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Why you can judge Vick on Foles' performance

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 09:21 AM

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Why you can judge Vick on Foles' performance

Rich Hofmann, Daily News Sports Columnist
Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012, 1:06 AM


IN SOME WAYS, Michael Vick's future in the National Football League is in the hands of his rookie replacement, Nick Foles. Odd, that.

Unless the Eagles are about to violate their concussion protocol, and don't bet on that, Vick will not be playing this Sunday against the Washington Redskins. After that, win or lose, it would seem unlikely that Vick will be rushing back from a concussion that has him still suffering at least some headache symptoms 3 days after the fact.

If you had to bet, you would bet that the Eagles are going to stick with Foles the rest of the way - and that Vick will have played his last game as the team's starting quarterback. After the season, the Eagles could decide to release Vick, trade him or keep him as the backup - and, again, if you had to bet, it would be on a release.

So what would Vick's value be on the open market? Again, the answer might be provided by how well Foles functions in the next seven games. If that seems counterintuitive, stick with me for a second.

We are about to witness a radically different approach to quarterbacking the Eagles. We saw it the first time in 2010, when Kevin Kolb and Vick traded the job back and forth because of injuries. Now, it will be Vick and Foles. Put simply, both Kolb and Foles were/are guided by a simple notion: Make a quick assessment of what the defense is presenting and get the ball out. Vick, by comparison, wanted to hold the ball more often and try to find a play downfield.

Again, that is an over-simplification. But it speaks to a fundamentally different way of looking at the position. The Vick-Kolb comparison from 2010 was very instructive. When Kolb played, on a per-play basis, he was hit about half as often as Vick was during the same season. But, at the same time, the offense was much more dynamic when Vick played that year.

Back then, Vick was making a conscious calculation: to hold the ball longer and to endure more punishment in exchange for more big plays and more points. Everyone wondered about the long-term, but it was a short-term success and it was undeniable. But as defenses adjusted - and, maybe, as the accumulation of physical punishment took its toll - Vick's decision made less sense. As time went on - even as Vick kind of sneered at the notion of being "efficient" as recently as 2 weeks ago - it was more risk and less reward.

Foles watched all of this from the sidelines this season. His takeaway, about Vick, was that, "The guy's a tough dude, one of the toughest I've ever seen . . . He fights. He gets up. I respect him for that."

Now, Vick is concussed. If he finds himself looking for work after the season, Vick's argument will go like this: The Eagles' offensive line, missing four of its regular starters, was such a disaster that nobody could have functioned behind it. A lot of people buy that argument, too, because there is a lot of truth in it. The line has been bad.

But here is the thing:

What if Foles can function?

This is not to say that he is going to save the Eagles' season, because he almost certainly is not. This also is not to say that he is going to be mistake-free, because Foles is a rookie and rookies are rarely low-mistake guys.

But this was a plodding offense this season under Vick, an offense that struggled in the red zone and completely lacked dynamism - oh, and Vick was getting clobbered on a weekly basis. What if Foles can get the ball out, throw for a high completion percentage with more short and medium passes, function at a reasonable rate for a rookie thrown in at midseason and not get hit as often as Vick?

How will the NFL view Vick's season then?

Speaking after practice on Wednesday, Foles talked about his philosophy, a little. He said the words, "Just play within myself . . . Just stay within the offense." You get the idea.

But we already have a small sample of data, courtesy of ProFootballFocus. This season, Vick averaged holding the ball 3.10 seconds before throwing, second highest in the NFL (after being the highest in 2011; God bless Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson). In his first game, Foles held it 2.74 seconds, a much more conventional number. Vick was under pressure 42.9 percent of the time this season. Foles, in that one game, 32.4 percent - and with much better accuracy.

Again, small sample. Just know that the template for judging Michael Vick's 2012 season is only starting to be developed.


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