The Eagles will have decisions to make at quarterback during the offseason, and those decisions will depend on coach Chip Kelly's evaluation of Nick Foles.
Kelly said Wednesday that an evaluation and decision must be based on what Foles has done to date. The Eagles cannot wait any longer to see what they have in Foles even though the quarterback missed eight games this season with a broken collarbone.
"The reality is the reality," Kelly said. "I can't say, 'Hey, let's not make a decision because I need to see him play 16 more games.' In certain times we're going to have to make decisions, so you have to make it based on what you have. We don't have any control over the injury."
Kelly was supportive of his opening-day starter on Wednesday, but he never gave Foles a full endorsement or said the team will go with Foles in the future. There was no impetus for Kelly to do so, and he has the benefit of time. In the coming months, though, he must decide whether the team will build around Foles at quarterback.
Foles, who will miss Sunday's game against the New York Giants, has completed 59.8 percent of his passes this season for 2,163 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. The production declined from last season, when Foles was a Pro Bowler with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. Foles has not made himself available for comment since the injury.
"For me to stand here on . . . the day before Christmas, to say I've made my full evaluation of a quarterback, it's not fair to anybody," Kelly said. "We have a process that we go through."
That process includes watching every pass this season and analyzing every decision that Foles made. Kelly said it "takes a while."
Foles is eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Mark Sanchez will be a free agent. Matt Barkley is under contract, but has attempted only one pass during the regular season. G.J. Kinne is on practice squad and must sign a futures contract to remain with the team during the offseason.
"You just tell us what we have available right now, we'll take a look at it, let's detail it, let's go through the film again, let's put our heads together, let's get everybody's opinion on it and make valid decisions," Kelly said. "It doesn't matter how much [the injury] clouds or doesn't cloud [the evaluation]. That's the reality of it. He got hurt, so we have to make decisions moving forward in terms of what we're going to do."
Foles maintained a constant presence around the team during his injury and continues to practice. Kelly called Foles the "ultimate teammate" who has been supportive of Sanchez's work in relief.
Foles is also an active participant in meetings. On Wednesday morning, Foles stopped Kelly and proposed a change for a route combination. Kelly called Foles' suggestion "a really valid point."
"He's really vocal in meetings, he's vocal in practice," Kelly said. "He has a lot of really good comments when he watches things and observes things. I think he's been very engaged. Unfortunately he can't play on Sundays, but he's done everything that a really good teammate does."
Foles is 14-4 as a starting quarterback since Kelly became the coach, including a 6-2 record in games he started this season. He was 1-5 as a starter during his rookie season under Andy Reid.
Evaluating quarterback requires more nuance than a record, but Foles has said in the past that it's a reasonable metric. There are players and coaches with the team who also think a quarterback should be evaluated by his won-lost record.
"I think we know what we have in Nick, and we've seen a guy that I think, by last count, he's 14-4 as a starter," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "So that's really how you judge a quarterback."
Despite the wins, there were issues. Foles had 13 turnovers in just more than seven games. His 81.4 quarterback rating is No. 25 among qualified quarterbacks - behind benched Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, polarizing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and journeyman Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It's even behind Sanchez.
Foles played most of his games behind a depleted offensive line while introducing new weapons into the offense, which would be taken into account in any evaluation. His injury history must also be considered; Foles has missed parts of four of his last five seasons dating back to college.
The sample size in Philadelphia is still somewhat limited, but that's what Kelly must deal with when determining who will quarterback the team in 2015.
"I just haven't evaluated anything," Kelly said.