The two of them, Dennis Dixon and Chip Kelly, made magic on the football field together at the University of Oregon in 2007 when Dixon, then a senior quarterback, and Kelly, then an offensive coordinator, teamed up for one of the most memorable seasons that school -- or any school -- had ever seen.
Dixon passed for more than 2,100 yards and added over 1,200 rushing yards that season as the Ducks grabbed some national prominence with an 8-1 record.
After that season together, the two went their separate ways -- Dixon to the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kelly up the ladder at Oregon as the head coach.
Their paths cross again now. Dixon, as has long been rumored, agreed to terms on a two-year contract to join the Eagles. Kelly, of course, is the head coach here, looking to establish his offense and have his players learn the scheme the right way and it could very well be, at the end of the day, that Dixon is here to serve as a mentor to Michael Vick and Nick Foles and provide guidance as they navigate through the unfamiliar nuances of Kelly's offense.
On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe this is Dixon's chance, after three seasons on Pittsburgh's active roster and two on practice squads with the Steelers (2011) and Ravens (2012).
To think that Dixon is coming to the Eagles to vault to No. 1 on Kelly's initial depth chart is not accurate. The Eagles think that Dixon, at 6 feet 3, 209 pounds, has good athletic ability, a working knowledge of Kelly's offense and a "skill set" that has a chance to succeed here.
The truth is, the imaginary depth chart in Kelly's NovaCare Complex office could look like this: Vick, Foles, Dixon, Trent Edwards. There's just no telling how the head coach feels about his quarterbacks, because he's seen none of them here and he wants to be true to the word that he's given all of us, that each position will be a fair and open competition and that jobs will be won and lost based on practice play and game performance.
Dixon's addition, though, is not a surprise. If you want to draw parallels to what Andy Reid did when he became the head coach in 1999 and then signed Doug Pederson to start and mentor rookie quarterback Donovan McNabb, go ahead. The big difference here is that Pederson was the starting quarterback from the day he signed with the Eagles. Dixon does not come in as a starter.
He comes in to compete.
That's the buzzword around this team in the early stages of Kelly's era. The head coach wants to upgrade at just about every position and so he's made the decision to re-up Vick -- announced on Monday -- and add Dixon to the mix. These moves do not mean that Foles is out of the picture -- to the contrary, in fact, as Foles will very much compete for the starting job, as it stands now.
If it sounds like the quarterback position is anything but decided, that's because it is. Kelly has been here for all of a month, and the Eagles were 4-12 in 2012 and this team has a lot of work to do to get back to the top of the NFC East. It's still possible that the Eagles will add a player in free agency, in a trade or via the NFL draft in April. They certainly aren't going to pass on the chance to upgrade at the game's most important position.
Dixon is familiar with Kelly and the way he runs a football program. The two are close. Dixon, an extraordinary athlete who once played professional baseball, will probably operate the offense at a higher efficiency in the spring given his experience with Kelly. If Dixon is able to dictate a tempo, hey, that makes everyone else a much better player.
In his three seasons on Pittsburgh's active roster, Dixon threw all of 59 passes and, ultimately, did some good things. He spent most of the 2012 season emulating "move" quarterbacks as a member of the Ravens' practice squad. Now he's got his best chance to take the next forward step in his NFL career.
How much he does with that opportunity and how it impacts the depth chart here is to be answered in the future. The Eagles have another piece to evaluate at quarterback, someone who has a very strong understanding of the offense Kelly wants to construct here.