EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before we go any further, let the record show that Chip Kelly ended the quarterback controversy before it started.
On the final comment of his postgame press conference Sunday, following the Eagles’ 36-21 comeback win over the still-winless Giants (see Instant Replay), Kelly didn’t even let the full question emerge from the reporter’s mouth before insisting that Nick Foles’ catchy performance in relief of an injured Mike Vick wouldn’t reopen the competition between them that took place this summer.
“No,” Kelly said, when asked if the starting quarterback job is up for grabs after Foles threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns and helped the Eagles rally from a third-quarter deficit.
Kelly has no plans to revisit the battle that headlined his first training camp as Eagles head coach, but he does have an uncertain quarterback picture coming out of his first win since the season opener.
Vick, who left late in the first half with a hamstring injury, said he didn’t know how long his most recent injury would keep him sidelined. Hamstring injuries tend to be case-by-case and unpredictable.
“I’ve never really had hamstring problems,” said Vick, who would later recall a tweaked hammy earlier in his career that kept him out about one week. “This one is a different spot, so we’ll see what happens.”
Standing by his locker, Vick said his hammy felt “a little sore” and that he’d get treatment Monday morning with hopes to make it back by Tuesday's practice.
“I’m hoping so,” he said. “I’ve had this injury before, you just got to do certain things to get it back.”
If he can’t go, the Eagles will turn to Foles for next Sunday’s game against winless Tampa Bay (notice a trend?) at Raymond James Stadium, a return to the city where Foles authored his last win as the Eagles' starter in place of an injured Vick with a buzzer-beater to Jeremy Maclin to snap an eight-game losing streak.
If Vick can play, he will start, Kelly assured, even though Foles put up 17 second-half points and tossed touchdowns of 25 and five yards in his first significant action of the season, and even though Vick didn’t light up the scoreboard before exiting.
Vick completed 6 of 14 passes for 105 yards for a passer rating of 69.0. Although he tossed a picture-perfect 56-yarder down the seam to DeSean Jackson in the second quarter, he went 0 for 4 on red-zone passes and has completed just 3 of 19 passes inside the 20 this season.
The offense was undeniably crisper in the second half after settling for field goals four times before the break. Foles passed for 197 yards and compiled a passer rating of 114.9 on eight-plus possessions.
“No matter where you are in this league, you better make sure you have two quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “That’s just the nature of this league. We are fortunate that we do.”
After a rocky first quarter in which he didn’t have a single passing yard, Vick started to warm up and keep the Giants off balance with a mix of passes and scrambles. He had run for 79 yards when he scampered out of bounds at the Giants’ 13-yard line with a little more than five minutes to play in the first half and pulled up lame.
Vick grabbed at the area of his left leg right below his rear end and limped slightly back onto the field but gave a thumbs-up to the coaches, indicating that he didn’t feel the need to come out.
“Well, I felt a pop,” Vick admitted afterward. “I was just trying to work through it. Anytime something like that happens you want to stay warm and you want to keep moving.”
Vick connected on his next two throws, a six-yarder to Jason Avant and one-yarder to LeSean McCoy, before Alex Henery’s 29-yard field goal inflated the Eagles’ lead to 16-7. Between drives, he was examined on the sideline by Dr. Peter DeLuca.
Vick came out to start the Eagles’ next drive but took a big hit from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on a roll-out out to his left and threw the ball out of bounds.
Kelly then lifted him for Foles.
“He didn’t look like he was moving well, and we’re not going to put anybody in harm’s way,” Kelly said. “I just felt like he didn’t have that step where he could get out of the way [of pressure]. You’ve got a pass rush like they have, they’ve got some good pass rushers over there with [Justin] Tuck, and [Mathias] Kiwanuka and JPP. I don’t think you want a guy out there that’s not 100 percent. That was my decision.”
Injuries continue to be an issue for the 33-year-old quarterback. He came out of a Week 2 game against San Diego and keeps absorbing hits week after week, as a passer and runner. If he can’t play Sunday against the Bucs, it would be the fourth straight year he’s missed at least one game from an injury.
This time, he wasn’t even hit. And that’s the toughest pill to swallow.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I never question why things happen. I never question God, but I’m just running by myself and running out of bounds. I tried to slow down and I think I just took the wrong step.”
"It's never a good situation when you see that dude grab his leg," Jackson added. "We always kind of pick on him. He's getting a little older now -- he's in his 30s ... I told him he's getting a little old. 'Slow down, man. You're running too fast.'"