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Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Time for a new Kelly-Mariota scenario

By Phil Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA – It all made perfect sense six months ago.

Chip Kelly would come to the Philadelphia Eagles from Oregon, start a rebuilding project with Michael Vick as his stopgap quarterback, then draft Marcus Mariota to take his system to the next level.

So much for perfect sense. That scenario was already wrecked by the Eagles’ 7-5 record in Kelly’s first season as head coach. They currently hold the 21st spot in the 2014 NFL draft, about 17 or 18 picks too late to have a shot at the Oregon quarterback. And then there is the emergence of Nick Foles, whom Kelly jokingly anointed the Eagles’ starter for the next 1,000 years.

On Tuesday, the perfect-sense scenario vanished completely when Mariota announced he would stay in Eugene for his junior season.

“I’m happy for him,” Kelly said Wednesday. “I know he comes from a great family. His dad, Toa, and mom, Alana, value education. Marcus is going to stay and get his degree. He’s a very special young man. I think everyone in the league will have to wait a couple years.”

Kelly said he did not talk to Mariota about his decision.

“We’re not allowed to talk to [college players] about that,” Kelly said. “I had nothing to do with it.”

The Mariota scenario helps explain the tone of the discussion about Foles as the Eagles’ No. 1 quarterback. He has played too well since Vick’s hamstring injury to send him back to the sideline, but he doesn’t seem to fit the profile of the quarterbacks Kelly coveted while recruiting at Oregon.

Even though Kelly has said all along that he can adapt his offense to fit the skill set of his quarterback, it just seemed logical that he would look for a better fit in the bumper crop of quarterbacks expected to be in the 2014 draft – Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel among them.

And now Mariota won’t be there.

“I loved coaching him,” Kelly said. “He’s exactly what you want in a football player. I know everyone in Eugene is happy. Eugene is a special place. Take it from a guy who had a real tough time leaving there -- I think it’s a good decision.”

But wait. Kelly said NFL teams would have to wait “a couple years” for Mariota. That would mean the 2016 draft. By then, Foles will be finished with his original four-year contract and the Eagles will know for sure whether he is a true franchise guy or whether Kelly needs a more mobile quarterback.

Could Mariota be the Eagles’ starter in 2016? Hmmm. Makes perfect sense.