Chip Kelly flirting with disaster at QB

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
3:00
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- All summer, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly talked about the luxury -- and the importance -- of having two quarterbacks capable of making quality starts in the NFL.

At practice two weeks ago, Kelly suddenly faced the prospect of having none. Nick Foles, preparing to start at Tampa Bay in place of the injured Michael Vick, felt a pop in his groin muscle.

Kelly’s reaction?

“It’s basically, 'Holy crap, what do we do now?' “ Kelly said. “Thank goodness it wasn’t a real serious deal. It didn’t affect him. He went out and played really well in the Tampa Bay game.”

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Bill KostrounCoach Chip Kelly is hopeful that he can get a full game from injured QB Michael Vick as the Eagles prepare to face the Giants.
With Vick’s hamstring still an issue, Foles was knocked out of the next Sunday’s game against Dallas with a concussion. Rookie Matt Barkley played the fourth quarter and would have been the starter against the New York Giants this week if Vick hadn’t returned to practice. The Eagles signed G.J. Kinne to their practice squad, making him No. 3 in the line of succession.

If Vick were to experience that same popping sensation in his hamstring late in the week, Kelly could be looking at an NFC East game with Barkley and Kinne as his only available quarterbacks.

One of the more compelling questions about Kelly’s offensive scheme was whether his quarterbacks could last a full season running it. The current situation, however, says more about the vagaries of the position than about Kelly’s read-option attack.

Foles’ concussion came on a standard pass play. He had time in the pocket, couldn’t find a receiver and started sliding to his left. When the Giants defenders started to pursue, he ran all the way across the field to the right sideline. He took a massive hit from George Selvie because he failed to throw the ball away.

Foles was dinged earlier in the game. On one of his few designed read-option runs, he was kicked in the knee by a defender. He was limping noticeably after that. It wasn’t a serious injury, but it was the only one of the three quarterback injuries that could be traced specifically to Kelly’s system.

Vick wasn’t injured on one of the designed runs Kelly dialed up for him. He was flushed from the pocket and, as he has a thousand times before, he took off. He pulled the hamstring as he smartly avoided contact and raced to the sideline.

That could be seen as a comfort, going forward. Or it could be seen as cause for even more anxiety: Vick is 33 and missing multiple starts even when no one hits him now. After vowing to play all 16 games this season, he appears even more prone to injury.

“It’s a muscle pull,” Kelly said. “That’s all he’s had since I’ve been around him. As we move forward, we try to identify the problem and then try to fix the problem. I don’t know what I can go on. I’m not going to say, 'Mike, I don’t think you should go today because you got hurt three years ago.'"

The injury history was a factor in deciding to bring Vick back in the first place. Kelly decided it didn’t outweigh the potential he saw in Vick’s mobility and arm strength.

So here he is, one pop away from Matt Barkley and two pops away from G.J. Kinne.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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