Michael Vick is one of the most talented players to ever play the position of QB. He has taken our breath away in his time as a Hokie, Falcon, and Eagle. He can do amazing things. He led Va Tech to the National Title game, where they were simply out-manned by Florida State. He got the Falcons to the NFC title game, where they were out-manned by the 2004 Eagles. In 2010 he put an odd Eagles team on his back and got them red hot. That team won the NFC East, but wasn’t able to win a postseason game.
Vick’s resume is fine. The present and future are very different situations. Is he the best QB for the 2012 Eagles? Is he the long term answer?
The Vick magic of 2010 isn’t here. That guy made plays. He avoided turnovers, partially by luck. The Vick of 2011 and 2012 can’t escape turnovers. Not all are his fault, but too many are and that really hurts the team. You either stop a good drive or you give the opponent good field position. Turnovers are also deflating. Going 3-and-out and then punting isn’t fun, but there is a rhythm to it. Sudden change situations put a lot of pressure on the defense. That can be tough to deal with. You can’t come up with big stops time after time after time.
The case for benching Vick is this…he can’t stop turning the ball over. The team isn’t scoring points like it should (31st in the league). What is the point in having a veteran QB if he can’t score points and turns the ball over?
There is a lot of logic to benching Vick when you frame the argument that way. Is he making things better or worse?
The argument for keeping Vick as QB is this…he’s dealing with tough circumstances. The Eagles have had 2 guys play LT and neither is lighting it up. The Eagles are using a backup C for the rest of the year. Jeremy Maclin got hurt and was ineffective for several weeks. The playcalling for the Cardinals game was bad.
Would Nick Foles have fared better than Vick to this point? Let’s compare Vick to some other rookie QBs.
Vick – 136-231-58.9%, 1632 yds … 8 TDs, 8 INTs, 17 sacks, 77.7 rating … 41-205-1 rushing
RG3 – 113-161-70.2%, 1343 yds … 5 TDs, 2 INTs, 12 sacks, 100.5 rating … 55-379-6 rushing
Wilson – 95-152-62.5%, 1108 yds … 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 12 sacks, 85.6 rating … 32-109 rushing
Tannehill – 118-198-59.6%, 1454 yds … 4 TDs, 6 INTs, 11 sacks, 76.5 rating … 19-8-1 rushing
Luck – 118-221-53.4%, 1488 yds … 7 TDs, 7 INTs, 13 sacks, 72.0 rating … 17-103-1 rushing
Weeden – 129-231-55.8%, 1519 yds … 7 TDs, 10 INTs, 11 sacks, 68.1 rating … 8-36 rushing
RGIII is playing incredibly well right now. Kudos to him. Russell Wilson is having a good year, although he’s got the fewest attempts. That offense is built on power running. And if there were good officials, he’d have 7 TDs and 7 INTs instead of the 8/6. That debacle at the end of the SEA/GB game was a nice bonus for his stats.
The only QBs you can really compare Vick to on this list are Weeden and Luck, because of the similar number of passing attempts. Vick has better numbers than them, although sadly…Vick’s numbers aren’t much better.
This is where you have to get philosophical and analytical. Vick’s numbers should not be so low that we can have a discussion about how they compare to rookie QBs. That is a huge problem for him. The point to be made here is that he’s struggling and that’s why his numbers are down. The rookies will likely play like rookies the rest of the year. They lack experience and the only way to get it is time.
Vick can get on a hot streak and play at a very high level. His numbers can go up, possibly way up. There are no guarantees, however. Vick’s numbers could also stay down in the land of mediocrity.
I’d love to think Foles could have jumped in and played like RGIII, but the truth is that he’d more likely be down with Tannehill, Luck, and Weeden. The other X-factor here is that the rookie starters spent the spring and summer getting all the reps with the 1′s, or at least a majority of the reps. Those coaching staffs got them ready to play. Foles was the #3 QB up at Lehigh. He did get to be the backup in preseason and then the starter for a bit. Foles did well, but you do have to be careful about projecting that limited success onto regular season reality.
Foles might be able to jump in and play well right off the bat. He certainly showed all the tools needed to be a good QB this summer. He had physical skills, but also played smart and showed a good feel for the game, which brings us back to Vick.
The most discouraging thing for me is his mental mistakes. He was smart against the Ravens, except for maybe a couple of passes. He was smart against the Giants, for basically the entire game. Other weeks Vick is making some decisions that are bad. The Browns game was a disaster for him. Vick got very lucky that we won that. He made a ton of mental mistakes in Arizona. He was erratic in Pittsburgh. He did not play a smart game on Sunday.
Some of these issues are due to a leaky offensive line, but not all of them. All 32 QBs get hit. They all have some bad days. The good QBs work through the rough days. Look at Eli Manning from last year’s NFC title game. The Giants had no running game. He threw 58 passes. He took a beating in that game. Eli got the crap knocked out of him. He threw 2 TDs and no INTs against a terrific defense.
There is no question that Mike Vick is physically tough. He will take a pounding. He will stand in the pocket. Is he mentally tough? That’s a different story. RBs must be able to take a beating. QBs must be able to take a beating and still stay sharp mentally. This is where Vick gets erratic. He misses open receivers. He holds the ball too long. He makes poor reads.
Think back to Sunday’s game. Early on Vick was under heavy pressure. He was struggling. The offense was struggling. The coaches then adjusted and went to a shorter passing attack. Vick suddenly played better and seemed like a smarter QB.
The coaches play a big part in this. They don’t do Vick any favors when they run too little and then have him look for big plays. That offense worked really well in 2010. It hasn’t done so well since then. Vick is at his best when handing the ball to Shady a lot and making short throws. You still mix in deep balls from time to time, but Vick is struggling on deep throws this year and the OL has trouble holding blocks that long.
Foles isn’t a good deep passer. We saw that at Arizona and in the preseason. Really, the coaches ought to forget the vertical attack and focus more on intermediate routes (11-20 yards). Vick is good on them. Weeden showed the potential to be good on them. You must have a strong arm and be accurate. Both guys can do that. The OL isn’t holding blocks for 4 seconds and that makes a ton of difference.
What would be the advantages to playing Foles? Are there any? We can’t say for certain since this is all speculation, but during the preseason Foles did a lot of things that looked like veteran QB play. He made good reads. He anticipated plays. He threw with excellent accuracy. Foles got the ball out quickly. Here are his cumulative numbers for the 4 games:
40-63-63.5%, 553 yds … 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 sack, 110.1 rating … 2-24 rushing
The most impressive numbers there…only 1 sack and only 2 INTs. Foles had a terrible OL at Arizona in his Senior season. He constantly had pressure on him. He learned the value of getting the ball out quickly when possible. He also developed the ability to get rid of the ball at the last minute before getting sacked. Part of that is due to his size (6-5, 240) and strength. He’s not easy to bring down.
Just because Foles was good in August doesn’t mean he’d be good in October. The game moves at a much faster pace and gameplans are tailored to each team and each player. Foles has never had to deal with that at the NFL level.
What if Foles could play well? What if he’s the anomaly, a non-1st round rookie that could step in and play at a reasonably high level? That is possible. Most rookies are on bad teams. They have OL issues or lack weapons. Foles would be playing behind a shaky OL, but would have plenty of weapons to work with. He looked good in connecting with DeSean, Celek, and the guys back in the summer. They seemed to have a good chemistry.
Andy Reid has a tough balancing act here. He’s got to decide who the best QB is for the rest of 2012. This isn’t about the future. The Eagles are 3-3, not 0-6. If Vick can right the ship and get hot, the whole team could follow suit. Foles could come in and we could have lightning in a bottle or he could fall flat on his face. Right now the Eagles are 31st in points, but 11th in yards and 11th in time of possession. If the offense failed to move the ball at all, that would put tremendous pressure on the defense and things could get really ugly.
You also must factor in Vick in regard to the locker room. He is still a beloved player. Older guys might have faced him in the ATL days. They certainly have a ton of respect for what Vick has done and can do. The younger guys worshiped him when Vick was the star of stars. They continue to love him.
Benching Vick for Foles would not go over well in the locker room. For that to happen and the players to buy in, there needs to be a key moment or game. This isn’t about logic. This is about trying to replace a very popular veteran player. Let’s compare this with McNabb back in 2008. Donovan was not a beloved figure in the locker room at that point. He was a respected veteran, but things had started to get awkward with him and the organization.
McNabb had consecutive games with less than 50% completions. He failed to deliver late in the loss vs the Giants. He then had the poor showing in Cincy and the bewildering comment that he didn’t know NFL games could end in ties. McNabb played very poorly in the 1st half in Baltimore and the team had a goose egg on the board. That’s when he got benched. That is 10 straight quarters of bad QB play. His rating for that period was in the 5o to 60 range. There were 4 TDs and 6 INTs. He lost 2 fumbles. He ran 5 times for 44 yards. It was clear to everyone that McNabb needed to be benched. He sat for the 2nd half of the Ravens game, then started the rest of the year and played much better.
Vick isn’t playing well right now, but he’s not in a funk like that. Benching him will take a game where he and the offense basically aren’t functional (think ARZ). Reid must be able to sit in a meeting room with the players and show them the points that we’re leaving out on the field. He must be able to show them where Vick is hurting the offense. Players could buy into that. A game like Sunday isn’t close to good enough.
Some might argue that the way Vick’s contract is structured, there’s no way he’s coming back in 2013 so why not make the change now. Reid could sell that angle to Lurie to possibly buy another year of patience. ProFootballTalk pointed out this morning that the Eagles could talk to Vick about restructuring his deal. As it currently stands, there is virtually no way Vick comes back. He’s going to be paid like a star in 2013. He’d have to play like a star to get to keep that deal. If Vick does get on some crazy hot streak, the Eagles will have a tough decision to make, but one they’d probably be happy to be stuck with. Vick could restructure his deal, which might change things in regard to his future.
I think as long as the Eagles are in the hunt, Vick will keep the job. The team lost a pair of games to drop to 3-3. Those were tough, tough losses, but this isn’t the same as a team that isn’t competitive or is falling apart.
You really have to focus on the question of what gives the Eagles the best chance to win in 2012. Plenty of fans are yelling “FOLES, you idiot!!! Isn’t it obvious?” There is a lot of frustration coming through in those comments. Reid has a feel for the situation that we don’t. He’s around the players every day. He knows the locker room.
Generally Reid makes good QB decisions. He wanted McNabb in 1999 and that worked well. In 2002 Reid stuck with AJ Feeley instead of going after some veteran and the kid went 4-1 as our starter. Reid stayed patient with McNabb in 2003 and let him play his way out of a slump. He benched McNabb in 2008 for part of the Ravens game. Reid then dealt McNabb after 2009, to a division rival no less. That worked just fine. And in 2010 Reid gave the starting job to Vick, which proved to be the right move at that time.
I will tell you that this situation is different than McNabb’s in one respect. McNabb was homegrown. Reid drafted him, coached him, and developed him. McNabb was the Eagles franchise. Vick is an outsider. He’s made a home here, but Andy won’t have the same kind of deep loyalty to him because the relationship is different. Also, Vick is 32. The sloppy play and mental mistakes should be a thing of the past.
My guess is that Reid sticks with Vick for now, but he will go to Foles if the right situation presents itself. Turnovers drive Andy crazy. Not scoring points drives him crazy. The problem is that a rookie QB isn’t the most likely solution to those problems. At some point, you do need to shake things up. I don’t think Andy is at that point yet, but it is within eyesight and that means that Vick needs to start playing better if he wants to keep his job. Vick controls his own destiny. Will he fumble it away?
* * * * *
I’ve got a lot of good questions from you guys. I’ll try to do a Q&A post to answer them later tonight or early tomorrow.