August 9, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) watches from the sidelines late in the 4th quarter of game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Eagles defeated the Steelers, 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
It's easy to see why. Foles, unlike Kevin Kolb and Mike Kafka, easily fulfills my top criteria for an NFL quarterback: a quality arm.
I know, my QB criteria seems overly simplified. But apparently it's not. Somehow we see Alex Smith as the No. 1 overall pick, Kevin Kolb as the Eagles savior and Matt Leinart as a Top 10 NFL prospect.
Foles isn't in that class. He has the rocket launcher of an arm. We know that. What he supposedly didn't have was the nimble feet, the ability to successfully navigate the pocket. So far with the Eagles, his feet look pretty good too. He's slithered around pressure impressively. He's made strong and accurate throws on the run. Really, he's done it all while tossing four touchdown passes, one interception and compiling an NFL-best 118.4 QB rating through two preseason games.
The question the Birds must answer now is this: Can they trust Foles enough to backup their brittle starting quarterback, who already has a bruised (cough, cough) rib?
My first thought was having a rookie in that role is a bad idea. So I went in search of rookie quarterbacks who lit up the preseason (I made the cutoff a QB rating of above 80) and succeeded in the regular season as well, either in limited or extended roles. And I only went back six years because with the way rules have been tilted in favor of the quarterback in recent years, it's almost unfair to reach further back.
For Foles, the results were not too promising. I found 11 quarterbacks (Jake Locker, Sam Bradford, Joe Webb, Max Hall, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Trent Edward, Jay Cutler, Tarvaris Jackson, Bruce Gradkowski and Matt Leinart) with preseason QB ratings 80 and above their rookie season that played more than a handful of regular season snaps between 2006-12. Only three (Locker, Cutler and Bradford) threw more touchdown passes than interceptions in their maiden NFL seasons. Their combined records as starters their rookie seasons were 32-45, and only Mark Sanchez in 2009 was on a playoff team.
Other notable rookie quarterbacks who excelled in their first preseason: Greg McElroy, Nate Davis, Mike Teel, Colt Brennan, Matt Flynn, Brady Quinn and Kevin Kolb. None did anything other than hold the clipboard in their rookie seasons. It could be argued that none have done anything so far in their respective careers, too.
What this seems to show is that for a team like the Eagles with Super Bowl aspirations, a rookie third-round pick isn't the ideal backup - no matter how impressive his preseason performance. And Mike Kafka isn't the answer either. He doesn't even sufficiently fulfill the top criteria for an NFL quarterback. Kafka has a well-below-average arm.
It's no secret that quarterback is not a position where you want to take any risks. Otherwise, one sports hernia later, Mike McMahon could be your starter. Or you could be stuck with a rookie third-rounder such as Nick Foles. The Eagles would be much better served with Matt Moore or Tarvaris Jackson as their insurance policy for the fragile Vick. At least we know they can win games in the NFL.
In the future, it looks like Foles may be able to do much better than win a few games. Right now, however, the odds are stacked against him in his rookie year.