In Philadelphia, where the backup quarterback is almost always the most popular man in town, the Eagles are beginning to feel pressure from fans and even the media to consider making a change under center.
Michael Vick has fumbled a ridiculous eight times in five games, losing five of them. Combine that with his six interceptions, and Vick has single-handedly turned the ball over more often than 25 of the league's 32 teams.
Does that mean the Eagles should give rookie backup Nick Foles a shot? For what it's worth, Foles had a lights-out preseason, showing tremendous pocket presence while delivering missiles on a consistent basis—albeit primarily against second- and third-team defenses.
Sunday in Pittsburgh, for the first time this season, Vick's fumbling issue directly cost the Eagles a game. Afterwards, he admitted he didn't have an explanation for his poor ball security, suggesting instead that "everything happens for a reason" (via csnphilly.com).
I'm more concerned with the fact that there's no obvious solution than I am with Vick's perceived attitude regarding the issue at hand.
I agree with ESPN's Dan Graziano. Vick's nonchalant reaction in the wake of the latest mess doesn't mean he lacks heart or passion. He bravely battles through injuries that would keep most men in bed. Instead, I believe that the veteran quarterback simply lacks the ability to explain what's happening. Either that, or he doesn't care to do so.
This isn't a straightforward fix. It's easier for running backs to cure fumbling issues because 100 percent of their runs are deliberate and designed. Like golfers, they can remind themselves what they need to do prior to each rushing snap. Scrambling quarterbacks don't have that luxury, and there's a lot less structure and a lot more chaos when they're running with the ball.
I'm not suggesting Vick can't make an effort to become more conscious of his surroundings, and I believe he's smart enough to recognize that. But that alone isn't the only factor. I just think he doesn't have the patience or the humility to get into the specifics with the media in the aftermath of disastrous games like the one that took place Sunday.
Vick has fumbled 29 times in 30 games as an Eagle and 84 times in 97 career starts, so I can guarantee you the problem won't disappear, even if he does correct some things from a mechanical perspective.
The question is how much less Foles would turn the ball over (if at all) and if that would be worth sacrificing Vick's experience, his toughness and his ability to change games with his legs.
The Eagles are talented enough defensively and elsewhere offensively to win without a stud at quarterback. But are they good enough to become the first team in NFL history to make or win the Super Bowl with a rookie starting at quarterback?
Consider, too, the role the depleted Philadelphia offensive line is playing here. Fill-ins Demetress Bell and Dallas Reynolds have been assaulted thus far, and Danny Watkins has struggled in his second season. Even veteran pillar Todd Herremans has lacked consistency at right tackle. Only Arizona's dreadful line has surrendered more pressure thus far in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.
While it would be fun to see what Foles would be able to do in regular-season action, it's too risky to make the change while Vick is healthy and while the line is in shambles.
This sounds terrible, but a seemingly inevitable Vick injury could turn into a blessing in disguise if Foles comes through. In this league, nothing would surprise me. But those who look at Foles' preseason performances and conclude that he won't have growing pains are kidding themselves.
In what's shaping up to be a tight divisional race, teams can't afford growing pains at quarterback. The Eagles can survive without an All-Pro under center, which is why it's frustrating to see Vick shoot himself in the foot with no quality replacements on the depth chart.
Unless the injury gods force Andy Reid's hand, he has to continue to roll the dice with the quarterback the team's paying handsomely to help lead them to their first-ever championship. That might not happen, but Vick's still the best chance they've got.