Reality check on Eagles' QB situation

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- There are some interesting and contradictory ideas out there about the Eagles and their quarterback situation, so let’s try to clear the air on a few issues.

Michael Vick gives the Eagles the best chance to contend this year.

It’s a nice thought, and Vick certainly has some unique gifts as a football player, let alone a quarterback. His long runs against the New York Giants are all the evidence anyone should need on that count.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsCan the Eagles contend with Michael Vick?
But Vick has not won a playoff game since the 2004 postseason. He has been the starting quarterback for several of the most disappointing seasons in Eagles history. And whatever else he might say, head coach Chip Kelly has made it very clear he doesn’t rate Vick among the elite quarterbacks in the game. Kelly has repeatedly referred to how he might structure his offense if he had “Tommy” Brady or Peyton Manning running it.

Nick Foles runs the offense more like Kelly would rather see it run.

Foles may get the ball out more quickly, but that’s because he is looking for the shorter, higher-percentage completion while Vick is looking further downfield. Those routes take longer to come together, and Vick trusts his ability to extend plays with his legs enough to wait.

But if Foles truly ran the Kelly offense better, guess what? Kelly would have gone with Foles over Vick to begin with. Kelly has made it clear he sees the threat of Vick running the ball as invaluable to what he’s trying to do.

That approach has had its problems. Vick’s numbers in the red zone just aren’t good enough, and neither were the point totals in losses to Kansas City and Denver. But Kelly remains convinced Vick’s skill set has the most potential in his offense.

The Eagles’ running game relies on Vick to make it go.

Let’s get real here. If a running game relies on the quarterback, it isn’t a very good running game. Period.

The Eagles have a good running game with LeSean McCoy seeking space behind an extremely good run-blocking offensive line.

“When Nick was in there playing in the preseason, we were very effective running the football,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.

The Giants were able to shut McCoy down after Foles came into Sunday’s game. But that had more to do with matchup problems along the line than with the identity of the quarterback. Foles doesn’t scare anyone as a runner, but that doesn’t mean the Eagles’ running game can’t succeed when he’s in there.

Bottom line: If your run game relies on yards put up by the quarterback, it isn’t a very good running game.

Foles is better than Vick in the red zone, right?

Um. Well. Foles threw a meaningless touchdown pass to Jeff Maehl against backup defenders in garbage time in Denver. His throw to DeSean Jackson for a 5-yard TD against the Giants was well placed, no doubt about it.

But those two red zone touchdowns don’t give Foles a meaningful body of work for making any intelligent conclusions about his red zone performance. Vick’s production there was unsatisfactory, to be sure, but it is wishful thinking to credit Foles with a superior performance. He can build that case Sunday in Tampa.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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