We're in new territory with Nick Foles.
Forever (or since Andy Reid has been head coach, whichever is longer), we've been watching young quarterbacks and trying to gauge how they're developing in Reid's offense.
Donovan McNabb. Koy Detmer. A.J. Feeley. Kevin Kolb. Mike Kafka. Even Michael Vick; he wasn't exactly young when he got here, but the issue was whether he could develop into an effective QB in Reid's system.
It's the other way around now. We're trying to get a read on Foles, but Reid isn't really relevant any more. Especially not after Thursday night's blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Foles is much more likely to be the starting quarterback of the Eagles in 2013 than Reid is likely to be head coach. So we're trying to evaluate the kid with one eye on whose system would best suit his abilities.
That point was dramatically underscored on two Eagles possessions in the first half. They had received the rarest of gifts: excellent field position thanks to actual, honest-to-goodness turnovers forced by the Eagles defense. Both times, the Eagles advanced to first-and-goal opportunities inside the Cincinnati 5-yard line.
Both times, they threw the ball on every down. Both times they had to kick field goals.
A good devil's advocate might suggest these possessions tell us something about Foles' readiness for clutch situations. An even better devil's advocate might theorize that Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg were deliberately using these opportunities to test Foles' mettle.
But those devils haven't been paying attention to the rest of the Reid Epoch. There was nothing in those red zone possessions that we haven't seen, ad nauseam, for years here.
"I take responsibility for that," Reid said. "We didn't do well enough in the red zone."
The Bengals will never suspect the shovel pass from the 3-yard line! Let's go with that, even if that page in the playbook has yellowed too much to read clearly.
And why force the Bengals to consider the possibility of a running play? Better to line Foles up in an empty backfield and invite a play-disrupting pass rush.
On the second possession, in fairness, the clock was an issue. There were 39 seconds left after a false start on Dallas Reynolds - the center, mind you - made it first and goal at the 7.
Foles hit tight end Clay Harbor to move the ball to the 1-yard line. Reid called his last timeout of the half. He and Mornhinweg used it to cook up a beauty. Backup center Matt Tennant reported as an eligible receiver. He did not report as a competent receiver, however. Nevertheless, he was Foles' only read on the play. Foles rushed things on third down, throwing the ball out of bounds.
"We get the ball in the red zone, we need to capitalize on that," Foles said. "We have to execute, I have to execute down there."
He shouldn't have to overcome his coaches as well as the defense. That is very tough to do. Ask McNabb. Ask Vick.
There are plenty of reasons Reid has two games left in his tenure here. The big ones involve his grievous mishandling of the defense for the last two years. But this smaller stuff - outsmarting themselves with unnecessary gimmickry - was irritating even when the Eagles were winning. Now it's just unbearable.
The other bit of malpractice was the insistence on having Foles heave the ball downfield. He finally underthrew one pass that was intercepted, ending his streak of having potential picks dropped.
"If I'm being honest," Foles said, "I just made a horrible throw."
Foles hasn't looked great throwing deep. Maybe that will prove to be his fatal flaw as a quarterback. We're going to have to wait to see him in another offense, with a solid blocking scheme in front of him and a legit running game that concerns defenses.
"He has a real strong arm," Reid said.
The argument that Reid should stay to continue Foles' development died with the Eagles' red zone offense Thursday night.
Coaches all over football, pro and college, are doing creative, exciting things with young quarterbacks: Darrell Bevell in Seattle, Bruce Arians in Indianapolis, Jay Gruden in Cincinnati, Kyle Shanahan in Washington. There is no shortage of candidates to build a winning offense, whether it's around Foles or someone else.
The unknown is always scary. But the known? It is pure torture.