Chip Kelly met with the media Monday afternoon and, among other things, spoke about whether or not Nick Foles will remain the starting quarterback going forward.
"As long as he can stay healthy," Kelly said. "That's what I've qualified it this whole time. How many quarterbacks have gone down this season in the NFL? It's a pretty high amount. It's a very difficult game, they take a lot of hits."
As he has maintained all season, the first-year coach is not looking far into the future.
"The questions we get asked long term, right now is not long term. Long term for us is next week."
"When you have a QB who is durable and can last, that's when you know you've got a guy. ... He's the starting QB for the next 1,000 years."
So there you have it.
When asked about the team's stuggles late in yesterday's 24-21 win over the Cardinals, and their apparent inablilty to "finish" the opposition, Kelly said that is something that will be addressed in practice this week:
"It's all in the little things, but it's part of being a good football team, you've got to learn to finish games. That's something we're going to address this week."
Something that can help late in games is leadership, Kelly admitted. He was also quick to point out how well Foles has developed into a leader:
"I think we've got a bunch of guys who are all on the same page on a one-week mission. [Nicks] does an outstanding job of doing that. I think we all have the same vision.
"I think they all know what to do… we've got a bunch of guys who know what we need to do and what we need to accomplish. You're not at a level where everybody just looks to one guy and says 'Hey, what do we do?'"
Kelly also touched on the improved - and still improving - play of rookie tight end Zach Ertz:
"Things are starting to slow down for Zach," Kelly pointed out. "Plays he missed earlier in the year, he's starting to make now. Nick threw a perfect ball, Zach caught it. He's getting better and better and starting to develop confidence. He can be a tough matchup, and that's what we were hoping when we drafted him."
Here's a full transcript of Kelly's press conference:
Q. Earlier this year when you named Michael Vick the starter, he obviously had a lot of support in the locker room. A lot of guys had played with him before. How has Nick Foles taken over this role now as quarterback and leader and taking command of this team?
COACH KELLY: I think our players understood the situation. I think it's part of what we talk about. There is competition all the time. If you have the opportunity to go out there and, as I said, kind of put your resume together on film and on the field where everybody gets a chance to see it. I don't think anybody questions the level that Nick's playing at right now. I think he's the ultimate teammate to begin with. But how Mike has handled it with him, the two of them together, they want what's best for the Philadelphia Eagles, and I think it's made it an easy transition. At times it can be difficult, but because of how those guys have handled it, I think it's made it really easy.
Q. Do you have an update on Earl Wolff?
COACH KELLY: No, again, I do all the injuries in the afternoon after this. So I don't have anything. I don't know where Earl's going to be. He was the one guy going into the game, I don't know if he'll be back this week.
Q. Did Jeff Maehl suffer from a concussion?
COACH KELLY: I don't know the exact thing. They said he got hit in the head. We'll talk about it tomorrow.
Q. Now that you look at the fourth quarter on offense, was it execution?
COACH KELLY: It's a combination. We had four drives in the fourth quarter. First was a six‑play drive, next was a five‑play drive, and a six‑play drive, and the one to finish it. But we're moving the ball. Then we get a penalty or, at one time we had a miscommunication up front and two guys went the wrong way. Then all of a sudden on a 2nd and 5, it turns into 3rd and 9, so now you're playing backwards. It's all the little things, but it's part of being a good football team is you have to learn how to finish games. It's something we've got to continue to work on. Like everything, there's got to be things to work on every week, and that's something we'll address this week.
Q. Was it a different case than what we saw against the Redskins?
COACH KELLY: It's all different. I think what happens is everybody in the stadium knows you're going to run the ball, so they're playing zero coverage. If you do throw it and it's incomplete, you stop the clock. If you run it, even if you don't gain a yard, you're still running 40 seconds off the clock. So there is kind of a catch 22 there. But people aren't playing the normal defenses they normally play in the first, second, and third quarter. They're putting an extra guy on the line of scrimmage. If you bring in a extra tight end, they're going to have two more than you. One for the quarterback and one for the extra player. That is a difficult situation to run the ball against.
The answer is easy. Hey, throw it. If you throw it and it's incomplete, the clock stops. It's kind of that catch 22. I'd like to every week be in that situation because that means we're up.
Q. Nick Foles has a 70‑plus completion percentage in the red zone. What was the thinking behind putting Brad Smith in on the 6‑yard line?
COACH KELLY: On first down?
COACH KELLY: We thought we were going to have a successful play. I mean, he just dropped it. We weren't taking the ball out of Nick's hands. If we score on that, everybody says what a great play. If you don't score, it's what a stupid play. So what a stupid play.
Q. Can you tell the difference between what that play was and what the Wildcat is?
COACH KELLY: The wildcat is a formation, an unbalanced line. An extra tight end in the back field. There is usually a wide receiver running fly motion. Now you're running an outside run play, a power play. Sometimes they get a reverse off of it, and that is a whole other package. If you want to research it, David Lee who probably brought it to the NFL when he was a quarterback coach for the Miami Dolphins brought it into the league. He ran it at Arkansas with Darren McFadden which really kind of started it. They're doing it at the Jets now because David's there. And that is the true wildcat that Ronnie Brown ran when he was there [with the Dolphins]. That is a whole other thing.
I think when someone besides the quarterback takes a snap, Brad was playing quarterback, and they just switched positions and were in the formation they would normally run.
Q. Without the up tempo late in games, is that something this team is working on?
COACH KELLY: No. I mean, we're always working on it. But you look at what we did in the Green Bay game and Tampa Bay game, we're capable of doing it, and we have executed. Two games we were successful at it, and two games we weren't.
Q. With the mentality and you're running the ball, but the whole game or most of the game if they show you that it's easier to pass it with what they're doing defensively, doesn't your team kind of get out of some kind of rhythm? Isn't there a rhythm that makes you successful to score points where you don't worry about the clock? You have that game in Green Bay at the end of the third quarter. You said I want to score points.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, but we're in the third quarter and we needed points at that point in time. There was a point in time anyone in the stadium knew what was going on. That's why Arizona had everybody within three yards of the line of scrimmage. That is part of the deal. If you don't run clock, there is a catch 22. It's easy to say throw it. But if you throw it and it's incomplete, then the clock stops. So you don't have to use that.
Q. But your positive thinking means you're going to complete it if you throw it.
COACH KELLY: Well, I wish ‑‑ if it was just positive thoughts all the time, then we'd score a thousand every game. So I don't think it's just what our mindset is. I think we'll still have to execute it and give them credit. It's a very stout defense. When it's a one‑dimensional game, it's easy to defend a one‑dimensional game, but it's certain situations. That's why I called the pass on the critical down inside two minutes. I knew Nick was going to make a great decision on it. And we're trying to release our tight end into the flat. He got grabbed. Either they grabbed him and we got a penalty or we've got a chance to convert there.
Q. Brandon Graham and Trent Cole seemed like they had their hand in the ground, a traditional defensive end spot. They've done it previously, but did they do it more in this game?
COACH KELLY: No, our nickel package is a four down package, we've been doing that since day one.
Q. Brandon only played 13 snaps. Could you talk a little about the process? He hasn't played a lot, but what kind of impact even though he hasn't played a lot?
COACH KELLY: He has. But it's him and Trent. So I think Trent is having a ton of success too. You've got two guys playing successful at that point in time. And right now in our nickel package, Connor [Barwin] and Trent and Brandon are the outside guys, and you have Fletcher Cox, you've got Ced [Cedric Thornton], [Vinny] Curry, and those guys on the inside. So he's playing in a position where we're getting production, so it's a matter of rotating those guys.
Q. From what you said on the radio this morning, do you expect Nick Foles to be your quarterback?
COACH KELLY: This week, yeah?
Q. Beyond this season?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, as long as he can stay healthy. That's what I've qualified it with all the time. That is one thing I don't think anybody can predict the health of anybody. That is a reality. How many quarterbacks have gone down this season in the National Football League? It's a pretty high amount. I think that's one thing everybody has to understand when you're going into this thing. It's a very, very difficult game. They take a lot of hits. I understand why they protect the quarterback in this league because of the hits they do take. When you have a quarterback that's durable and can last, that's when you know you've got a guy.
Q. So you're saying even beyond the season?
COACH KELLY: (joking) He's the starting quarterback for the next 1,000 years. That's what I just said.
Q. I'm surprised you would say it?
COACH KELLY: Say what?
Q. That he would be?
COACH KELLY: Why are you surprised at anything? Say whatever you want. I'm just telling you in the National Football League quarterback is a difficult position to play. What do you think Green Bay feels like right now?
Q. I understand that.
COACH KELLY: All right. So that's how I answered the question.
Q. I'm just surprised you answered it that way?
COACH KELLY: (joking) Because I've been asked the question a thousand times. So I will say he is the starting quarterback for the next thousand years here. If I'm wrong next week, then I'm wrong next week.
Q. But there is long‑term thinking involved in it. You're not on a one‑week contract?
COACH KELLY: Right now, I'm on a one‑week deal. 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. 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.
Q. Aaron Rodgers is the long‑term quarterback for the Packers.
COACH KELLY: How did he do on Thursday?
Q. He's still the long‑term quarterback.
COACH KELLY: It's a semantics thing. Write whatever you want to write. I'm concerned about the Lions.
Q. I know Foles had an interception called back because of a penalty. As much as you've put the ball in his hands, is it pretty astonishing he doesn't have an interception?
COACH KELLY: I don't use the word astonishing. But it's a credit to him in terms of what he understands to do. He doesn't really put the ball in harm's way. Very rarely do you look at it and go, 'I don't know about that one.' Sometimes we've been in games -- we played in the Green Bay game and had two balls hit us directly in the hands and we dropped them. But that's not a good decision by the quarterback on the other side. Nick very rarely does that. So I'm not astonished by it, but I think that's one of the reasons he's as productive as he is is that he's really, really smart when he has the football in his hands.
Q. On that Jackson's punt return that was called back, what did you see when you watched the film?
COACH KELLY: One of their guys went to the ground. We coach it all the time, and Coach [Dave] Fipp talks about it all the time. In the kicking game, if somebody goes to the ground, they're going to throw the flag. They threw the flag, and the ball was still in the air and it was the proper call.
Q. How has Foles done in terms of a leadership standpoint. So the last month and maybe more recently, how is he doing?
COACH KELLY: I think the leadership aspect of all of that stuff is extremely overrated. I think that is people writing stuff down. The biggest thing you have to have is follow-ship. And 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. I think everybody knows what direction we need to go in. I think everybody buys in. Nick is a leader in terms of how he approaches the game in what he does. I don't think DeSean [Jackson] or Riley [Cooper] look at Nick and say, 'Nick does this so I'm going to do this.' They're doing that too. We've got a bunch of guys that are all on the same page that understand what the mission is. It's a one‑week mission. It's not a one-year mission. It's not a thousand-year mission. It's a one‑week mission, and that's what we're going to focus and concentrate on. He does an outstanding example of doing that and I think everybody else is doing that right now and that's why we've won four games in a row.
Q. Explain follow-ship. Is that an organizational vision or your vision?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think we all have the same vision. It's the same thing you can learn from. I don't think it's a situation where you have a great team and not a good team, it's that you've got a bunch of guys that understand what the mission is. It's not when the crap hits the fan and you look at one guy and say, 'What do we do now?' I think they all know what to do and I think that's a credit to what this team is in terms of us moving forward. We've got a bunch of guys that understand what we need to do and what we need to get accomplished. Our defense is a great example of that and we'll continue to move from that. But I keep seeing guys on a weekly basis getting better and better and that's part of it. But you're not at a level where everybody looks to one guy and says, 'Hey, what do we do?' We have a bunch of guys that can do that and that's a real positive thing.
Q. Hindsight being what it is, had Foles won the starting job out of training camp and everything ‑‑
COACH KELLY: We'd be undefeated, and I think everybody would cancel the season and we'd win the Super Bowl. (Laughter) I don't look at things that way. I don't mean to be facetious, but if you're going to say hindsight, then, yeah, we'd score a thousand points a game and no one would score on us, and they'd be afraid to play us.
Q. When you drafted Zach Ertz, you mentioned his route running ability and we keep hearing that. What exactly does that entail? Why is a guy a great route runner?
COACH KELLY: I think number one, it's athletic ability. Can you get in and out of cuts and suddenly and in transition. I think that's one thing with Zach, for such a big target, he's kind of deceptive. He's deceptively fast. He doesn't look like he's moving as fast, but all of the sudden he's right on top of you. He can change direction very quickly. I think what you're seeing now is that things are starting to slow down for Zach. It's really fun to see him all of a sudden, plays that he missed earlier in the year, he's starting to make now. That catch he had on the post route from Nick that Nick threw and the DB did a great job of undercutting it. Nick threw a perfect ball but Zach came up with it. We had dropped that earlier in the year. But he actually made that play in practice on Thursday. So it's positive to see him getting better and better. He's starting to develop confidence, and he's really starting to grow. We hope as this continues, it's because he can be a tough matchup, and that's what we were hoping when we drafted him is that if you're going to put linebackers or smaller safeties on him, hopefully that's a situation we can exploit.
Q. Your teams at Oregon created a bunch of turnovers and same thing for Billy Davis' defenses when he was a D.C. and other spots now. Is there a common thread there?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think there are some similar concepts that they're doing that we did when we were at Oregon. I think because Coach [Jerry Azzinaro] is here, and kind of what I feel about defensively. But I think Billy has done a really good job. I think a lot of times when you don't have to devote that second safety to the box, he can see the football. Now they have a better chance to break on footballs. When you can cause a pass‑rush with four guys and get to the quarterback a little bit, now we have guys who have eyes back to the quarterback and kind of locate it. If you don't let the quarterback get his feet set and feel comfortable back there, he may throw one up or serve one up for him. Billy said it all along, I felt as our defense continues to understand the techniques and what we're trying to do, that they're going to come in bunches, and they're starting to come in bunches, which is a positive thing for us. If we can continue on the offensive side of the ball to continue to hold on and our defense continues to create it when you're in a plus situation, you've got a really good shot of winning on Sundays.
Q. Do you feel you've been fortunate injury‑wise, or is it more of what you expected from what you've designed through your sports science program? Or a combination?
COACH KELLY: I think it's a combination because a lot of times you break a bone, you break a bone. I don't know if there is a science behind breaking a bone. There are certain injuries that it doesn't matter how fit you are, how trained you are, that if that happens, that happens. But I also think there are some little things we do on a weekly basis here from a training standpoint that I think has benefited us. So we'll continue. But it's not something that we can say if all of a sudden two or three guys get hurt next week you're like, 'You guys are wrong.' It's not. I think we're doing the right thing. I feel like when we go out on the field on Sundays, our team is fresh. We've got an understanding of where they are. I think they're in good shape going into week 13 here and getting ready to go play a really good team. But I think there is something to what we're doing here.
Q. Your run defense pretty consistently this year has gotten better as the game has gone along and faced some good backs who maybe made some plays early, but in the second half they haven't as much. How much of that do you think is halftime adjustments by your staff, and how much is that having depth on the d‑line and being able to rotate guys in?
COACH KELLY: I think it's a combination of all of them. I think the depth helps, but it's not manufactured depth where we're just going to throw a guy in. We have guys that can play. When you bring Cliff [Geathers] in or Damion [Square] in, guys like that, it really helps. I think it keeps Fletcher [Cox] and Ced [Thornton] and Bennie Logan and those guys a little bit more fresh because they're not playing as many snaps as the guys they're playing across from. I think that's a combination of it. And I think our staff does a good job. Once you really realize and that's what's going on each week is what their game plan and how it unfolds and what they're trying to do to attack us, our coaches on the defensive side of the ball do a good job making adjustments.
Q. Is the way that Connor Barwin sets the edge and forces guys back inside, is that part of your run defense?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's what you have to do in that base defense if you're a 3‑4 outside linebacker. Number one is rush the quarterback, number two is set the edge and number three is coverage. To make sure the ball doesn't get outside you, you need to have some guys that can set the edge. That was some of the things that Trent [Cole] was doing earlier in the year that kind of go unnoticed. I know some people had some questions because he doesn't have many sacks, but he was still pressuring the quarterback and setting the edge. I think the key to your run defense is if you have two outside linebackers, like Connor and Trent that can set the edge, it's always a positive for you in the run game, because you're keeping the ball hemmed in because it's not getting outside of you.
Q. Is that just leverage?
COACH KELLY: It's everything. Athletic ability, technique, what we're trying to get accomplished. But there are a lot of different things, but those guys are really good at it.