Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles: Who Should Be Eagles' Starting QB?

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Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles: Who Should Be Eagles' Starting QB?
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

A true quarterback competition between veteran Michael Vick and 2012 draft pick Nick Foles is likely in the cards for Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason.

Instead of shipping the overpriced Vick out of town and rolling with Foles or a draft pick, the Eagles restructured Vick's contract Monday. The two sides agreed on a one-year deal that can pay up to $10 million based on incentives, according to Pro Football Talk. 

While the Eagles could still spend a draft pick on a quarterback or sign Dennis Dixon—a former Kelly quarterback at Oregon—it appears increasingly more likely that Vick and Foles will battle for the first opportunity at running Kelly's breakneck offense in 2013.

Kelly said as much Monday, via Pro Football Talk:

There’s open competition. Michael knows that. Nick knows that. Nick knew every step of the way what we were doing. I specifically wanted to make sure Nick was included in the plans. I think both of them have outstanding qualities as far as being quarterbacks in this league. Both of them have started in this league. I also know in this league, you better have two. I’m excited about the two of them. They’re both going to compete. Who the starting quarterback is will be won on the practice field.

 

The Eagles are now in much more favorable position with their quarterbacks. Talent and competition will decide who plays and who doesn't, not money. Before Vick's restructuring, such a scenario probably wasn't possible with Vick still on the roster. 

With the playing field somewhat level—keep in mind, the Eagles still paid Vick $3.5 million in guaranteed money—it's worth discussing who should be the front-runner to start for Philadelphia at quarterback next season. 

While the winner of this competition may start for the Eagles for one year only (if Kelly truly liked either, then why restructure Vick's deal for one year, or why not go with just Foles and dump Vick?), we can find the better fit for 2013 by further dissecting the two quarterbacks. 

 

Accuracy

At this stage in their respective careers, neither quarterback can claim to be exceptionally accurate with the football.

Vick connected on just 58.1 percent of his passes in 2012, a three-year low. His career completion percentage, however, is just 56.8, far lower than what it is expected out of the modern game's top quarterbacks. 

Vick's 2012 season, via Pro Football Focus.

Foles finished his rookie season at a respectable 60.8, but that pales in comparison to the 68.5 percent Kelly got out of freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota at Oregon in 2012. Also, Foles' "accuracy percentage," as Pro Football Focus defines it, was only a tick better than Vick.

Foles' 2012 season, via Pro Football Focus.

According to PFF, when accounting for throwaways, spikes, batted balls and passes while being hit, Foles' percentage was 71.8—or tied with Carson Palmer for 20th best in the NFL. Vick came in at 71.2, 22nd best.

Accuracy isn't likely to be a deal breaker for either quarterback, but it's also doubtful the attribute will win the job for Vick or Foles. Neither are likely to be precision passers for Kelly in 2013.

 

Decision-Making

Here's where Foles could really make it difficult on Vick winning the job. 

Over the last two seasons, Vick has an almost unfathomable 38 turnovers—the most by a quarterback over that time span. His 32 fumbles over the last three seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information, are the second most only to Mark Sanchez:

But the real worry with Vick in Kelly's offense comes from his inability to make quick decisions, which is absolutely essential to what Kelly demands in a quarterback. According to PFF, five of Vick's 28 sacks were pinned on the quarterback instead of the offensive line. He also had the second-longest average delivery time at 3.07 seconds. 

Translation: Vick struggles getting the ball out of his hand quickly, often times relying on his athleticism to make plays with his feet after the original play breaks down. While that ability is still valuable, it doesn't mesh with the kind of offense Kelly wants to play. 

Foles, despite entering just his second season, is likely the better decision-maker of the two. 

He's also a faster processor with the football in his hands, and it's reasonable to expect that to continue under Kelly. According to PFF, Foles needed just 2.83 seconds on average from snap to attempt last season—still high, but on par with the likes of other pocket passers. 

Foles did have six turnovers, but his interception percentage (1.9) and fumbles (three, lost one) were nowhere near the numbers Vick posted in 2012.

 

Mobility

Athletic ability continues to be overvalued in this race. While the ability for a quarterback to run the read-option offense and make plays with his feet were a part of the Kelly offense at Oregon, it doesn't exactly rule out the slow-footed Foles from this competition. 

That said, Vick has the clear edge here. 

While not the same electric, transcendent athlete he was five years ago, Vick can still evade pressure and use his legs to put his own kind of pressure on opposing defenses. Over the last three seasons, Vick has rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 11 touchdowns, and there's no question that he has the ability to run the read-option (although his health would be a serious question). 

Foles is likely nearly the bottom of NFL quarterbacks in terms of athleticism. He's not a threat to run the football, and stepping up and away from pressure is all he really offers in terms of breaking containment. 

 

Overall

Over three important quarterbacking categories, Foles has a slight edge in one (accuracy), a large edge in another (decision-making) and a large deficit in one (mobility). 

Factor in the importance of the three categories, and you could make a reasonable case for either Foles or Vick to be the Eagles' starting quarterback to begin 2013. 

Other factors to consider:

  • Age: Foles is entering his second year, and is likely to improve upon his already starter-worthy skill set. Vick is 33, slowing down physically and breaking down health-wise. However, Vick's age might be an incentive, as this could be his last chance to prove he belongs as an NFL starter.
  • Change because of change: Don't rule out how a change in culture in Philadelphia could rejuvenate Vick. He's already stated he thinks he can run for 1,000 yards again (unlikely), and there's no reason for Vick not to be excited about Kelly's arrival. If Andy Reid were still in Philadelphia, this might be a different story.
  • Health: It is very easy to wonder how Vick will last even four preseason games in Kelly's offense, much less 16 regular season games. He's been fragile over the last few years, and that could hurt his chances of winning this job outright by next September. 

 

Conclusion

USA TODAY Sports

This will certainly be an unpopular verdict, but I do think Nick Foles will be the Eagles starter come opening day 2013. 

While Vick is clearly the superior athlete, his inability to make quick decisions and take care of the football are huge negatives that cannot be overlooked. Starting Foles will limit Kelly in what he wants to do in the run game, but he's the smarter decision in terms of going with a pure passer, and that reality should rule the day. 

Kelly certainly did the right thing in restructuring Vick's deal and bringing him back to compete for the starting job. But Foles, a third-round pick in 2012, who outplayed Vick last season, will beat him out this summer.

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