PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles roster will be put together this offseason with Nick Foles as the starting quarterback, coach Chip Kelly said Monday.
Kelly's admission that Foles is his quarterback going forward should not be much of a surprise after Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and two interception in 13 regular-season games. After all, Kelly joked earlier this year that Foles will be his quarterback for the next 1,000 years.
Naming Foles the starter provided a clearer picture at quarterback than the Eagles had entering last offseason, and eliminated any ambiguity about the team's most important position.
"Obviously, you've got to have one guy," Kelly said."Right now, Nick is that one guy, but I don't think Nick has ever been afraid of competition.He showed me that the first time we had that."
Kelly implied that no job is ever permanent, and used the example that Foles cannot think he can throw 12 interceptions in a row and remain the quarterback. (Kelly added Foles would "never do" that.)
Kelly's comments came after Foles spoke to reporters, but Foles did not seem concerned about his standing in the organization. His message has been consistent ever since he earned the job -- he does not need to hear affirmation from Kelly.
"If you don't play well in this league for a certain amount of games, you probably won't be the starter," Foles said. "I've never looked at a label as meaningful. It just means someone has your back and has respect."
Foles clearly has the respect of the Eagles. His performance this season has allowed the organization more flexibility entering the offseason. If Foles did not thrive in 2013, the entire offseason would be predicated upon finding a quarterback. The Eagles now have more flexibility in free agency and the draft. They can use their resources to build up the roster instead of identifying a quarterback.
When discussing Foles, Kelly emphasized that Foles is a "great decision-maker" and is "extremely accurate." Foles appeared a natural fit in Kelly's system despite a perceived lack of mobility. Even more encouraging was his steady improvement.
When Foles packed his locker one year earlier, he came off of a season in which he went 1-5 as a starter with more turnovers than touchdowns. That's why the Eagles were not ready to make a commitment to Foles, and why they re-signed Michael Vick and drafted Matt Barkley.
Foles' final nine games, including Saturday's 26-24 playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, convinced the Eagles otherwise. Foles finished the regular season 7-1 and led the NFL in passer rating. He threw for two touchdowns in the postseason loss and rallied the Eagles from a 20-7 deficit. This all happened at age 24 with 16 career starts.
"I think he's very young, and I think people still sometimes forget about that," Kelly said."He didn't become our starter until after Mike (Vick) went down in the Giants game, and in the short body of work, I think he did an outstanding job."
Foles said he does not allow the "external stuff" to bother him, which is why he said he did not worry about quarterback competition or how Kelly would label him entering the offseason. True to his personality, he insisted that he would support the organization whatever they decide.
Kelly said he does not put stock into the term "franchise quarterback." Foles said he's unconcerned with labels, but he understands what the term means.
"I think a franchise quarterback's someone's that going to go work every day, and when it's game day, he's got to play well," Foles said. "But he's got to be a leader. Someone the team looks to, the city looks to. You have to be consistent. You're not always going to play perfect games, but you got to keep playing well."
That would be a good way to explain Foles' season. Kelly said there was no specific point when he became convinced of Foles' ability. One year has completely altered Foles' career.
He packed up his locker last winter unsure of his future. He learned a new offense in the spring. He lost a quarterback competition in the summer. Foles emerged to prominence during the past month, and the Eagles found their starting quarterback along the way.
"Our evaluations are based upon demonstrated abilities," Foles said, "and he demonstrated in the time that he was in there that he deserved to be the starting quarterback."
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