The Eagles made their biggest commitment to turning 2012 into an audition for the future when coach Andy Reid named rookie Nick Foles the team's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season on Monday, regardless of the health of Michael Vick.
Even while Foles replaced Vick for the last three games during the veteran's recovery from a significant concussion, Reid had maintained that Vick was the team's quarterback until he said otherwise.
Reid finally said otherwise after the Eagles' eighth straight defeat dropped their record to 3-9.
"I just think he's playing well enough to where I think he can win football games for us," Reid said. "And two, I think where we sit at this position in the season I think it's the right thing to do. With Michael, we need to make sure he gets healthy. This thing has carried on a while here now, and I want to make sure he is good to go."
The change came on a day when Reid also fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Both decisions raise questions about whether Reid is calling the shots with only four games likely remaining in his 14-year tenure as head coach. Reid was emphatic Monday that starting Foles was his decision and not a directive from upper management.
Reid added that during his tenure in Philadelphia, team owner Jeffrey Lurie and top team executives have given him the freedom to make these kind of calls.
"This was my decision to [start] Nick," he said. "I stand here and tell you this. I understand where you're coming from and that you need to know that. These were my decisions."
Vick is progressing and might be healthy enough to be in uniform this weekend. But he's still stuck at the fourth stage of his concussion recovery and must pass the ImPACT test and be cleared by an independent neurologist. He'll be the No. 2 quarterback upon his return, Reid said.
Reid said he spoke with Vick before making the announcement. Vick has not spoken publicly since suffering a concussion on Nov. 11, but Reid said Vick "completely understood" and "was on board."
"He still has three, four years that he can probably get out there, wing it, so let's get him healthy and going in the right direction there," Reid said of Vick.
The decision is likely better for the franchise's long-term prospects. There will probably be a new coach in Philadelphia, and that coach must judge whether Foles could be the Eagles quarterback.
Foles has progressed in his three starts. He went 22 of 34 for 251 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions in Sunday's 38-33 loss to the Cowboys. Foles has passed for 574 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in the three games he started. His passer rating has improved from 40.5 to 89.2 to 96.6.
Those numbers through three starts compare to Miami Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill, who had 615 yards and one touchdown in his first three games. They pale when compared to top rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck (53 percent, 846 yards, five touchdowns) and Robert Griffin III (67.4 percent, 747 yards, four touchdowns). Seattle's Russell Wilson, who was also a third-round pick, had 434 passing yards and four touchdowns in his first three starts. But he won two of them. Foles is winless.
Foles is also in a different offense than the top rookies and did not have the benefit of being the unquestioned top quarterback. Reid said Foles will benefit from knowing he is the top quarterback instead of viewing himself as the replacement. And Reid said he noticed improvement in Foles' footwork and recognition of defenses, which has allowed the playbook to expand.
"I feel like I have improved. I don't know how to assess it," Foles said on Sunday. "I still have a ton of improvement. . . . There are a couple other throws I just have to nail. But I feel a lot more comfortable."
Foles will have an extended audition. By the end of the season, the Eagles may know whether he can handle being the franchise's starting quarterback.
"I don't expect much to change with him," Reid said of Foles. "He handles things in a pretty cool manner, and I think he'll continue to do that."