Michael Vick: 4-for-7, 11 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 62.2 rating (12 offensive plays).
Nick Foles: 24-of-38, 361 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 118.4 rating (roughly an entire game played overall).
Obviously, these numbers are a bit deceiving. Vick’s 12 plays of offense were stunted not by poor play, but a pair of injuries (jamming a throwing finger in one game; a helmet shot to the ribcage the next).
Foles’ impressive statistics come from having played a good chunk of action against Pittsburgh’s taxi squad (against whom he threw two homing-missile touchdown passes to Damaris Johnson and Mardy Gilyard), as well as a horde of Patriots’ backups. It’s not as if his success against the Steelers came with Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Ike Taylor patrolling the outfield.
On Friday night, with Vick resting his bruised ribs, Foles will get a chance to play a Cleveland Browns starting defense that includes pass rusher Jabaal Sheard, expert press-corner Joe Haden, and multi-threat commander D’Qwell Jackson.
Vick is in the midst of a six-year, $100M contract, one that Philadelphia can cleanly break after this season, the second year of the deal. For the Eagles and Andy Reid to want to do that, they would have to know that they have a sure thing at quarterback to replace the elusive star.
Preseason “may not matter” in the eyes of fans interested only in games where wins and losses have merit, but for Foles, starting the next two games means everything.
At the start of August, the Arizona alum was tucked in as the No. 3 quarterback on Philly’s depth chart. After poor play from third-year backup Mike Kafka in the Pittsburgh game, as well as a fracture to his hand sustained in practice, Foles leapfrogged Kafka, and likely won’t be flip-flopping with him again.
With the fervor created by Foles’ calm, instinctive play, punctuated by his powerful throws, Vick could be another rib injury, or any injury, away from X-Raying himself out of an Eagles jersey for good.
Of course, this is putting the cart before the horse. Foles, for all we know, could go 3-for-18 on Friday night, tossing a pair of pick sixes along the way. That doesn’t seem likely; instead the smart money would say the range’s median would be “solid, with flashes of brilliance, but spots needing polish.”
Hey, he’s a 23-year-old rookie; growing pains are inevitable, and there’s still work to be done before you can really anoint him as the next-great-quarterback.
But if Vick goes down again in 2012, it won’t be Kafka that Reid turns to. Eagles fans are lighting up social media with heaping praise for Foles’ output, and with every opportunity that he gets to play against starters, he’s only going to sand off the rough edges, and boost his confidence. The longer Vick sits, the more the quarterback-seesaw elevates Foles to the max.
Maybe it’d be good for Philadelphia to let Vick’s feet embed into the sand, in that sense. In recent years, there have been a share of surprise substitutions around the league that have yielded favorable results.
In 1999, Dick Vermeil stuck with the unknown Kurt Warner after Marc Bulger blew his knee out. The result? St. Louis’ only Super Bowl.
Two years later, Brian Griese’s former mop-up mate, Tom Brady, took over the pilot’s chair in New England from perennial starter Drew Bledsoe, and Brady landed the plane successfully three times in the form of world championships.
As far as rookies go, Ben Roethlisberger stepped in for one-hit-wonder Tommy Maddox for the Steelers in 2004, went 13-0 in the regular season, and were stopped just short of a Super Bowl bid.
A year later, they were world champions after going 4-0 in the playoffs on the road. Big Ben would have started eventually, but to be champion at age 23 speaks favorably toward yielding to the youth movement.
So it’s not laughable in the least to take an endorsement-heavy, world-renowned, polarizingly-iconic quarterback in Vick, and benching him in favor of The New Kid, who just might be a better quarterback when the dust settles.
The Reid era Eagles have been relatively controversy-free at quarterback since Big Red took the coaching reins. For eleven seasons, it was almost always all-Donovan McNabb, all-the-time, save for some hiccups involving Jeff Garcia and Kevin Kolb. The Eagles even avoided a controversy in 2010, as the team shipped McNabb to the Redskins, and gave Kolb the starting job outright.
Once Kolb went down with a head injury in Week 1, Vick stepped in, and virtually nobody argued with the results. Vick beat the Lions a week later, then obliterated the Jaguars, solidifying his job, outside of two missed games with a rib injury -- sound familiar?
In other words, when controversy reared its ugly head, it died off rather quickly.
In fact, last year, Vick missed three games with yet another rib injury, and the play of backup Vince Young was so lousy, fans were thrilled to see No. 7 back behind center come winter’s chill.
But now, the question lies with whether or not the next true starter for the Eagles is currently holding a play-chart.
McNabb started for almost eleven full seasons without anyone knocking him off the peak permanently. Kolb did, but was quickly cast off as a false savior. Vick usurped Kolb’s spot, but has been a dichotomy of brilliant and inconsistent. Fortunately for him, those seeking his place (Kafka, Young) proved far to futile to wear the crown.
As for Foles, we don’t know. In football, decisions have to be made with a cross of fact and faith. It’s a fact that Foles has looked good in two preseason games, but it’s faith that he could do more with the Eagles right now than Vick. Maybe he could, and maybe he couldn’t.
Regardless, with two preseason games left to shape his case, Nick Foles may only serve to stoke the fire of Philadelphia’s hottest quarterback controversy in a number of years.