In Philadelphia's Quarterback Mess, Nick Foles Is Still the Better Option

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 22, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 20:   Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles scrambles as Justin Durant #52 of the Dallas Cowboys defends on October 20, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

One day, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to experience the luxury of not having to anguish over their quarterback situation. But it's becoming apparent that we're still far removed from that day, because the weekly quarterback debate is only growing stronger in the City of Brotherly Love. 

Michael Vick is the gifted one, but he's injury-prone and mistake-prone. Oh, and he's 33 years old. The best option for right now? Maybe. The best option for the long-term future? Probably not.

Nick Foles is the strong-armed pocket passer, but he's had some astonishingly bad moments and is coming off of the worst performance of his two-year career. It's not a good sign that the 24-year-old fell flat on his face right when he had a chance to establish himself as a cemented starter Sunday against Dallas.

Matt Barkley is the rookie with a big-time college resume, but his interception-riddled performance in relief of Foles late Sunday indicates he's far from ready. In fact, there's a chance he'll never be ready.

Vick has a bad hamstring, Foles has a concussion and Barkley has severe incompetence, leaving Chip Kelly scrambling in his first year as the Eagles head coach. 

Word has emerged, via's Phil Sheridan among others, that Vick is expected to return to the starting role Sunday when the Eagles host the Giants. But if both Vick and Foles are healthy enough to play, that would be a mistake. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

The Eagles are clinging to playoff hopes, which is understandable considering that Kelly certainly wants to make a statement in his first season. At 3-4, they're only a game out of the division lead. But they seem to stubbornly believe Vick has a better chance to get them there, and I'm not convinced that's true.

Don't get me wrong: Foles was a special kind of terrible against the Cowboys. He took a pretty hard sack on the second play from scrimmage and was flushed out aggressively two plays after that, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty. From that point forward, he simply seemed flustered and uncomfortable in the pocket.

As a result, he completed just 11 of 29 passes, which to that point gave him the lowest single-game completion percentage (37.9) of the 2013 season (Josh Freeman actually "trumped" him in that area Monday night). Only two of those 18 incomplete passes were dropped, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which resulted in Foles receiving the league's second-lowest accuracy rate of the week (again, ahead of only Freeman). 

Twelve of the remaining 16 incomplete passes were simply over- or underthrown, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and he was 0-of-8 on passes that traveled 15 yards or more. Amazingly, ESPN S&I also notes that Foles entered Sunday's game with the highest completion percent in the league on such passes. 

So it doesn't matter if the Cowboys were good in coverage or not, because Foles was just missing his targets. There's simply no excuse for those numbers. There's no excuse for these decisions and/or throws...

9:40 of the first quarter

Not only does he overthrow tight end Zach Ertz despite a lack of actual pressure on a very short pass, but he also fails to see a wide-open LeSean McCoy on the left side.

The strange thing is he appears to be looking right at McCoy early in the play. It just felt as though he was frazzled and wasn't seeing the field well at all.

7:14 of the second quarter

Again, he fails to see a wide-open DeSean Jackson down the right sideline, instead forcing a throw into a well-covered Jason Avant.

2:50 of the second quarter

With absolutely no pressure, he fails to hit a wide-open Brent Celek for what would have been a big gain. 

That could have really sparked the Eagles in a then-3-0 game.

2:39 of the second quarter

Still not quite sure who this was intended for...

2:00 of the second quarter

The Cowboys kept bailing the Eagles out with penalties, giving Foles several extra opportunities. But he couldn't keep this drive going with a first down because he threw it well behind a wide-open Avant.

7:47 of the third quarter

Still a 10-point game. He has an extremely wide-open Jeff Maehl, but the throw is behind him as well.

2:14 of the third quarter

He has Avant wide open in the end zone but once again underthrows it.

A few plays later, he was concussed on a sack. That never would have happened had he thrown a half-decent pass to Avant there.

So yes, it was bad. But Vick hasn't been much better. In fact, on the season, he's still been much worse. 

Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles, 2013
Completion %53.857.8
Touchdown %3.86.7
Interception %1.50.0
Sack %9.65.3
Passer rating90.6101.2
PFF rating3.9-3.8
Accuracy % under pressure46.766.7
Time to throw3.062.78
Deep passing accuracy %47.638.5
Rushing yards/game61.45.6
Pro Football Reference/Focus

I fear Kelly's ego is impacting this saga.

He had a hand in keeping Vick in Philly at a point in which the majority of us thought he was as good as gone, and he chose him to be the centerpiece of that world-famous uptempo offense from day one. Keeping Vick on the bench while healthy would be an admission of an error of judgement regarding the first major decision he made at the NFL level. 

The reality is that we already know what Vick brings to the table, while Foles is still essentially a rookie. 

That's the strange thing about the way we compare these quarterbacks. We almost forget how young and inexperienced Foles is. In NFL terms, he's still supposed to grow quite a lot. Keep in mind that he has started only eight games in his NFL career. An 85.7 passer rating and a 12-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't shabby eight starts (and 12 appearances) into your career, especially if you're merely a third-round pick. 

We're also talking about a guy who was the bloody NFC Offensive Player of the Week only nine days ago, but impatience and amnesia plague the pro football world, especially in Philly.

By sticking with Vick and preventing Foles from growing from tough experiences like the one he just had, the Eagles are in quarterback purgatory. There's a strong chance this team's next true franchise quarterback isn't on the roster, but the present difference between Vick and Foles isn't large enough to justify a deliberate decision to delay Foles' growth. 

If none of the quarterbacks on the roster are trustworthy, isn't the best option the one with the highest ceiling?