"Watch now," said Chip Kelly the Magnificent, "as I pull a franchise quarterback out of my hat!"
Since Nick Foles' collarbone was smashed on the unfavorable turf of NRG Stadium six weeks ago, Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles have been exposed for what they really are. Thanks to an innovative offensive scheme and a roster with a plethora of hot spots, Kelly has created a team that, under the right circumstances, could bring the city of Philadelphia some holiday cheer.
He has not, however, created a team that is capable of going streaking into January, a reality that the entire 2014 season has stood as testament to.
Since the Eagles left Houston, they have played .500 football. They've been beaten convincingly by the Seattle Seahawks, the team that won the NFC last season, and they've been dismantled by the team many are picking to win the NFC this season, the Green Bay Packers. Then last Sunday night, at home, the now-likely NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys delivered another startling-but-undeniable bit of evidence that these Eagles aren't destined for immortality.
The Iggles will end this season an ugly 2-4 against winning teams (2-5 if San Francisco runs the table), and it is fair to wonder if Chip Kelly's magic has taken the team as far as it can go. They don't fall victim to trap games very often, and that is a credit to their strong coaching and better scheming. Beating the teams they're suppose to beat has kept Kelly's crew in the playoff conversation, but he doesn't seem to have a smoothie recipe capable of putting them amongst the game's elite.
At least, not how the roster has currently established itself. For the Philadelphia Eagles to step forward in 2015, they're going to need elite play from the quarterback position.
Sure, the roster still has other areas for improvement. Specifically the secondary, and even more specifically cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who was so poorly exposed on Sunday night by Dez Bryant he should be named a Cowboys honorary captain. But banishing Fletch and Riley Cooper and Nate Allen and Chris Christie and all the other flubs revealed this season won't be enough.
If GM Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie want to provide Kelly the petrol needed to take this ride where it's suppose to go, they need a top-of-the-line quarterback.
The Flavor of the Week, and most of Autumn really, has been newly-minted Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota. It's been well documented that for the Birds to get into position to draft the former Kelly recruit, they'll need to provide an RG3-style package of draft picks. The risks of such a bold purchase were on display as Rams captains two weeks ago, and the thought of replicating Dan Snyder's missteps should rightfully give the Philly brass pause.
That being said, it's worth noting that despite what Jeff Fisher tells us, the Rams have still been to one less playoff game than the team they allegedly swindled. It's also worth noting that the Eagles, like most teams in the NFL, are not Washington.
The answer could still be on the current roster. Nick Foles is 14-5 as a starter under Chip Kelly (though a less impressive 15-10 as a starter overall) and is still the owner of the most impressive statistical season in NFL history, throwing 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions in 2013.
Alas, Foles failed to take the step forward this season, and in the current NFL landscape, second chances are a rarity for slow-footed, third-round draft picks selected by the previous regime.
Beyond that, the options available only get more muddled. Mark Sanchez does not seem likely to be back, due to an incurable case of mediocrity. Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick may be available, though there are legitimate reasons why both those stocks have plummeted. Former Heisman winner Jameis Winston could be available when the Eagles' draft selection comes up naturally, though it seems unlikely Lurie would allow the man Kevin Hart said needed to stop doing stupid $#^% to become the face of his franchise.
The answer is unknown, but the question looms large, and it is currently multiple choice. Who will quarterback Chip Kelly's offense in 2015? Whether or not the answer turns out to be an elite one may very well dictate how long, and how far, the Chip Kelly Era goes.