Chip, Nick, DeSean and Snoop Lion

Snoop and DeSean

One of the interesting things about Chip Kelly taking over the Eagles is how connected this team is to the Pac-12.

Consider the quarterback competition, which reporters back east can’t stop talking about, even though Duck fans know Kelly won’t make a decision until right before the season starts.

There are five quarterbacks on the roster, though no one considers G.J. Kinne a contender, not even his teammates. Star wide receiver DeSean Jackson said, “I think we have four great quarterbacks.”

The “great” ones are Dennis Dixon (Kelly’s first great Oregon signal caller), Matt Barkley of USC, Nick Foles of Arizona, and Michael Vick. One of these does not belong, which might explain a bit of Vick’s apparent apprehension about this open competition. Kelly remembers who has hurt his team in the past and drafted several of those players, including Barkley this year.

DeSean Jackson hurt the Ducks, too

Avinash Kunnath

DeSean Jackson hurt the Ducks, too

Do you remember how Nick Foles played at Arizona? Kelly sure does.

Some people immediately penciled in Vick as the Eagles’ quarterback, figuring that his elite foot speed and scrambling ability was the perfect match for the coach who made the read option famous. But the quarterback doesn’t need to run that often even when Kelly relies on the read option — just enough to keep the defense honest — and the coach isn’t using the play much so far in Eagles practices anyway.

I think it’s just as likely that Kelly was intrigued by Foles as by Vick, or more likely, that he considers them both talented but flawed, each one-half of his ideal quarterback who goes by the name of Marcus Mariota. Foles has the pocket presence and ability to read the defense. Vick has the running talent and arm. If only he could mix and match.

Nick Foles - "Can you hear me now?"

Matthew Straubmuller

Nick Foles – “Can you hear me now?”

When Oregon played Arizona in 2011, Foles threw for 398 yards against the Ducks despite several dropped passes by his receivers and an aggressive pass rush. Dion Jordan may have sacked him five times. Foles even completed a left-handed pass in the game to escape two Ducks dragging him to the turf.

After the game, Kelly could not stop talking about Foles. He told the Tucson Citizen: “I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country.”

He certainly was against the Ducks. In three career games against Oregon, Foles threw for 1,160 yards and 10 touchdowns. No wonder Kelly said, “I’ll tell you what. I’m glad Nick Foles is graduating.”

Both in college and at Philadelphia, Foles has displayed an amazing ability to avoid interceptions. Sportswriter Jimmy Kempski (known as Jimmy Bama to insiders) makes a great case for why Foles was better than his 1-5 record as a starter with the Eagles might indicate. Short answer: injuries and a terrible defense that forced him to play from behind and pass too much.

In that piece, Kempski notes that: ”Among all QBs in the NFL who threw as many passes as Foles last season, only five threw fewer INTs per attempt than Nick Foles. They were Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, and Robert Griffin III.”

That’s some pretty good company to keep.

And Foles was careful in college, too. As of the 2011 Oregon game, he had thrown 183 passes without an interception, an Arizona record, though he ended up with 14 picks for the year so something must have gone wrong after that.

Tommy Lawlor at IgglesBlitz.com expanded on Jimmy Bama’s post, with the consensus being that Foles is better than his numbers and record indicate and overshadowed by the extraordinary group of young quarterbacks (RGIII, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick) in the NFL right now . The thing is, the Eagles can’t have any of those quarterbacks, and in their absence, Foles may be just fine.

Speaking of Jackson, his filmmaker brother just released a documentary on his life, which has received some pretty good reviews from Lawlor, from Bleeding Green Nation, and from Les Bowen at the Daily News. Apparently the film is pretty up front about Jackson’s and his filmmaker brother’s demanding father, who both pushed him to his elite level of achievement and undercut his career. The film shows Andy Reid telling Jackson, even as he drafts him, that he doesn’t want to deal with the rookie’s dad, whose overbearing antics may have caused Jackson to fall into the second round.

From "The Making of a Father's Dream"

Mark Saltveit, from movie trailer

From “The Making of a Father’s Dream”

IgglesBlitz.com has a good summary of the Kelly/Jackson dynamic, as well.

There’s a lot of potential as Kelly de-emphasizes “home run” long pass plays for steady gashing of the defense and his increased emphasis on the run forces opponents to choose between leaving Jackson in single coverage or giving up yardage in the ground game. But there is a big difference in approach and style, and it remains to be seen if Jackson will buy in to Kelly’s approach or not.

Bowen makes the very interesting point that Jackson rarely seems to be having fun on the football field. Maybe coach Kelly, who has done wonders at combining rigorous hard work with a relaxed attitude, might be the perfect guy to unlock Jackson’s potential?

The last word on Jackson goes to Snoop Lion (nee Dog). Duck fans owe the rapper for giving the Black Mamba his nickname, anyway, right? As Jackson and the Lion chilled last week — what could go wrong there? — a reporter asked Jackson who he thought would win the Eagles starting quarterback job. Mr. Lion jumped in front of the camera and said “It’s Vick. It’s Vick. Still be Vick. Vick! Vick. It better be Vick. Vick. Vick. Vick Damone Junior!” as Jackson laughed while literally pulling Snoop Lion by the shoulders out from between him and the camera lens.

DeSean tries to tame the Lion

Mark Saltveit, from NFL Films

DeSean tries to tame the Lion

Don’t miss the fascinating story of undrafted free agent Nic Purcell, a New Zealand player who was only allowed to play two years, at a junior college, after the NCAA ruled that two club games he played in Kiwiland started the clock on his collegiate eligibility. When still at Oregon, Kelly filed Purcell’s paperwork (and an appeal) for him with the NCAA seeking to overturn this absurd ruling. They failed, but Purcell remembered the help and signed with the Eagles when several teams pursued him. Purcell is very green and remains a long shot, but it would be sweet justice all around if the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Mormon former basketball star caught on in the pros.

Dapper players? Not much is known about Eagles free agent pickup Arrelious Benn, but apparently he has style. Benn recently tweeted this inspiring quote: “A leader has the vision & conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done.”

Who said it? That well known motivational speaker Ralph Lauren, of course.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It’s Vick. It’s Vick. Still be Vick. Vick! Vick. It better be Vick. Vick. Vick. Vic Damone Junior!” — Snoop Lion

Mark Saltveit’s new book “The Tao of Chip Kelly: Lessons from America’s Most Successful Coach” will be published on Saturday, June 22nd, with a book release party at Theater Exile in Philadelphia at 7 pm, before the 8 pm showing of “The Philly Fan.” There will be a Q&A session afterwards. Saltveit will also appear at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia on June 25th and 26th, and on “Professor” John Clayton’s radio show on June 24th (among other media appearances). For more information, http://www.thetaoofchipkelly.com

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Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit is a writer, skimboarder and dad who runs the website Taoish.org. He is the author of, "The Tao of Chip Kelly: Lessons from America's Most Successful Coach" (2013) and has written for Bleeding Green Nation (an Eagles blog), the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Oregonian, Harvard Magazine, and Warp Weft and Way, an academic blog of Chinese philosophy. Mark is a Portland native, a professional standup comedian and the World Palindrome Champion.

  • gamedaytribe

    So just out of curiosity, why is Dennis Dixon not really in the mix here? He had the arm, the magic, the legs to do all the things Chip wants from his quarterback. Have his skills eroded so much in the NFL?

  • msalt

    Good question, and to be honest I don’t think anyone has a solid answer.
    Injuries are the obvious thought; he has played very little since his
    injury at Oregon, and tore his meniscus in just his second game starting
    for Pittsburgh (though he won his first game against Atlanta).
    Experience is another; Foles started 6 games and Vick has played for
    more than a decade. Hard to hand the keys to a guy who has played 4
    games in 5 years. Finally, Dixon simply hasn’t had as many snaps in
    practices so far, and Chip evaluates people he’s considering in large
    part through their performance on snaps in practice. So for whatever
    reason, Kelly seems to have crossed Dixon off his possible starters
    list.