Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's not often a first-place team has
to deal with a quarterback controversy, but then again most clubs atop their
divisions aren't playing .500 football like the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles have taken advantage of a soft spot in their schedule to win back-
to-back games and find themselves tied atop the NFC Least ... err East ... with
the Dallas Cowboys as a Week 7 showdown between the two clubs looms in the
Cradle of Liberty.
When evaluating the Birds the glass-is-half-full people will point out that
you can only play who is in front of you and laud Philadelphia for taking care
of business against the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those
who think that same glass is half empty will point to the fact those two teams
are a combined 0-11 right now.
Either way Chip Kelly has his team in the thick of the playoff hunt and now
needs to decide how to handle the game's most important position moving
The 33-year-old Michael Vick clearly won the spot in the preseason over
second-year man Nick Foles, but developments in Florida could be spawning
Foles filled in for the injured Vick, who did not play due to a hamstring
injury suffered a week earlier, and threw three touchdown passes while
running for another in a 31-20 Eagles' victory over the Bucs on Sunday.
The Arizona product completed 22-of-31 passes for 296 yards and a passer
rating of 133.3 in just his seventh career NFL start. Ironically, Foles' only
other victory as a headliner came last December in Central Florida.
Many (mistakenly) assume Kelly's offensive philosophy is wholly dependent on
a movement-based signal caller and while it's true the former Oregon mentor
would like to have a Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick type piloting his
offense, the real key to his heart is quick decision-making, something which
could foreshadow Vick's eventual demise and the ultimate winner of this QB
"I think the game is about making quick decisions," Kelly told The Sports
Network this summer. "It's a game of 60 to 70 to 80 four-second plays. So once
the ball is snapped, it happens at that tempo. We're just trying to force them
to -- everything we do has to kind of be -- reflect what the mission is, and
the mission is to be prepared to play a four-second play."
Even at 33, Vick has the athleticism to whet Kelly's appetite but not those
kind of decision-making skills. The strength of Vick's game has always been
all about extending plays with his legs and making things happen down the
field when defenses break down and it turns into the sandlot. Foles, on the
other hand, is lead-footed but flashes the potential to develop into a sharp
decision-maker who gets rid of the football with alacrity.
Kelly has been able to move the ball with each quarterback. On Sunday, the
Eagles became just the second team in NFL history to rack up at least 1,500
passing and 1,050 rushing yards through six games, joining the 1954 Rams. The
club also became just the fourth team in NFL lore (and the second this season
with Denver) to pile up at least 400 yards in their first six tests.
However, Philadelphia has been far more productive putting up points with
Foles. In about six quarters of action this season, the youngster has
accounted for seven TDs and no turnovers. In 4 1/2 games, Vick has led
Philadelphia to the same amount of TDs but turned it over four times.
You also can make a strong argument that Foles has faced tougher competition
than Vick. In total defense entering Week 6, the Giants were 24th, but Tampa
Bay was No. 13 with one of the NFC's most talented secondaries. And Foles put
up better numbers against Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson and Co. than elite
signal callers like Drew Brees and Tom Brady have done in 2013.
Vick, meanwhile, started and finished against one good defense -- Kansas City
(No. 7) -- and three awful ones -- Washington (No. 32), San Diego (No. 27) and
Denver (No. 29).
To me, though, the two things that trend toward Foles in this competition are
his ability to better handle Kelly's up-tempo needs and Riley Cooper.
Entering Sunday's game, the embattled Cooper had the fewest number of
receptions among all NFL wide receivers who had started five games with eight.
The next lowest total was Indianapolis' Darius Heyward-Bey with 13. Against
the Bucs, Cooper looked like a star, hauling in four passes for 120 yards and
a score with two of his receptions going for 40-plus yards.
The very definition of a good quarterback is having the ability to make those
around you better and Nick Foles did that on Sunday with a very pedestrian
Kelly always knew he was going to need Foles at some point. The oft-injured
Vick has played in all 16 games just once in his NFL career. That said, like
any coach, Kelly didn't want the distraction of a potential QB change
engulfing him or his team.
"If someone comes in and puts on an unbelievable performance, you have to take
it into account," Kelly said last week when discussing the QB situation. "I
suppose if Foles is 100-for-100 with 27 TDs (in Tampa), then, yeah (he could
win the job.)"
It was a deft way to handle things.
Kelly made sure to back his starter but also left the door ajar for Foles,
albeit very slightly.
In coach speak that 100-for-100 with 27 TDs could very well equate to the 296
yards and three scores Foles did throw for with Vick's balky hamstring serving
as the excuse for Kelly riding the hot hand.
"Not at all. It's the game of football," Vick said when asked whether he is
concerned about his job. "Nick's a great player. He's a great football player.
He does exactly what he needs to do when he goes out on the field. That's not
something I'm gonna worry about. I'm gonna worry about getting healthy."
That indicates Vick, who has proven to be quite a leader this season, has
bought in for now.
"Right now, (I'm) still working to get back to it -- get to 100 percent, you
know," Vick told CSNPhilly.com. "So it's going to be a long road."
That long road could be one week or the rest of the season.
If Foles falters against the Cowboys next week, Kelly can turn back to Vick
and act like nothing ever happened. But, if Foles excels again, the Eagles
will have a new starting QB.
"We'll evaluate everything," a coy Kelly said. "We'll go back and watch the
film, see what (Foles) did, see where we are, see where Mike is."
The Sports Network