and we lost our last two games because of it.”

Kelly set himself up for his current woes by bringing Michael Vick back and naming him the No. 1 quarterback. Vick is 33 years ago. He had missed nine of 32 possible starts over the previous two seasons. It is not surprising that he pulled a hamstring three weeks ago, and it should not be surprising that it took longer than expected to heal.

“When it was originally diagnosed, it was supposed to be 10 to 14 days,” Kelly said. “It was actually 21 days until [Vick] played.”

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
John Geliebter/USA TODAY SportsWith Michael Vick sidelined again, rookie Matt Barkley stepped in for the Eagles, completing 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards.
Vick lasted nine plays before feeling the hamstring pop again. He will undergo another MRI on Monday. It seems very unlikely he will be ready to play in Oakland next week or, for that matter, in Green Bay the week after that.

Nick Foles, meanwhile, is in the NFL concussion protocol. His availability will be determined by doctors. All we know at the moment is that he hasn’t yet been cleared to practice.

Matt Barkley, a rookie forced to play in relief of Foles last week and Vick this week, would be the starter by default if Foles isn’t cleared.

So yes, there is officially instability at the quarterback position -- a not-unexpected outcome when you choose the most unstable possible option as your starter. That is an issue that time should resolve.

The poor play, which predates the injuries, is an entirely different matter. Foles was terrible against the Cowboys for three quarters last week before the concussion ended his day. And Vick was even worse against the Giants than he was three weeks ago before the initial hamstring injury.

The Giants surprised the Eagles by playing zone coverage more than they did in the first meeting. That can happen. But it shouldn’t cause a 12-year veteran quarterback to lose his composure. There was Vick, though, throwing a ball behind tight end Brent Celek and right to Giants safety Antrel Rolle.

“I don’t know what happened,” Celek said.

Nobody seemed to know what happened on the next possession, either. Kelly said he had no designed runs planned for the hobbled Vick, but he opened that drive with a naked bootleg. Vick ran right into Rolle, who sacked him and knocked the ball out of his hands. Vick recovered -- arguably his best play of the afternoon.

Barkley wound up playing two-and-a-half quarters. His most significant preparation time was the quarter he played the week before. Because Vick was rusty after having missed two games, Kelly felt he needed the vast majority of practice reps.

Considering the situation, Barkley didn’t play poorly. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards. He took three sacks and threw an interception on a desperation deep ball in the fourth quarter.

“I played all right,” Barkley said. “I thought I made some good throws. I made some poor decisions.”

The worst of those was holding the ball too long on a first-and-goal play at the 2-yard line. Barkley was supposed to look for DeSean Jackson first, then for Celek. If neither was open, he should throw the ball away out of the end zone. Instead, he held it long enough for Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas to knock it out of his hands.

“I was about to throw it away,” Barkley said. “He just got there a second too early.”

It was a rookie mistake -- a rookie coach’s mistake. Kelly should understand that Barkley has little feel for the speed of the NFL game, especially in the red zone. Even if he didn’t have LeSean McCoy carry it from the 2, there were plenty of plays with quick throws he could have called.

It seemed likely long before the season began that because of injuries or poor performances, Kelly would see Vick, Foles and eventually Barkley over the course of this first season. It turns out that Kelly has gotten both -- injuries and poor performances -- at the same time.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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