In a recent poll on Philly.com, readers were asked who the Eagles starting quarterback will be. (Inexplicably, Michael Vick was the top choice.) But the best man for the job wasn't even listed as an option. And no, I'm not referring to G.J. Kinne — a long shot that won't get many reps with the first team.
Of the five players working out in red jerseys at the NovaCare Complex this summer, only one has familiarity and proven success with Chip Kelly's offense: Dennis Dixon.
Signing Dixon was one of Kelly's first personnel moves since joining the Eagles. The decision shows continued trust in a quarterback with whom he enjoyed great success at Oregon. With Kelly as his offensive coordinator in 2007, Dixon registered 2,136 yards passing and 583 yards rushing while scoring 29 touchdowns (20 passing, nine rushing) with just four interceptions and zero fumbles.
The prospect of Dixon becoming the new face of the franchise might be a bit unexpected, but he's no worse than the incumbent candidates.
If you're not bursting with excitement for the start of the Nick Foles era, don't worry. You're not alone.
Last season the rookie quarterback earned some fans simply by offering an alternative to the Michael Vick turnover nightmare. But Foles didn't exactly put up dazzling numbers. In seven games last season, he threw a modest six touchdown passes along with five interceptions and eight fumbles on his way to a 1-5 record as a starter. His failure to lock down the starting job is a major reason the competition remains wide open this year.
Birds fans enamored with the idea of Vick in Kelly's offense might need a reality check. Just because Vick has shown the ability to run, and Kelly has had success on the heels of mobile quarterbacks at Oregon, does not mean Vick will be a good fit. Are these fans forgetting the dreadful season Vick had last year? Despite 13 touchdowns (12 passing, one rushing), Vick threw 10 interceptions and fumbled the ball 11 times. He hasn't been effective since a 2010 season in which he eventually faltered in the playoffs, and was mediocre at best during the failed 2011 "Dream Team" season.
The Eagles are in a rebuilding stage and a turnover-prone 33-year-old on the decline is not the quarterback of the future. In Dixon, however, they have a 28-year-old career backup eager to prove himself as a starter in the NFL.
He led the Ducks to a 7-1 record and was the Heisman frontrunner before an ACL tear ended his senior season in 2007.
In just three NFL starts, Dixon already has more wins than Foles. Granted, Dixon's two wins came on a 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers team that reached the Super Bowl, but he's proven the ability to win at the NFL level—something Foles and rookie Matt Barkley have not yet done.
Foles and Barkley operate as more traditional pocket passers, while mobility is the best thing Vick has going for him. Dixon is the one quarterback in camp that offers a combination of these skill sets. At 6'3", his ability to see the field and sell a read option should give him an edge over the shorter Vick and open up an array of possibilities as a long quarterback in a complex offensive system (think Colin Kaepernick).
In a span of five years with the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, Dixon entered every season as backup to bona fide starters Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco. Dixon started and won two games in place of a suspended Roethlisberger in 2010, but tore his meniscus in the second game. He did not see time for the Steelers in 2011 or as a member of the practice squad for last year's Super Bowl Champion Ravens. For the first time in his professional career, he now has the chance to compete for the starting job.
Chip Kelly has said repeatedly that there is open competition for job under center, so it's foolish to rule out Dixon. Unlike his competition, Dixon shouldn't require any kind of adjustment period to get used to playing at the NFL level (like Barkley) or getting the hang of Kelly's style (like the other quarterback candidates).
In their last seasons on the field, Dixon (79.4 in 2010), Foles (79.1 in 2012) and Vick (78.1 in 2012) all put up similarly pedestrian quarterback ratings. All three got reps with the first-string offense in the Eagles' first practice last month. There was no clear favorite then, and the addition of a talented Barkley hasn't made the decision any easier.
Each of the four quarterbacks has his strengths. There are advantages to starting any one of them, but there is plenty to suggest that Dixon could succeed in the role this year, and for years to come.
Familiarity with the offense: Advantage Dixon. Ability to run or throw from the pocket: Advantage Dixon. Ability to take care of the ball against NFL defenses: Advantage Dixon. Combination of size and speed: Again, advantage Dixon.