The long-term picture at quarterback is one to discuss after the season. Then, and only then, will general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly evaluate the body of work from quarterbacks Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley throughout the course of this 2013 season and chart a course for the future.
In the short term, there are actions to be taken. Monday is a day for players who are hurt to have treatment, and it is a day for the coaching staff to evaluate the tape from Sunday's loss to the Giants and to then put a game plan in place for next week and the Oakland Raiders.
The options at quarterback for that game seem to be Foles, potentially, and Barkley. Vick felt his injured hamstring "pop," against New York, an ominous sign for any athlete, much less one at a world-class level who relies on his legs as much as does Vick.
Foles has yet to gain clearance from the concussion suffered two games ago against Dallas, It's unknown how Foles feels or the kind of progress he has made from the injury, but the optimist here wonders if Foles has a chance to be cleared in the NFL's concussion program, get back on the practice field midway through the week and then return to the practice and maybe, just maybe, play in Oakland.
If it's not Foles, it's going to be Barkley in line for his first NFL start. Barkley is an impressive young man who prepares the right way. The moment, as the coaches like to say, won't be too big for a quarterback as polished as is Barkley. He knows how to get ready for a game and do his film study and work hard in practice and set himself up for success.
But he is a rookie and rookies need to be given time to take their lumps and grow and master the nuances of the NFL game. Barkley has been thrown into action against Dallas and New York without the benefit of many practice reps, so he's had a learn-on-the-go experience, and he's made the expected mistakes.
Among everything going on here with the changes the Eagles have had in the football program, how they handle the quarterback position is what will ultimately mean the most. It's not like this is a new subject. The Eagles had great stability at quarterback for years after selecting Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in the 1999 draft. From the time McNabb was traded to Washington in April, 2010, the Eagles have not been so fortunate, and the record reflects the instability.
We're in a seven-day lifecycle now, so the idea that the Eagles' brain trust is gathered on a daily basis discussing 2014 and beyond is just not realistic. What's happening at the NovaCare Complex on a daily basis is that the coaches are putting together a plan to defeat Oakland and to draw closer to the division-leading Dallas Cowboys, who at 4-4 lead the NFC East.
And as remarkable as it sounds, the Eagles are only one game back in the East. You can pooh-pooh the notion all you want, but it's right there. The Eagles need to win games and make it a race in a wide-open division.
To do so, the coaching staff needs to get the offense going. The Eagles have scored zero touchdowns in the last two-plus games. The last touchdown they had occurred when Foles found wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a 36-yard yard touchdown connection with 9 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the win at Tampa Bay. That touchdown made a statement at the time: The defense forced a takeaway and the aggressive Kelly playcalling immediately took a shot in the end zone, and Foles and Jackson executed the call perfectly.
Since then, though, the Eagles have had no opportunities down the field. They haven't executed the game plan. They haven't scored. They haven't won.
And as they stare at a game in less than a week, the coaches don't know for sure who is going to play the quarterback position, which is the most dominating single position in any sport and at every level of this fabulous game. Kelly is going to have to find some way to tweak what the offense is doing, because along with ineffective play at quarterback the Eagles are stunted in the running game. This offense is searching for a go-to play, an identity now that the tempo has slowed and the gashing gains that we saw only a few weeks ago have slowed to a trickle.
So, yeah, these are challenging times. And, yes, the quarterback position tops the watch list, both for the short term and the longer-range vision. Understand how it works as you tango with ideas of who to draft and what strategy the Eagles need to employ to find their "quarterback of the future" in the future: That part of the puzzle needs to be addressed after the season. The immediate chore is determining who plays quarterback on Sunday in Oakland and fashioning a game plan that delivers a much-needed win.