By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—Shortly before the 2011 NFL Draft, soon-to-be Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton declared to the world that he wanted to be an “icon and an entertainer” as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Of course, a lot of us sportswriter types, especially one from CBS Sports.com, got their collective panties in a bunch when Newton said that because they thought he was being arrogant and immature.
Apparently, Newton’s youthful bravado and self-confidence unnerved an uptight sports media establishment. Now the whole icon thing was a bit goofy on Newton’s part, but you had to admire his self confidence at the time.
Do you really want your quarterback to be unsure of himself? I saw Newton’s icon declaration as a silly expression of youthful exuberance, but I admired his uncompromising belief in himself. Self confidence in a 22-year-old quarterback or a sports writer is a damned good thing.
When Eagles fourth-round draft pick and former Southern Cal star Matt Barkley rolled into the Eagles rookie minicamp last Friday he said he expects to be competing for the Eagles starting job. That declaration raised a few eye brows among fans and media, especially with experienced players like Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon and G.J Kinne all fighting for the starting nod.
At the end of the day, I’m not mad at Barkley for coming into camp with that kind of attitude and neither is Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Barkley has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he was better than a fourth-round pick.
“I would hope anybody that came into this place isn’t sitting here and saying I think I’m going to be a really good, solid backup,” Kelly said. “I want our guys to come in here and show us everything that they can do, and our job as a coaching staff is to put the best guys on the field the first game against Washington that will help us win, and if that’s Matt, that’s Matt, so we’ll see how that goes.”
That’s the thing you have to like about this Eagles quarterback competition is that you have bunch of guys that are unafraid to claim it for themselves. Vick came into the pre-draft mini camp saying that it was his job to lose, especially after last year’s tough season.
“It’s still my team, still my job and that’s the mindset you gotta have,” Vick said. “I believe in myself and my abilities and I believe in the guys on this football team.”
And then you have the case of Dennis Dixon who has a 2-1 record as a starting quarterback and has been struggling to find a place in the league after a season-ending knee-injury late in his senior year at Oregon.
After being a backup in Baltimore and Pittsburgh since his rookie year in 2008, Dixon believes that he can be a starter with the Birds.
“Anybody in their right mind would love competition and that’s what we have,” Dixon said. “And I’m quite sure that Michael Vick and Nick Foles would say the same thing as well. We’re excited. We’re just excited to work and let the chips fall where they may.”
Foles and Kinne will also have something to say in the outcome of this competition as well. They both believe that they will emerge as the starter when the dust settles.
It’s always given that you’re starting quarterback is a guy with a strong, accurate arm and has the ability to read and pick apart a defense.
You also want your quarterback to have some swag and an unshakeable belief in himself even when times are bad on the field.
I remember the first time I covered an NFL game as a reporter back in 1985, I saw then Washington Redskins Joe Theismann at his locker after a tough loss to the Eagles. He confidently answered every tough question, looking every reporter in the eye as if he welcomed the scrutiny.
No quarterback comes into any situation whether he’s a highly-touted rookie, a journeyman, a high-price free agent or a guy just trying to hang on for another pay check, hoping to be the starter.
I can never get a mad at a rookie quarterback or any position when he comes and says he’s going to be the man for a team.
“But if anybody came in here and said they were really vying for a backup job, then they would probably be on the bus down 95 pretty quick,” Kelly said.