(Michael Perez/Associated Press)
Sure, everyone is wondering who the next Eagles' head coach will be, as they continue to interview prospective coach candidates, & don't get me wrong, coaching is one of the primal pieces in assembling the right team & the key to winning, but I truly believe choosing who will be your QB for the future is more crucial at this point in time.
Both a viable, talented quarterback & a well-fit, intelligent coach are integral in establishing a team & building a winning foundation for years to come, yes. But which is more important & valuable to a team, the quarterback or the head coach?
It really depends on a number of factors, especially in trading for/picking up/drafting the right quarterback for the future. Coaches play a tremendous part in developing, mentoring, motivating, & encouraging a team, among other things, but a franchise QB, one that syncs in with the right team, can take over games. Additionally, they can determine the outcome of each game within the season, including the playoffs, & they are able to connect with the other 52 players on the team on a more personal level, than a head coach can.
Nick Foles had some bright spots as a starter during the 2012 season, & he continued to show growth week in & week out, even as the Eagles struggled statistically, & in general within the many facets of the game. I've pinpointed some of his most memorable moments/highlights from this year, within the 6 games he started this season.
-Foles throws the game-winning touchdown in Week 14 @ Tampa, to WR Jeremy Maclin, as time expires.
-Foles throws his first touchdown pass, a 44-yarder to Jeremy Maclin, in his first NFL start, vs. Dallas.
-Foles (in the same game) goes 22/34, for a 64.7% completion percentage, with 251 passing yards, 1 TD, & an impressive 96.6 passer rating, in a close loss to Dallas at home.
Back to the QB debate, & focusing solely on the debate as to who will be the Eagles' QB of the future, Foles ranked 3rd in passer rating (79.1) among the six rookie QBs this year (Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, & Brandon Weeden), behind only Griffin & Wilson. He ranked 3rd in completion percentage among rookies, with a completion percentage of 60.8. Given, he only started 6 games, whereas 4/5 of the remaining rookie QBs started all 16 games (Griffin started 15), but however, Foles proved, to a degree, that he could keep his team in most of the games, & remained competitive, despite the Eagles' many issues on all three sides of the ball .
Furthermore, Foles, among the 32 QBs this year that had at least 14 passing attempts per their team's games played, he ranked 14th out of 32, with 242.7 (rounded off to 243) PYPG (passing yards per game), slightly above the league average of 240, & ahead of Michael Vick's average of 236 PYPG.
So, to put Foles' numbers this year into perspective, let's break down the averages, & where he stood amongst other starting QBs (his league rankings are labeled in parenthesis) :
-Passer Rating- 79.1% (23/32)
-Completion Percentage- 60.8% (15/32)
-Yards per pass attempt- 6.41 (29/32)
-& out of all the QBs that threw at least one pass this year, he was dead last as far as the longest completion thrown by each QB- a 46 yard pass (40/40)
To further analyze his game, he threw 6 TD passes (almost a TD per game), to 5 INTs, in 7 games (6 starts) this year, which averages out, within a 16 game season, to around 13 TD passes & 11 interceptions. Foles, to me at least, seemed like the perfect short-pass QB, considering that he didn't throw many long balls effectively, & that only 3 QBs were worse when it came to yards per pass attempt.
Foles could be the Eagles' long-term solution at QB/QB of the future, but it's hard to determine this early on whether or not he would serve as an effective, quality quarterback for Philadelphia. Continuing with what I mentioned above, the short passing game seemed to serve Foles better, compared to QBs like Rodgers, Brees, Manning, & Brady, who can survey the ball long, while at the same time can complete catchable, short passes as well, though they are obviously much more talented & experienced.
But what if the Eagles elect not to draft a quarterback in the upcoming draft in April? If the Eagles elect not to, Foles very well may be the quarterback for next year, & beyond that, given that Michael Vick is presumably going to be released within the forthcoming months of this off-season. Not that there was any pressure to begin with, from former backup Mike Kafka to be Foles' replacement, but Kafka signed with the Patriots 8 days ago, signing a reserve/future contract, for just the 2013 season as of now.
As for backup Trent Edwards, the only backup as of now on the Eagles' depth chart (Eagles' Current Depth Chart), due to Kafka's departure, many believe & agree that he will mainly serve as a mentor to Foles next year (Trent Edwards; A mentor to Nick Foles). Edwards & Foles come from a similar career path: Edwards, like Foles, was a third-round draft pick, for Buffalo in 2007, serving as the backup that season to J.P. Losman. Losman got injured that season in Week 3, on the first play at New England. Edwards filled in, & took over for him for five games, much like Foles took over full-time for an injured Michael Vick in Week 10 of this year, after Vick sustained a concussion vs. Dallas.
Whether or not Foles is the quarterback of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles will determine on how confident the Eagles' front office is with Foles going forward, based on his skill sets, leadership, & the statistics he put up this year in the short amount of time he played. Additionally, Eagles' owner/CEO Jeffrey Lurie, GM Howie Roseman, & team President Don Smolenski will have a tough task in deciding whether or not they could do better at QB, whether it's through trade, free agency, or possibly the draft.
What route they choose to go at QB between now & the beginning of the 2013 regular season will really put into perspective how confident, or unsure they are of Nick Foles' winning ability, skill sets, & progression from a prospective point of view. If the Nick Foles' experiment doesn't pan out in Philadelphia, the Eagles could explore a variety of options at QB, within both the collegiate & NFL levels.
As far as free-agent NFL QBs available this off-season, South Jersey native, & current Baltimore Ravens' QB Joe Flacco could become available, if the price is right (thought all bets are on Flacco re-signing with Baltimore come this off-season). Moreover, the Eagles could also pursue, as a backup competing against Foles, former Redskins QB/current Chicago Bears' backup Jason Campbell, free-agent John Beck, or Bills QB Tyler Thigpen, among others. As far as college QBs that are legitimate draft options, the following QBs could become intelligent draft picks come April, & viable options for the Eagles come next season & beyond, if selected: West Virginia's Geno Smith, USC's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, NC State's Mike Glennon, University of Tennessee's Tyler Bray, & Kansas State's Collin Klein, among others.
Considering how poor the college draft class is this year, compared to recent history, the Eagles might want to just consider keeping Foles as the starter for next year anyway, with intentions of developing him further.