Chip Kelly’s worst fear turned to reality, and fast.
Last week, Kelly said his shaky quarterback situation concerned him. A few days before a second consecutive NFC East game, Kelly felt “uncomfortable” with Mike Vick still not fully recovered from a hamstring injury and Nick Foles mired in early stages of concussion recovery.
It became painfully obvious Sunday that Kelly had gambled and lost, going with Vick against the Giants without ever really knowing if his veteran quarterback could effectively run the offense at less-than-peak health.
Vick made it through four possessions before his reaggravated hamstring forced him to the sideline (see story) and brought an unprepared Matt Barkley into the game (see story). Vick had thrown a pick, taken a 12-yard sack and passed for just 31 yards before leaving, when it was the clear the offense couldn’t function with him relegated to handing the ball off or hurrying his passes to avoid more contact.
Kelly’s spread offense, which doesn’t change even when the quarterbacks do, continued to spiral downward. The Eagles lost 15-7 to the Giants at the Linc without scoring an offensive touchdown for the second consecutive game (see Instant Replay).
Worse than the loss is the uncertainty for the coming week and beyond. With no clarity at the game’s most important position, the Eagles are unlikely to be any more prepared for next Sunday’s game against Oakland than they were for this Sunday's game against the Giants.
“I think when you’re unsettled at that position in this league, it’s real difficult,” Kelly said after going to his backup for the third time in the past four games. He faces the potential of starting his third different quarterback in three games Sunday against Oakland.
“You didn’t have a concrete answer. I know of some of you wanted it during the week. ‘Is [Vick] going to start’ on Tuesday? I don’t know if he’s starting on Tuesday. How do we go through the week or practice and see where he is? That was the way it was. I was telling you the truth then. I was concerned all week long. Right now, we’re unstable at the quarterback spot and we lost our last two games because of it.”
And it doesn’t appear to be getting any better quickly.
Foles, who sustained a concussion against Dallas, hasn’t advanced through the stages of the NFL’s concussion recovery program. As of postgame Sunday, Foles still hadn’t taken the ImPACT test, which concussed NFL players must pass before they’re examined by an independent neurologist to get medical clearance.
Vick’s hamstring clearly needs more time and he might have set himself back with his latest injury, pending the results of an MRI on Monday. Barkley, right now, is the likeliest candidate to start against the Raiders next Sunday, which would be his NFL starting debut.
“We know where we are right now and understand what our situation is,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to get whoever is ready to go this week. I don’t think Matt is banged up, but if Matt’s ready to go this week, we have to get him as much work as we can and get him ready to play Oakland.”
In Kelly’s first season, the Eagles hit the midway point on a two-game losing streak and with no sense of direction. All three of their wins have come against teams that were winless (season opener included) and all three have come away from the Linc.
Oddly enough, they’re only one game out of first place in the NFC East. But without quaterback instability, does it matter?
"One thing I will not blame the game on is the quarterback -- or him winning or losing,” wide receiver Jason Avant said. “There's a whole bunch of guys out there that have something to do with winning.
“Whether Barkley is in there or Nick is in there, we have to come up with a way to win. Those guys are on this team and they've been brought here for that reason, knowing that most quarterbacks in this league don't play the whole season. With that being said, we have to come up with a way to win no matter who's in there."
Kelly and Vick were honest in front of cameras and recorders last week, but it’s fair to wonder if they were up front behind closed doors.
Kelly had said Foles’ concussion wouldn’t expedite Vick’s hamstring recovery, but he gave Vick most of the first-team reps at practice and relied on medical reports and discussions with Vick to influence his decision forge ahead with the 33-year-old veteran.
Vick, who was honest enough to declare himself out against Tampa Bay the previous week, said all last week he wasn’t sure if he would be 100 percent until he ran full speed on Friday, which Kelly said he never did.
“He felt good about it,” Kelly said. “Our training staff and doctors feel good about it. We as a coaching staff didn’t see any effects in terms of him doing anything from a practice standpoint. Felt like he was going to be the No. 1 guy.”