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Who Wins The Quarterback Job?

The trade went down on April 4, 2010, a bombshell move we will hardly forget, and not just because it came just after Easter dinner was consumed. The truth is, the trade was one that changed everything about this football team.

As the Eagles prepare to open their offseason conditioning program this week and the players immerse themselves in the Chip Kelly Era, the quarterback position is the looming question mark. Who runs the offense that Kelly and his coaching staff design? Who handles what we think will be an up-tempo, creative scheme that accentuates versatility, speed and explosiveness?

Quarterback is a spot Donovan McNabb called his own for more than a decade in Philadelphia, ever since the 1999 draft. McNabb led the Eagles to five trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl, and he is etched in the record books as the greatest quarterback in franchise history.

Two thousand and ten seemed the right time to trade McNabb and acquire multiple draft picks, and the Eagles found an eager partner in Washington. McNabb's 2010 campaign there was not particularly productive, and nor was his season in Minnesota in '11.


Meanwhile, the Eagles anticipated that Kevin Kolb would slide into the role as a starter after a couple of years as McNabb's understudy, but his future took a left turn when he suffered a concussion against Green Bay in the 2010 season-opening game, opening the door for Michael Vick to take command of the offense.

For much of 2010, Vick played brilliantly at the quarterback position as he avoided a consistent pass rush playing behind a leaky offensive line, as he protected the football and bedeviled defenses with his passing and running skills.

The Eagles won the NFC East in 2010, and then fell just short in the opening-round playoff game against eventual Super Bowl-champion Green Bay, but Vick had established himself as the starter and the Eagles rewarded him with a long-term contract.

Since then, though, the blueprint has been severely altered. The Eagles struggled in 2011 and then sagged in 2012 and Vick and the offense displayed inconsistency and a lack of precision, and a new coaching staff was ushered into Philadelphia. With that comes a new offense, new demands of the quarterback position and an unclear picture of what is to be in the near future.

Interestingly, as the Eagles look forward to seeing in person what they have on the quarterback depth chart – there are five quarterbacks on the current roster – the rest of the league is addressing its quarterback questions. Dallas signed Tony Romo to a mega long-term contract. Buffalo signed Kolb, who was traded to Arizona in 2011 and who failed to succeed there, to compete for a starting job. Oakland is reportedly on the verge of trading for Seattle backup Matt Flynn, who last offseason was a hot commodity on the free-agent market.

The draft offers some fine candidates – West Virginia's Geno Smith, USC's Matt Barkley, Florida State's E.J. Manuel and Arizona's Matt Scott, to name four – and the Eagles have been linked with most of those prospects.

The Eagles could do just about anything as it relates to the quarterback position. Vick is viewed by many on the outside as the leader to be the starter in September, but that is a peripheral view. There is a second-year player, Nick Foles, to consider. He showed promise in his rookie year, but was it enough? Can he oversee what Kelly has planned for the offense? Are any of the players the Eagles signed -- Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne -- able to win the job? What is Trent Edwards' role here?

The truth is, neither Kelly nor any of his coaches head into the offseason program with preconceived ideas of how the depth chart will look when it actually matters. At this point, the coaches just want to see what they have – in this scheme, with this surrounding personnel, and with Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur calling the shots.

From this perspective, arriving at an answer at quarterback is the most important objective of the offseason. Kelly's X's and O's could very well give the Eagles all kinds of advantage on the field, but until they have the right person calling the signals at quarterback, there will be mistakes made and questions asked about execution.

For most of the seasons when McNabb was here – even through most of the 2009 year, when the Eagles reached the playoffs and were swamped by Dallas – No. 5 was the answer. He made good decisions, he protected the football and he won a lot of games to make the Eagles one of the elite teams in the league year after year.

That's how you win for a long period of time in the NFL. You make sure you have a strong answer at quarterback. Ever since Easter of 2010, quarterback has been a position of change.  The process of sorting out the quarterback job and getting it right intensifies this week and throughout the remainder of the offseason as Kelly evaluates what he sees on the practice field and in the classroom.

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