Jun 4, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbackNick Foles
(9) and quarterbackMichael Vick
(7) pass the ball during minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Foles is going to be the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles this season. You can book it right now. Bet on it. Take it to the bank. Scream it from the mountaintops. Get it tattooed on a highly visible portion of your body. Do whatever you want, but accept it for what it is — the truth.
He may not be the starter all season, and he may not play at or anywhere near a Pro Bowl level. But he is going to be the opening day starter, and I am here to let you know why.
With Ron Jaworski in the midst of putting together his list ranking the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL from worst to best, I figured it’d be as good a time as any to lay out a baseline of expectation for the quarterback position under Chip Kelly and why that bodes well for Foles.
While I agree with Jaws’ approximation of Vicks standing among his starting quarterback peers, I take issue with a Jaws assertion later in the piece that Vick is destined for great things under new head coach Chip Kelly — I take issue with his assumption that Vick is even the starter at this point, but that goes without saying (even though I just said it).
No one in their right mind expects Kelly to just take his Oregon offense and transfer it verbatim to the NFL. But everyone expects there to be elements of it at play, namely an offense built around tempo and a reliance on the run game, with passing concepts based on option routes and play action.
Where guys like Jaws — as much as I love him — start to lose the plot, is when they quote things like Vick’s 98.0 quarterback rating in the two-minute offense last season and assert that moving quickly, and being up-tempo play more to Vick’s favor than the other quarterback’s on the roster — Foles and Matt Barkley.
Tempo will be important. In fact, it will be incredibly important. But as important — if not more important — will be an intense focus on maintaining possession of the ball, and an ability to pick up a few yards when necessary.
That may sound simple, but look back at Vicks recent past and you’ll notice a disturbing inability to do both of these things.
Vick, DeSean Jackson and really the team as a whole became enamored with the big play under Andy Reid. It gave us great games like the 2010 Redskin trouncing on Monday Night, but it also gave us game upon game wherein it often felt like the offense was mired in quicksand, requiring a late game drive to bail us out if at all. All this while gaining entry to the Red Zone became nothing more than a ticket to frustration and a field goal.
As guys like Tommy Lawlor over at IgglesBlitz point out, Jaws is correct in his statement that Vick is the most talented quarterback on the roster. But Vick has been talented since the day he stepped foot on a football field. That didn’t stop him from playing poorly and turning the ball over at an alarmingly consistent rate over the last few years.
Vick is talented. Even when he is in full athletic decline he will still possess physical attributes that Foles and Barkley can only dream about. Yes, it is rare that quarterback’s with Foles or Barkley’s physical limitations are able to overcome them and turn themselves into Super Bowl winning players. But the point here isn’t about physical talent; it’s about what Kelly wants out of his quarterback at the most basic level — and it’s not running and it’s not a reliance on big plays.
Kelly wants to be surgical — he wants to be methodical. At the same time, he wants to be able to cram it down the opponents throat with reckless abandon, lining up in formations that are easily recognizable to the defense, and yet executing it so well that they’re helpless to stop it.
In short, Kelly wants to play the percentages.
He does not want a high-powered offense — at least not unless that offense can do things like execute a simple inside power on third-and-3 in a crucial moment of the NFC Championship game the exact same way that it would execute it if they were still on the fields of the Novacare Complex during training camp.
He’s a basics man and he works from the ground up — pun intended.
And simply put, Vick is not that kind of quarterback. He is not an, “operate within the system” kind of player. He is more of a gunslinger in the Brett Favre mold. Which is all well and good, except Favre, for all the praise and adulation he received over the years, only ever won one Super Bowl. Vick, for all his high octane athleticism and highlight reel plays, has won exactly two playoff games in his career.
Chip, first and foremost, wants a quarterback who is going to take what the defense gives him, and consistently put the offense in favorable situations.
Turning over the ball is unacceptable.
Taking avoidable sacks is unacceptable.
Operating outside of the scheme is unacceptable.
In short, the Mike Vick that we have seen for the past two years, is unacceptable.
Vick has all the talent in the world, but his inability to alter his style of play and approach to the gameplan is going to push him right out of consideration for the Eagles starting quarterback position. Would I like it to be otherwise?
He is still one of the top five most talented quarterbacks in the league. If he could put it all together, if he could finally learn to combine all that athleticism with quick decision making and accurate, anticipatory throws, the sheer idea of what he, Kelly and this offense could accomplish is enough to make any Eagles fan drool.
But it is just not going to happen. Not after 10 years and 102 starts. At this point, he is who he is — and he is not what Chip wants. So, Nick Foles, get ready to do the best you can. Be smart with the ball; make safe, decisive, high percentage reads. Perhaps more importantly, be ready for the ever-changing tide that is the Philly sports fan base.