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December 02. 2013 10:20PM

Eagles’ Kelly amps up support for Foles

PHILADELPHIA — After four consecutive wins and securing the starting job, Nick Foles has changed the quarterback conversation from whether he would start this season to whether he will be the team’s long-term quarterback.

Kelly, a former Manchester Central quarterback and UNH offensive coordinator, usually sidesteps questions that look beyond the next game. But during a Monday morning interview with 94-WIP, Kelly said he hopes Foles is his quarterback of the future, that he’s a big supporter of Foles, and that “I love the kid and I think he’s playing outstanding.”

That was as strong an endorsement as Kelly has offered, prompting the topic to be reexamined during an afternoon news conference. Kelly had fun with the inquiries, adding the qualifier that injuries are an unknown variable and his worry is only about Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. And mostly, he just did not want to give a firm answer to the question.

“He is the starting quarterback for the next thousand years here,” Kelly joked. “If I’m wrong next week, then I’m wrong next week.”

But Kelly did say he expects Foles to be the quarterback “as long as he can stay healthy.”

Kelly has a five-year contract. He often says that it’s a “one-week season” and said Monday that he’s on a “one-week deal,” but there are long-term considerations a head coach makes. That is especially the case at quarterback. Kelly does not need to worry about that decision in December, when the Eagles are 7-5 and Foles is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL.

“I don’t think Nick’s going to come in tomorrow and say, ‘I don’t want to play anymore because you guys don’t want me here six weeks from now,’” Kelly said. “So the questions we get asked about it long-term, right now is not long-term. Long-term for us is this Sunday against the Detroit Lions, that is the end of the deal.”

The best-case scenario for the Eagles is Foles maintaining stability at the position. Two years into his rookie contract, Foles is cost-effective. Anointing him as the starter this offseason would allow the team to avoid the risk of trying to find a quarterback in the draft while deploying their resources to other positions.

The final four games of the season will offer more clarity. Similar to the quarterback competition last summer and Foles’ ascent in November, these questions have a way of being answered on the field. Foles is 5-1 in six starts this season with 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“You have the opportunity to go out there and kind of put your resume together on film and on the field where everybody gets a chance to see it,” Kelly said. “I don’t think anybody questions the level that Nick’s playing at right now.”

Kelly called Foles the “ultimate teammate,” which carries weight at a position where leadership is considered important. Kelly thinks leadership can be “extremely overrated.” He said Foles leads by how he approaches his job, but Kelly puts more value on what he labels “follow-ship.”

“You’ve got to have a bunch of guys that are all going to buy in because if you’ve got 46 guys on your team and they’re all the leader, which direction are you going in? 46 different directions,” Kelly said.”I think everybody knows what direction we need to go in.”

Kelly emphasized that direction is a “one-week mission,” not “a thousand-year mission,” which was a reference to the discussion about Foles’ future. Kelly said Foles has been an “outstanding example” of embracing the mentality, which is why the Eagles have won four consecutive games.

Kelly’s focus on Sunday does not mean the question will go away. It will only intensify after the season, when the Eagles must determine whether to pursue a quarterback in the draft or proceed with Foles as the starter. The best teams in the NFL have direction at quarterback, even with the injury qualification.

Kelly cited the Green Bay Packers, who have started four quarterbacks this season, as an example of why long-term planning can be misguided. However, the Packers at least know Aaron Rodgers will be their quarterback when healthy.

The Eagles know Foles is the quarterback for this season. Kelly clearly likes Foles, and Foles is playing well enough to become the quarterback of the future _ even if he has not yet been labeled it.

“It’s a semantics thing,” Kelly said. “Write whatever you want. I’m concerned about the Lions.”

Extra points. Kelly offered no update on the health of Jeff Maehl (head) and linebacker Najee Goode (hamstring). Both left Sunday’s 24-21 win over Arizona.


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