Breaking down Chip Kelly’s QB history in the college and pro ranks

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, left, laughs with Marcus Mariota after the Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly, left, laughs with Marcus Mariota after beating Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, 2013.
(Ross Franklin / Associated Press)
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Chip Kelly faces a conundrum when it comes to picking his starting quarterback for UCLA’s season opener against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 2 at the Rose Bowl.

Does he go with redshirt junior Ethan Garbers, who has a massive edge in experience and showed good command of the offense in spring practice, or Dante Moore, the Bruins’ first five-star freshman since Josh Rosen in 2015?

Kelly’s past quarterback picks might provide some insight.



2009 — Having started 10 games the previous season, junior Jeremiah Masoli was an easy pick as the starter in Kelly’s debut as the Oregon coach. Despite an epic dud in the season opener against Boise State, Masoli eventually led the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl since 1994.

2010 — After a tumultuous offseason in which Masoli was suspended and later dismissed from the team, sophomore Darron Thomas edged senior Nate Costa for the starting job. Thomas guided the Ducks to the Bowl Championship Series title game, where they lost to Auburn on a last-second field goal.

UCLA has a quarterback battle on its hands between five-star recruit Dante Moore and redshirt junior Ethan Garbers. What does Chip Kelly have to say?

July 21, 2023

2011 — Thomas returned to lead Oregon to a third consecutive Pac-12 title and its first Rose Bowl victory since 1917 while setting a single-season school record with 33 touchdown passes.

2012 — With Thomas having departed for the NFL draft, Kelly went with redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota as his starter over sophomore Bryan Bennett in something of a surprise. Mariota rewarded Kelly by helping the Ducks go 12-1, including a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, Mariota won the Heisman Trophy.


2013 — Veteran Michael Vick beat out second-year quarterback Nick Foles and rookie Matt Barkley to become Philadelphia’s starter in Kelly’s first game as an NFL coach. But an injury to Vick opened the door for Foles to start 10 of the last 11 games while helping the Eagles win the NFC East title.


2014 — Foles kept the starting job until getting hurt in the eighth game, allowing Mark Sanchez to assume that role for the rest of the season.

2015 — Kelly’s decision to trade Foles for Sam Bradford after assuming command of roster management backfired when the Eagles lost five of their first nine games before Bradford was sidelined by a shoulder injury. Bradford returned after a two-game absence, but the Eagles couldn’t pull out of their spiral and Kelly was fired before the final game.


2016 — During Kelly’s only season in San Francisco, Blaine Gabbert beat out Colin Kaepernick to start the opener and helped the 49ers beat the Rams, 28-0, in their first game back in Los Angeles. But Kelly pivoted after Gabbert played abysmally over the four-game losing streak that followed, going with Kaepernick over the final 11 games (10 of them losses).


2018 — A battle of contrasts went in favor of the veteran when Kelly chose graduate transfer Wilton Speight to be his first UCLA starting quarterback over freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson, one of the best dual-threat prospects in the country. Speight lasted only into the second quarter of the opener against Cincinnati before going down with a back injury. Thompson-Robinson remained the starter until Speight returned later in the season.


2019-22 — Kelly stuck with Thompson-Robinson through all the highs (accounting for a record-setting six touchdowns against USC in 2021) and lows (two turnovers against Colorado in the 2020 opener) while allowing him to finish his five-year career with a school-record 10,710 passing yards.