COMMENTARY | As if Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly wasn't walking into a firestorm already with one of the toughest fan bases in the NFL in Philadelphia, drafting highly touted USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the 2013 NFL draft likely only added fuel to the fire.
It's no secret that holding the title of head coach in Philadelphia is one of the most demanding jobs in the entire league. Former head coach Andy Reid -- now the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs -- endured 14 seasons of scrutiny from the fans, as well as the media.
Chip Kelly was able to restructure veteran quarterback Michael Vick's $100 million contract to give the team more breathing room in regards to the salary cap. Second-year quarterback Nick Foles, a player Kelly knows very well during their time as opponents in the PAC-12, showed signs of promise during the 2012 season but wasn't able to overcome his deficiencies with wins.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Kelly was willing to bring controversy early on at his first NFL job -- after all, Kelly is known for being quite the abnormal coach. Kelly was known for his high-octane offenses at Oregon, even going as far as to use ESPN anchors' headshots as part of his sideline signal-calling packages. So, by drafting Barkley in the fourth round of this year's draft was really status quo for Kelly's operation.
Heading into training camp this summer, many expected the quarterback competition to be between only Vick and Foles, with Vick having the slight edge as his skill set is one that mirrors many of the quarterbacks who've seen success in Kelly's fast-paced, spread-option offense.
However, Barkley holds somewhat of an unknown edge in the Eagles' quarterback competition. Barkley is used to the intense media scrutiny that will be forced upon him as the team's new starting quarterback. Remember, Barkley played four season at USC, which is essentially L.A.'s professional football team -- finishing with a career record of 34-13, while throwing for 116 touchdowns to just 48 interceptions. The Trojans program has been and is still run like a professional program with former head coach Pete Carroll and current head coach Lane Kiffin both having NFL head coaching experience.
Barkley has played in some of the nation's toughest environments against some of the nation's toughest players, some of whom have gone one to be current NFL superstars.
Simply put, Kelly knows the best and worst of Barkley, having to game plan against him multiple times during their times at Oregon and USC, respectively.
What will propel Barkley to the top of the depth chart is his ability to create chemistry with Kelly quicker than Vick or Foles. Barkley knows what type of leader Kelly looks for, having grown a foundational relationship in college. He also understand what Kelly looks for under center, having played against as well as alongside some of Kelly's former players in college and at the NFL Combine this past March.
Matt Barkley is the unknown favorite in Philadelphia because of his successful experience in a tight-ship, professionally ran NFL-style program at USC -- one that Kelly runs now in Philadelphia.
Barkley has the big-game experience, and has shown to overcome on-field objections with charisma and leadership. The patience level for an NFL coach to succeed is minimal at best nowadays, and regardless of what Jeffrey Lurie or Howie Roseman will say to defend Kelly, if he doesn't win and win soon, he'll be back in the college game a la Nick Saban.
Vick is nearing the end of his athletic rope, and Foles is a quarterback better fit for former head coach Andy Reid's offense. Barkley fits the mold Kelly not only looks for under center, but in the huddle -- a bona fide leader.Chris is the Lead College Football writer for www.edraft.com and also runs the new NFL Draft site www.scoutingthedraft.com. Chris has covered college football, the NFL, and the NFL Draft for over 9 years for multiple media outlets. His work has been seen on SI.com and USA TODAY Sports. Chris has also been covering the Philadelphia Eagles extensively since 2009.
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