On Dennis Dixon and the Eagles

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
5:16
PM ET

You never do know what a given day will bring. If you'd asked me this morning, "Dan, do you think you'll do posts today on Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterbacks?", I'd probably have said, "No, I doubt that very much." And yet here we are.

The Eagles have signed quarterback Dennis Dixon to a two-year contract. Dixon is a five-year NFL veteran who played his college football at the University of Oregon. His senior year there was 2007, which was also the first year Chip Kelly spent at Oregon as offensive coordinator. Kelly is now the head coach of the Eagles. All fits together, right?

Now, people are going to talk about how much sense this all makes because Dixon is a running quarterback and oh my goodness how could Kelly ever possibly call a single offensive play in the NFL without a super-fast running quarterback taking the snap. And I'm already getting questions on Twitter about whether he'll compete with Michael Vick and Nick Foles for the starting job or whether this means they're trading Foles. And so I figured a post was in order. Here is the basic point I would like to make:

It is Feb. 14.

Elaborate? Sure, I'll elaborate. It is Feb. 14. The Eagles' first game of the season will be on Sept. 8. That's enough time for Kelly to design and build a convincing cyborg quarterback and make it the starter if that's what he wants to do. (Seriously, Phil Knight has to be working on that anyway, right?) Stocking the roster with quarterbacks in mid-February is an indicator of absolutely nothing other than the fact that coaches know they need to make sure they have one. Most NFL teams go three-deep at quarterback all through the season. Three is actually kind of a small number for February.

And Dixon, dear reader, is a backup quarterback. He has played in a total of four NFL games and thrown a total of 59 NFL passes in his five years since he and Kelly teamed up at Oregon. Is he a useful backup? Sure. He's got two Super Bowl rings, including one he just won after playing Colin Kaepernick on the Ravens' scout team in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. He's got certain specific athletic abilities that are quite useful in practice. Maybe he can play Robert Griffin III in the weeks before the Eagles play the Redskins next year. Maybe his experience with Kelly, however brief, makes him useful as a guy who can help teammates who are unfamiliar with the new coach's style and terminology. These are important tasks for a backup quarterback, and Dixon may be well suited to them. But I sincerely doubt they signed him today with the expectation that he will play a significant number of regular-season snaps in their offense.

Hey, I've been wrong before. Maybe Vick gets hurt and Foles stinks it up and Dixon goes in there and becomes the next Steve Young. Maybe Kelly has some kind of crazy package he wants to run a couple of times a game and Dixon will be perfect for it. None of us can see the future. I just wanted, in light of the news and the response to it, to come here and make the point that not every player an NFL team signs is expected to compete for a starting role. Not even quarterbacks. And especially not on Feb. 14.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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