Cataldi: Nick Foles is Eagles starting quarterback

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

Despite Chip Kelly’s best efforts, there is no quarterback controversy on the 2013 Eagles. Nick Foles will be the leader of the offense, next season and probably for many years to come. Mike Vick is nothing more than an expensive smoke screen. Dennis Dixon is a laughable diversion. Foles is the guy.

Hey, nobody enjoys a quarterback controversy more than I do. These disputes have not only lit up the phone lines on my WIP radio show, they have inspired screaming matches in our taverns and fisticuffs in the stands. There is nothing more polarizing than two (or even three) players vying for the top spot on the Eagles. I live for drama like that.

But there is really no question who will start at quarterback for the Eagles. Nick Foles will win the competition created last week when Kelly re-signed Vick and added his former Oregon pal, Dixon. Vick is an injury-prone turnover machine with a dubious attitude. Dixon has been an NFL scrub for five seasons.

On the other hand, Foles has become one of the most underrated performers in the recent history of Philadelphia sports. Because he was playing for a doomed coach on a dreadful team, many fans missed what was unfolding before their cynical eyes. Foles is a good NFL quarterback, with a chance to be much more than that.

Behind a putrid offensive line, Foles completed 61-percent of his passes last season, fifth-best for rookies in NFL history. He averaged 243 passing yards in the seven games he played, third-best for rookies in league history. And he is the only rookie quarterback to throw for over 60-percent and average more than 240 yards. The only rookie. Ever.

If Chip Kelly is the offensive genius his credentials suggest, he already knows where this so-called competition is heading. Kelly is on the record saying “quick, smart decision-making” is his first priority in a quarterback. Vick was hit 170 times in 10 games. With basically the same blockers, Foles was hit 47 times in seven games. And this is supposed to be a contest?

The one lingering question in these early weeks of Kelly’s tenure is why he bothered to spend $3.5 million on Vick, with another $3.5 million if the 33-year-old quarterback makes it through the season. Here’s the answer: Kelly is obsessed with competition. He loves to see his players fighting for their jobs.

No one understands this approach better than Dixon, a journeyman whose role will be similar to Doug Pederson in the early days of Donovan McNabb. Dixon already knows the Kelly system from their time together in Oregon and also realizes that his only hope is to win the back-up job if Vick is released.

Follow the drama in the coming months if you must, Philadelphia. But remember what you read right here in the middle of February. Nick Foles will be the Eagles starting quarterback in 2013. Bet on it.

Lurie pulling a fast one on fans

Ventriloquism is a lost art. In fact, based on recent developments, the top practitioner appears to be an NFL owner.

You may recognize the name. Jeff Lurie.

The Eagles’ owner is a true master of speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He says one thing, often with great force, and then he does something that suggests the exact opposite. The latest example is one of his best — even better than his “gold standard” bluster or his gushing Andy Reid testimonials.

When he finally let Reid go last month, Lurie spent a few minutes emoting over the injustice of being an Eagles fan. He said, with deep sorrow, that fans deserved so much more than the 4-12 debacle they had just experienced. He then called them the best fans in the world and promised better days ahead.

Well, the better days are already here, at least for Lurie. First, he zapped his beloved patrons with a $10 ticket hike — to an average price of $93 — for no justifiable reason. Lurie is a billionaire, his team is an ATM machine and nobody else in the NFL is going hungry. He doesn’t need the added revenue.

Then an even bigger bomb exploded when it was revealed that the Eagles have more cash under the salary cap ($23 million) than any team in the NFL. They didn’t use it in 2012, so it was added to the cap number for 2013. Will Lurie spend it this year? Not a chance.

Jeff Lurie saved $23 million in 2012 and still felt a need to raise ticket prices. At least it is clear who he’s using for the dummy in his ventriloquist act. It’s the fans.

What about Charlie?

There are so many fascinating stories on the Phillies that it’s easy to miss the most poignant one already unfolding at spring training: What will happen to the beloved father figure during this unprecedented era of success, manager Charlie Manuel?

In what he said would be his only public comments on his contract situation, the 69-year-old lame duck was surprisingly defiant last weekend about the criticism he has received for winning only one championship in his long and varied career.

“My record is just as good as anybody’s in baseball,” he said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m an ‘I/me’ guy because I’m not. But really, I mean, just look at it. What’s wrong with it?”

Manuel has managed some of the greatest hitters of the past generation here and in Cleveland, and has one championship in 11 years. If he actually believes this record rivals Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa or Bruce Bochy, then the problem is his own low expectations, not our high ambitions.

Regardless of his sour attitude, Manuel’s legacy is already firm in Philadelphia. Decades from now, he will be remembered as the improbable mastermind of a gratifying period for the Phillies and their fans. But now the end is drawing near.

Keep your eye on Charlie Manuel. His final act will be the most interesting story on the Phillies.

Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» The Flyers finally woke up Monday against the Islanders, but it took a public browbeating from captain Claude Giroux to get them going. Where has master motivator and coach Peter Laviolette been during this comatose start? Good question.

» Sixers GM Tony DiLeo got angry about rumors that he was entertaining trade proposals for Evan Turner. DiLeo has done nothing since taking over as GM last September, and he recoils when fans suggest that he might actually make a move to help his team. How dare they.

» Carlos Ruiz will shed no new light on his 25-game suspension for using the banned drug Adderall. “It’s between me and my doctor,” he said. The Phillies’ catcher apologized for the mistake, but that’s not good enough. Why did he get caught twice? He needs to answer that question.

» If new Eagles coach Chip Kelly really wants to infuriate the fans, all he needs to do now is bring back cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the biggest free agent bust in team history. After the dumb idea to give Mike Vick one more shot, Kelly wouldn’t offer Asomugha a reprieve, too. Or would he?

» In his new book, Mike Piazza blames legendary broadcaster Vin Scully for poisoning the minds of Los Angeles fans against him during a contract dispute in 1998. Don’t miss Piazza’s sequel, when he points the finger at Mother Teresa for blowing the 2000 World Series.