John Smallwood
philly.com
POSTED: MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2014, 11:07 AM

WELL, I suppose I could have been more wrong in predicting what was going to happen last weekend in the NFL, but Iím not exactly sure how.

I donít think I said the New England Patriots were going to lose to the New York Jets, and they did not. They won, 17-16.

Still. as far as Philadelphia waking up this morning to the Eagles' being in first place and a simple victory over the New York Giants away from clinching their second consecutive NFC East title ó didnít happen.

In fact, things played out in the exact opposite manner, with the Eagles losing to lowly Washington while the Dallas Cowboys, the squad I practically guaranteed would lose to Indianapolis, laid a royal smackdown on the Colts to clinch the NFC East.

Judging by some of the emails I received ó I donít participate in Twitter ó more than a couple of Eagles fans seem to be happier that they call me an idiot for my positive predictions than they are upset that the Birds got eliminated from the playoffs.

Iím not sure Iíll ever quite understand that kind of reasoning, but whatever floats their boats.

The important issue is that, except for the window dressing of the season finale, the Eagles are done for the 2014 season. And the way it played out not only leaves a bitter taste about the present but raises some serious concerns about the path to the future.

On Thanksgiving, the Eagles spanked Dallas in Texas to take control of their fate in the East. They had a one-game lead and needed only to finish with the same record as the Cowboys to win the division.

As Philadelphia painfully knows, the Eagles stepped up by losing three straight games ó including one at home to Dallas ó to miss the playoffs.

Thatís called a choke. There is no way to sweeten, sanitize or clean that up. It is what it was.

But I donít think you can reasonably look at this without saying the Eagles lost quarterback Nick Foles to a broken collarbone in the eighth game against the Houston Texans.

That is a big mitigating factor.

Folesí play was not as consistent as it was in his 2013 Pro Bowl season, but he had the Eagles at 6-2 before missing the previous seven games.

I said when it was determined that Foles would not be back, at the earliest, until the 14th game that the best scenario wouldíve been the Eaglesí not needing him back, because it would mean that backup Mark Sanchez had done a good enough job to keep the Eagles in prime playoff position.

That did not happen.

All the blame cannot be put at Sanchezís feet, but he did not play nearly well enough, and the bottom line is he went 3-4.

The interception Sanchez threw in the final minutes against Washington that halted a potential game-winning drive by the Eagles and was turned into one by Washington was a reflection of his tenure at the helm of the Birds.

It is pure speculation that things might have been different had Foles not been injured, but the fact remains is the Birds are out of the playoffs.

Not too many NFL teams can lose their starting quarterback for seven games and still make the playoffs Ė although the Arizona Cardinals just did while having starting quarterback Carson Palmer for only six games.

We can talk all we want about what the Eagles should do next year at quarterback, but the only viable option at this current moment in time is to hope that Foles starts next season healthy and plays closer to the way he did in 2013 than 2014.

The Eagles will not have a pick high enough to select one of the two projected franchise quarterback in 2015 Draft ó Marcus Mariota, of the University of Oregon, or Jameis Winston, of Florida State University.

Even in the unlikely scenario that the Eagles could trade up to get Mariota or Winston, the cost would devastate the franchise to the point at which having the franchise quarterback could be moot ó see Washington and Robert Griffin III.

Besides, despite the disappointment of this season, Kelly will win at least 19 of his first 32 NFL games.

The Eagles are a good draft and couple of good free-agent signings away from being one of those teams that could be in the Super Bowl mix next season.

It would be irresponsible of management to ignore other critical areas of need while pursuing a quarterback when Foles still could be the one to move the program forward.

I donít know whether Foles is a ďChip Kelly quarterback.Ē Everyone has said what that is except for Kelly.

My thought is that Foles has gone 15-4 for Kelly as his quarterback. No NFL team could do that if the coach could not get most of what he needs out of his quarterback.

If a quarterback who has done what Foles has done so far under Kelly is not worth taking a longer look at, then perhaps everyone is overthinking what a ďChip Kelly quarterbackĒ should be.