The Eagles sit at 3-5. Pessimists see the team ready to fall apart. Optimists think the team has already hit rock bottom and could be ready to go on a win streak. Whether the team finishes 3-13, 6-10, or 9-7, I do think the Michael Vick era is coming to an end.
Vick was sensational in 2010 and carried the team on his back to a division title. The hope was that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg could hone his passing skills and improve the subtleties of his quarterback play and turn him into an elite player.
After seeing all of 2011 and half of 2012, it sure looks like 2010 was the anomaly. Vick is very talented, but he is a flawed player. He is erratic with pre-snap reads. He holds the ball too long. He doesn't always show great field vision. His pocket presence isn't what it should be for a veteran. Vick still makes some very questionable decisions as a passer.
Per EaglesCap.com, Vick is due to make $16.5M next year. The Eagles would gladly pay that if he was playing at a high level. That's not the case right now so my guess is that the team will cut him and move on.
If the Eagles do cut Vick, they have a major hole to fill. Rookie Nick Foles is the backup right now. Foles had a very good showing in the preseason, with a passer rating of 110.1 and six touchdowns against only two interceptions. Foles was only sacked once, a stat that is very impressive when you consider that he was playing a lot behind backups.
Ideally, the Eagles would get Foles on the field this year so they could see him in action against good competition. You cannot make an informed decision going only off of preseason games. The gameplans are vanilla. Lots of backups play. Games lack the kind of urgency that you see in the regular season. While Foles was great in August, that guarantees nothing.
The problem with getting Foles on the field is that the team has to remain focused on winning for now. 3-5 may seem like a longshot to outsiders, but Reid and his players will keep the mindset that the season is still worth fighting for. In order to bench Vick for a rookie, it has to be clear that the season is over or that Vick needs to benched. While Vick isn't having a good year, he still has the support and respect of his teammates. You can't just bench him and talk about the future. In a month, maybe.
Even if Foles does play in a few games, the Eagles must make a good evaluation. The team saw big potential in Bobby Hoying in a few games in 1997, but he turned out to be disastrous in 1998. Heck, just look at Vick. He was great in 2010, but has struggled since then.
The key is for the coaches and personnel guys making the decision to look for the right traits rather than the right results. The NFL is a quarterback driven league right now. If you have one, you can compete for a title. If you don't, you're out of luck. When it comes to quarterbacks, you must choose wisely.
Depending on what the Eagles final record is, they could have a decently high draft pick. The problem is that there aren't great quarterback prospects available this year. Matt Barkley and Geno Smith are the top senior passers. Each has looked like an elite player at times, but both has also been inconsistent. Are they clear upgrades on Foles? Not necessarily.
Neither Smith nor Barkley is in the same class as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Are they as good as Ryan Tannehill? Maybe. We need to see the whole draft process before making that decision. The point is that neither player is a slam dunk "we must have him" kind of quarterback.
The Eagles could look around the NFL to see who might be available. I don't anticipate anyone of great value hitting the market. Maybe the Niners let Alex Smith go and put Colin Kaepernick in as their starter. Smith could be of interest as a band-aid type quarterback. A more interesting scenario could involve Ryan Fitzpatrick. You wonder if the Bills might cut him so they could pursue...Michael Vick. The Bills have had interest in Vick before. Fitzpatrick would be a band-aid type.
Maybe the most interesting scenario would involve Kevin Kolb. If the Cardinals do let him go, you wonder if the Eagles would call him. Kolb loved his time in Philly and desperately wants to play. He'd be happy in Phoenix or Philly. He just wants to be put on the field.
The Eagles don't need a long term solution immediately. It would be great to have one, but the team can get by for a year until they do find a player to commit to. You don't know which players might emerge for the 2014 draft. You could also have a player on some other NFL team show that he's ready to start and get offered up as trade bait.
It would make things a whole lot simpler if Foles was able to get on the field this year and then he played at a high level. There are no guarantees the situation would work perfectly in the future, but you would be comfortable with making the move for now.
No matter what happens, the Eagles do need to find a long term answer at quarterback. Maybe Dallas will put Tony Romo on the market. How would Eagles fans feel if suddenly that Gomer Pyle smile was wearing a green jersey? I'm not sure my brain can actually process such a thought. Let's hope Foles turns out to be the answer.
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So what did Foles do this summer to impress? First, he looked the part. Some young guys get on the field and look lost. We saw a bit of that from Mike Kafka. Foles showed the physical skills to play in the NFL. I remember watching Andy Hall years ago and he was awful. Foles passes the simplest tests.
Foles impressed me with how smart he played. He read defenses well. He anticipated the blitz. He made good decisions. Foles was accurate with his passes. He put the ball in front of receivers so they weren't slowing down or reaching back for it. Foles also went high or low with it, depending on what was best for that particular play.
I thought Foles moved pretty well in the pocket. He showed the ability to throw on the move. He ran two times for 24 yards so that was decent for a guy who isn't known for his speed or agility.
The biggest issue I saw with Foles was deep balls. He under-threw receivers on a handful of deep balls. A couple of them were still caught, so they were somewhat on target. The problem is that players did have to stop or slow down to adjust to the ball. Make receivers do that against starting defensive players and you're going to have batted passes or interceptions. Foles has a strong enough arm to throw the ball out wide or on intermediate routes. He just didn't do a good job of putting it 30 to 40 yards downfield. Part of that is footwork and needing to stride into his throws. I think chemistry with the receivers was also an issue. You need to know how fast they are so that you get the ball out in front of them.
I do think Foles can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but I'd really like to see him play this year so that opinion can be less of a guess and more of a projection.