Michael Vick won the QB job this summer. Nick Foles was the backup.
Vick got hurt yesterday. Foles replaced him. It sounds like Vick will miss at least one game. The guys on the NFL Network this morning saw the highlight of Vick’s injury and noted that the closer the injury is to the butt cheek, the more problematic the hamstring strain. Vick was grabbing pretty high. He could very well miss a couple of games.
Vick is still the starting QB for the Eagles. He won the job this summer fair and square. He was up and down this season, but hadn’t played poorly enough to warrant getting benched. Some of his critics felt he deserved that, but mostly those folks just hate him no matter what he does.
Foles will play 1.5 or 2.5 games with Vick sidelined. That’s hardly enough time to figure anything out definitively, but it can give you some hints. If Foles plays great and the offense starts to really score points, Foles might get to keep the job. Chip Kelly said as much at his PC today. He joked that if Foles goes 100 for 100 with 27 TDs, he will stay the starter. Reporters tried to get a more realistic feel for what Foles could do to keep the job. Kelly wasn’t about to offer specifics.
As I see it, Foles would have to play so well that you simply couldn’t put him back on the bench. Is that likely to happen? No. Possible? Sure.
Chip Kelly is balancing short term and long term goals. Vick isn’t part of the long term plans. But he played well this summer. You have to reward him for that. Kelly doesn’t want to send the message to his players that results will be ignored when they conflict with age, salary and/or draft status. Kelly preaches the importance of competition. In order for players to believe this, Kelly must reward the players who earn roles.
At the same time, personnel evaluation is constantly changing. Remember how good Jamar Chaney looked in his first 2 games? Sadly, that was the best he ever played for the Eagles. Michael Vick struggled in the summer of 2010, as the backup QB. He got on the field in Green Bay and looked like a star. He then played great for most of that year. Todd Herremans struggled the first 3 games of this year. Then he made an adjustment and was much better vs Denver. Still haven’t studied him from the Giants game.
Vick won the job this summer, but that doesn’t mean he’s entitled to keep the job. Foles finished 2nd in the QB competition, but that doesn’t mean he can’t steal the job away from Vick. Foles also could lose his spot to Matt Barkley. You judge players on how they play. You don’t ignore track records and what happened previously that year, but you try to stay in the moment as best you can. That’s fair to all players involved and also keeps you from blindly sticking by someone that is struggling at that moment.
This isn’t to say you bench a player the instant he struggles. That would be silly. This is where a player’s history has to be factored in. If he’s got a good track record, you are going to be more patient. You have some proof that he has done his job well and might be able to do so again.
Kelly isn’t looking to bench Vick. Kelly is simply being honest. If Foles comes in and plays lights out, you can’t ignore that just because Vick was better in the preseason.
The obvious argument here is going to be what is lights out. The anti-Vick crowd will set the bar low. The pro-Vick crowd will set the bar high. Chip Kelly won’t have specific stats or goals. He’s going to make a judgment call based on what he sees. Kelly hasn’t shown any bias in his handling of the QBs so far (except for being anti-GJ Kinne!!!). I think we can trust that Kelly will make the right call. Not all fans will agree with him, but that’s to be expected.
As for the long term, Kelly is still searching for “his QB”. Payton/Brees. Belichick/Brady. Kelly/???. I do not see a likely scenario where Vick returns to the Eagles as the starter. He will turn 34 next summer. That’s just not a guy you build around. Foles and Barkley have a chance to be the guy, but neither guy has done anything to this point that makes you think he is the likely answer. “Likely” is the key word. Would you bet a big chunk of cash on either guy right now?
But as I mentioned before…personnel evaluation changes constantly. Foles could thrive in his playing time. Barkley will get extra practice reps with Vick hurt. Maybe the light goes on for him and he wows the coaches in practice. As it currently stands, I’d have QB as the #1 need for the Eagles heading into 2014. You must know for sure that you’ve got “the guy” or you must have the attitude that you’re looking for him.
Plenty can change between now and January. And it probably will.