BEFORE HE OPTED to return for his senior season at USC, there was a time when Matt Barkley was on track to perhaps become a top-10 pick in the NFL draft.
Nearly 3 years later, the Eagles' 2013 fourth-round draft pick has not started an NFL game. The pro tape on him consists of only preseason games and four appearances either in mopup duty or when he was thrust into action last season following in-game injuries to the starter.
So with the 9-6 Eagles eliminated from the playoffs and uncertainty regarding all three quarterback spots on the team's depth chart for 2015, there's a school of thought that perhaps you'd want to see what you have in the seldom-used Barkley. Is he a viable No. 2 option moving forward? Maybe throw him out there to start a meaningless game and give him a chance to sink or swim?
Or maybe not.
Chip Kelly yesterday quashed the notion of playing some of the less-experienced younger players to evaluate them for the future on Sunday. So even though the season finale against the 6-9 Giants at MetLife Stadium is devoid of playoff implications, don't expect to glimpse any more of the likes of Barkley, first-round draft pick Marcus Smith or fourth-round defensive back Jaylen Watkins than you've grown accustomed to seeing.
Mark Sanchez and the rest of the healthy starters are in line to play per usual, according to Kelly. Nick Foles' broken clavicle officially ended his third NFL season.
Though fans and members of the media alike naturally are already pondering the team's offseason needs, Kelly said early and often in an at-times testy news conference yesterday afternoon that the Eagles are focused on beating the Giants.
"We don't say, 'Hey, the offseason is coming up, so let's start planning for the offseason.' It's, 'Let's plan for the last game of the season,' which is against New York," Kelly said. "It's a good football team that we're going to go play. They've won three straight games."
Sanchez's start, his first back in East Rutherford, N.J., since the Jets let him walk after last season, could be his last with the Eagles. Signed in March on a 1-year deal, he's a free agent after the season. His propensity for turnovers from his days in New York has carried over to his eight games here, where he's thrown 10 interceptions and lost three fumbles.
Overall, Sanchez has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,126 yards and 12 touchdowns since taking over when Foles got hurt.
Foles' encore to his "27 and 2" campaign goes in the books with a 59.8 percent completion rate and 2,163 yards, with 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and three fumbles of his own.
That means 26 of the Eagles' NFL-worst 35 turnovers have come from the quarterback position. When asked whether the team has received enough production from its quarterbacks this season, Kelly deflected, saying that's something he will evaluate once the season ends.
"We're getting ready to play the New York Giants," he said. "We've got a ton of time in January, February and March here to make decisions based on what we need to do at any position on this team."
Not qualifying for the postseason is unfamiliar territory for Kelly in his time as a head coach. Last season, the Eagles played their last meaningful game, the first-round playoff loss to the Saints, on Jan. 4. In his four seasons at Oregon, even if the Ducks weren't playing in the national championship as they did in 2011, there was always a Rose Bowl or a Fiesta Bowl to play within the first few days of January.
"Every ending is sudden and disappointing unless you win the championship," Kelly said. "I lost the national championship [to Auburn] on a field goal at the end of the game. That was sudden. That was really disappointing.
"I mean, any time you don't get to the ultimate goal, that's the way you feel, whether you were close or far, or whatever. I think it's always that way. And in this league, there's going to be one happy team when this whole season's over. I don't know who it's going to be. Last year, it was Seattle. It's the same exact thing.
"It's no different than that gut-wrenching feeling than you had when you walked off the field when you played the New Orleans Saints and we lost the playoff game to them."
Chip Kelly was asked whether, in hindsight, he thought he made a mistake in releasing DeSean Jackson. "No," the coach said. "We feel confident in what we did. He played real well against us. Give him credit. He's a good football player. But, no, I don't" . . . Kelly said he didn't think the fact that rookie Cody Parkey has never before kicked this much in a single season or the kicker's previous groin injury had any effect on his two crucial misses in Saturday's loss . . . The players selected for the Jan. 25 Pro Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., will be announced tonight on NFL Network in a special that starts at 8 o'clock. Among the Eagles with the best chance are outside linebacker Connor Barwin, defensive end Fletcher Cox and running back Darren Sproles, who could make it as a punt returner.