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Questions at Quarterback Leave Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles Vulnerable to Another Losing Season

Many Expect Michael Vick to Be This Year's Starter, but the Head Coach Seems Determined to Leave No Stone Unturned

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COMMENTARY | The Chip Kelly quarterback carousel continues to spin, and for now, dizzied fans of the Philadelphia Eagles can only wonder who will be the team's starter this year and their franchise quarterback of the future.

In case a five-man competition for the starting job wasn't enough, there are indications that the Eagles' new head coach may want to sign at least one more quarterback before the start of training camp. Kelly and the Eagles' top brass - including owner Jeffrey Lurie - went to Morgantown on March 11 to work out West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, according to ProFootballTalk.com.

Smith, who many expect to be the top quarterback selected in the April draft, certainly has the tools for the job - he's athletic, quick on his feet, and has good arm strength - and the Eagles currently hold the fourth overall pick. But using that pick (or any early round pick) to draft a quarterback when the crop is pretty sparse would be a colossal mistake, especially when there are so many urgent needs on defense, and at least one hole to fill on the offensive line (right guard).

Hopefully, the Birds were simply doing their due diligence by working out Smith in advance of the draft, or perhaps putting up a smoke screen to mislead other teams about their true intentions.

More Questions Than Answers

Yet you still have to wonder what Kelly is thinking about the quarterback position, after first making the polarizing decision to shell out up to $10 million to keep Michael Vick for another year (which I called Kelly's first major mistake here), and then signing both Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne. Factor in that Nick Foles and Trent Edwards are also still on the roster and the Eagles certainly are not short on quarterback options.

But who will be lining up behind center on opening day? And who will be the quarterback to lead this team back into contention year after year?

The answer to the first question seems fairly obvious, even though Kelly has said the starting quarterback will be determined via a competition. If that actually happens, I suppose it's possible that Dixon and Kinne might have a shot, but Kinne has no NFL experience and Dixon hasn't done much since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008.

On the other hand, a number of players including LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson have already publicly supported Vick as the starter, and there certainly are compelling financial reasons for the Eagles to play him. After all, the team really doesn't want to pay Vick up to $10 million to hold a clipboard on the sideline. But can Vick actually make it through a season uninjured? And is he fleet enough of foot and mind to effectively run an up-tempo offense?

While frequently a big play-maker, especially prior to 2011, Vick has never been a swift decision-maker under fire. He has struggled to read defenses for most of his career and still holds onto the ball too long in an often vain and sometimes foolhardy effort to extend plays.

But Vick is also still a great athlete, he still has a strong arm, and he still is a competitor, so there remains the possibility that the Eagles could experience some success with him if all the moving parts click and Kelly and his staff are able to reduce the turnovers and infuse the team with a winning attitude.

Foles and Edwards, meanwhile, both deserve a chance to compete for the starting job, but it's hard to envision either of them getting it. Edwards seems destined to play a supporting role, perhaps as a mentor to Foles, Kinne or a newly drafted quarterback. And even though Foles showed plenty of poise and glimpses of potential last season, he may not be a good fit as a pocket passer and doesn't seem fully ready to lead the Eagles offense.

Future of the Franchise?

As for who will be the Eagles' franchise quarterback of the future - well, your guess is as good as mine. Unless Vick has a Pro Bowl season or gets the Eagles back to the playoffs, he will be gone next year. Foles could be a possibility if the Eagles don't trade him, if the coaches are able to develop him more, and if Kelly is able to adapt his offense to Foles' strengths and weaknesses. But those are a lot of ifs.

Geno Smith isn't the long-term answer, nor are any of the other quarterbacks in this year's draft. The Eagles would be far better off looking to the 2014 draft for their next franchise quarterback, and using this year to rebuild the defense and strengthen the offensive line - perhaps even adding an offensive weapon or two in the form of a beastly tight end or wide receiver.

Whatever Kelly ends up doing long-term at quarterback, if he wants to give the Eagles their best shot at winning this year, he needs to make a decision on the position sooner rather than later, so the team has ample time to gel behind its offensive leader. Muddying the waters any further by continuing to sign quarterbacks only shows a lack of faith in the ones he already has, raises questions in the minds of their teammates, and increases the potential of another embarrassing season.

Gary Strassberg has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He has worked for the E.W. Scripps Company, The Nielsen Company, and other media outlets. Follow Gary on Twitter: @GaryStrassberg

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