By Justin Henry (@JRHWriting)
President Cold, Hard Football Facts Bobby Hoying Fan Club
Michael Vick survived over a year and a half at Leavenworth Prison, serving time for his role in the infamous "Bad Newz Kennels" dog fighting ring. Any prison of any renown or size is an environment where surviving even a day takes patience, and the will to persevere.
Whatever mental occupation, specifically patience, Vick needed as a defense mechanism to endure that sterile grind hasn't carried over to his current status, competing for a starting quarterback job.
Back in early June, the 12-year veteran couldn't bite his tongue before openly wishing Chip Kelly would name the starting quarterback prior to training camp. Sharing reps with second-year quarterback Nick Foles as both learn Kelly's custom-built system appeared to take its toll on Vick's psyche.
Unfortunately for Vick, Kelly's content to wait up until Week One if need be. But Vick, 33 and coming off three injury-shortened seasons, doesn't want to be a backup if it comes to that.
If he's indeed finishing second to Foles (which some in the Philly media, including Phil Sheridan, believe is the case), he'd want to play elsewhere. If Kelly waits until the end of August to decide, that's less time for Vick to find a new home.
And if Vick was confident that he was winning the competition, he'd probably seal his lips and let everything fall into place.
Then again, as these Cold, Hard Football Facts will show, he has a reason to be less than confident.
It's not enough that he's 33 and trying to learn a new system (compared to 24-year-old Foles), but the 2012 performances of both men give the taller, more durable Foles a numerical edge.
In 2012, Vick Generally Had a Better Roster to Work With than Foles
The Philadelphia Eagles two most dynamic playmakers of the past few seasons have been running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
McCoy's averaged 1076 yards on the ground over the last three seasons. His 2011 season was enough to open premature Canton discussions, as he scored 20 times, with 17 touchdowns coming on the ground.
While Jackson's touchdown totals have diminished, there are few receivers better at getting his team down the field. Through blazing speed, Jackson's averaged no less than 15.6 yards per reception over the past four seasons, peaking in 2010 with a league-best 22.5 average on 47 receptions.
Jackson's numbers in 2010 were startling here in the era of the dink-and-dunk, high effiicency passing game. He's the only player of the past 21 seasons with 40+ catches 22.0+ yards per catch.
In the 6.75 games that Foles played, he was robbed of Jackson and McCoy for four games apiece.
Vick was a bit luckier, never playing without "Shady" in 2012, and playing only the finale vs. the Giants without Jackson.
The offensive line, of course, hurt both men. Neither had Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters, who ruptured his Achilles in a preseason freak accident. Steadily-improving center Jason Kelce was lost in Week Two with a torn ACL.
For much of the year, Vick had right tackle Todd Herremans protecting his blind side (Vick is left handed), and Evan Mathis supporting him at left guard. They were the only competent members of the line remaining. Right guard was first-round bust Danny Watkins, center was pererennial backup Dallas Reynolds, and left tackle was a revolving door of awfulness between King Dunlap and Demetress Bell.
By the time Foles came in, Herremans was now out for the year with a foot injury. His blindside, as a righty, was the Dunlap/Bell combo platter (splatter?). Watkins was sidelined/benched, so the right side was now veteran pickup Jake Scott at guard, and inexperienced rookie Dennis Kelly at tackle.
Reynolds remained at center, and Mathis did the work of three men at left guard. It's to his credit that Vick and Foles weren't sacked on every single play, and for that, Mathis deserved MVP consideration (that's my homer side talking).
Point being: when you read the forthcoming stats, remember that Vick had a better offense around him, his scrambling abilities to escape the rush (far moreso than Foles), and more experience in one finger than Foles had in his entire body.
And yet, Foles still outperformed him.
Foles Was Better in First Quarters than Vick in 2012
Stating the obvious here, a team never wants to fall behind early in the game. Thus it's imperative to score early and often, effectively making the other team play with more desperation and urgency.
To that end, if the quarterback has a lousy first quarter, he's endangering his team's chances at victory. If he doesn't have the clutch late-game heroics of Montana or Elway, needless losses will pile up.
Here's a look at how Vick and Foles fared during the first 15 minutes of each game on the 2012 schedule.
|Vick's 1st Quarters||Comp/Att||Yds||TD||INT|
|New York Giants||5/9||72||0||0|
|New York Giants||4/8||57||0||1|
|Foles' 1st Quarters||Comp/Att||Yds||TD||INT|
Neither was particularly great, but Vick's four interceptions were worse than Foles' two. Both of Foles' came against the Redskins in his first start, so call it rookie jitters if you wish.
Vick is also responsible for three first-quarter fumbles: two vs. the Steelers (one as foolishly dove head first near the goal line), and an aborted snap against the Lions. You can make it four, if you count an early second quarter fumble against the Cardinals (the drive began in the first quarter).
So Vick is accountable for eight first-quarter turnovers across 10 games played. Foles, meanwhile, has three first quarter turnovers (a fumble took place in the second Redskins game).
And remember, despite having a worse blindside than Vick, as well as no Herremans to protect his sight side, Foles had a better completion percentage (62.7 to 62.0), a better QB rating (75.0 to 67.0), and five less turnovers.
Foles Was More Capable of Getting First Half Points
How is it possible that, in 10 first halves, Vick could only lead the offense into scoring 10+ points once, whereas Foles was able to do it five out of a possible six times?
The numbers don't lie
|Vick's Opponent||Halftime Score|
|New York Giants||7-3|
|New York Giants||7-35|
|Foles' Opponent||Halftime Score|
Neither Vick or Foles had a quality defense to back them up (things got worse after Juan Castillo was ousted in favor of poor, in-over-his-head Todd Bowles), so it's hard to place losses squarely at their feet. But Foles did more to get his team in position to at least contend for the win.
The Eagles averaged just 5.5 points-per-first half under Vick. Even if you counted Foles going scoreless in relief of Vick during the first Dallas game, they still averaged 9.7 points-per-first half. If you don't hold Dallas against him, the average rises to 11.3.
Due to Foles turning the ball over less, the opponents' scores diminished slightly. Against Vick, opponents scored 15.3 points in the first half. Against Foles, it drops to 10.7.
The Eagles Scored More Points Per Game with Foles than Vick
This one speaks for itself
|Vick's Opponent||Eagles' Score|
|New York Giants||19|
|New York Giants||7|
|Foles' Opponents||Eagles' Score|
In the second Dallas game, the Eagles scored 33 points, but one touchdown is credited to Damaris Johnson on a punt return, so that's removed from Foles' contributions. No defensive touchdowns were scored all season (Philly's first year without a pick-six since 2007). Vick and Foles split the first Dallas game, with Vick getting his first quarter touchdown to Riley Cooper, and Foles getting the rest.
But the difference is clear. The Eagles had the fourth lowest points scored (280); had Vick started all year with his 15.89 PPG average, they would have scored just 254.2, and fallen behind Jacksonville to become third worst.
Had Foles played sixteen games and maintained the 18.67 average, they'd average 299 for the year, and climb to a tie for eighth worst with St. Louis.
Hey, better is better. With a healthy offensive line, both would surely have played better, but remember: The less-nimble Foles' blindside was wretched compared to the elusive Vick's blindside. And yet, Foles is outclassing him.
Foles Was More Successful in the Red Zone than Vick
And now the stat that matters most: with the end zone in sight, when it's time to make the donuts, who comes through?
For purposes of this last chart, 'turnovers' also include missed field goals, turnovers on down, and any other instances where the team didn't score.
|Red Zone Trips||31||22|
|Field Goal %||32.3%||40.9%|
Of the nine turnovers under Vick's watch, five were directly his fault: three lost fumbles and two interceptions.
A pair of those turnovers went for touchdowns. On the fumble, which was against Arizona, he didn't even see blitzing safety Kerry Rhodes, who nearly broke him in half on the hit.
The pick-six was against New Orleans, and it rubbed extra salt into the Eagles' 'can't do anything right' wound. The 99-yard interception return by Patrick Robinson saw Vick get flagged fifteen yards for a low block when trying to make a reactionary tackle.
Meanwhile, of the three flubs under Foles, one gets tagged on him: a lost fumble against the Redskins in their second meeting, following a Ryan Kerrigan sack. And technically, the play began at the 28-yard line, but Foles was sacked by Perry Riley on the previous play for an eight-yard loss.
It's no wonder Foles was able to up the Eagles' scoring average: he was more trustworthy when a scoring chance was nigh.
And so there it is: Foles was a little better at starting the game than Vick. He could accumulate more points before halftime, lead more consistent scoring drives, and come away with points when he's supposed to. And he did it with a generally weaker roster than Vick was afforded.
Spoken once more for emphasis: the Cold, Hard Football Facts simply do not lie.