PHILADELPHIA - Eagles coach Chip Kelly doesn't throw around the "F" word loosely.
Despite Nick Foles' record-setting performance this season, Kelly declined to designate him as the team's franchise quarterback during his end-of-the-season address on Monday.
"If the Eagles are a franchise, which we are, then Nick is our quarterback," Kelly said. "But there are no tags to it. Obviously, you've got to have one guy and right now, Nick is that one guy. But we're always going to try to continue to upgrade at every position, and I think all of our players know that."
Foles, 24, seemingly won the starting job for the foreseeable future with his play this season.
Upon taking over for an injured Michael Vick, Foles finished the regular season with 27 touchdown passes against only two interceptions while leading the league with a 119.2 passer rating that was the third-highest in NFL history. His 0.63 touchdown/interception ratio was the best in league history and he tied the NFL mark by throwing seven TD passes against Oakland on Nov. 6.
Last Saturday, he completed 23 of 33 passes for 193 yards with two more TD passes and no turnovers in a 26-24 playoff loss to New Orleans.
But there were some stumbles. Foles had trouble getting into a rhythm in the last two games, against Dallas and the Saints, respectively. He didn't make a lot of mistakes, but that was partly because he didn't take many risks. He absorbed a costly, 11-yard sack against the Saints before place-kicker Alex Henery missed a 48-yard field goal.
"I don't worry about being labeled a 'franchise quarterback' or any of that stuff," Foles said Monday. "I've never looked at any label as being meaningful. I know everybody wants to label this after a good season, but there's a lot of stuff I need to get better at. I don't look at this season as 'Oh, man I did good!' I have a lot of stuff to work on. We didn't win the last game and a lot of that goes on the quarterback."
The Eagles are not allowed to reward him for his efforts with a new contract until after next season.
Under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, drafted players are required to play at least three years under their rookie contracts before they can receive a new or restructured deal. Foles, who was drafted in the third round in 2012, signed a four-year deal worth $2.769 million that will pay him $615,000 in 2014. That's tip money for Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, the top overall pick in 2012. He will make $2.4 million in base salary next season.
"He's a great decision-maker," Kelly said. "I think he's extremely accurate with where he puts the ball and he's very young. I think people still sometimes forget that. He didn't become our starter this year until Mike went down (on Oct. 27). In the short body of work Nick had, I think he did an outstanding job."
Beyond the statistics, Foles established himself as the leader of the team's offense.
The unit featured plenty of talent such as NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Yet, Foles was the player they counted on to display confidence and calmness under pressure.
"A franchise quarterback is someone who goes to work every day and has to also be a leader, a guy the team looks to and the city looks to," Foles said. "You have to stay consistent and if you don't play well, you won't be a starter. Regardless, I'm going to be who I am. If I keep improving as a player and as a leader, someone who makes his teammates better, all the other stuff will take care of itself."
Kelly intends to provide Foles with some competition for the job next season, but there are no current contenders. Matt Barkley did nothing as a rookie to suggest he is capable of being a starter. Vick is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. If he re-signs with the Eagles, he would be a backup.
The Eagles could look to the draft, but the quarterback Kelly reportedly covets the most, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, opted to stay in college for at least one more season.
"There's always competition," Kelly said. "I don't think Nick has ever been afraid of competition. He showed me that the first time we had (a competition between Foles and Vick during the preseason)."
Foles intends to spend some time at his offseason home in Austin, Texas, before returning to Philadelphia for the team's winter strength and conditioning program.
Next season, he wants to build upon this season's success and try to lead the Eagles to their first playoff victory since 2008.
"It's hard sitting at home right now," Foles said. "Everybody has to face this and it's tough. We were having fun, we were playing well and we were starting to bond as a group. It was something special to be a part of.
"I know I have to keep getting better for my teammates. If I keep improving as a player and as a leader, all the other stuff will take care of itself. The possibilities are exciting to me."
Extra points: The Eagles signed 10 players to reserve/futures contracts Monday and Tuesday: linebacker Emmanuel Acho, defensive end Brandon Bair, tackle Michael Bamiro, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, tight end Emil Igwenagu, linebacker Josh Kaddu, quarterback G.J. Kinne, linebacker Travis Long, wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah and wide receiver Will Murphy.
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