The rationale is pretty simple. Which of the two QBs gives you more of an advantage in 2013?
In saying, if all things are equal, I'm speaking about results throughout TC and pre-season. If either of the QBs significantly separates over the next 2 or 3 games, that should drive the decision. The conventional wisdom says that if you have a 4-12 caliber team, you look to find your long term solution, and you tilt the decision making in favor of the younger guy. Vick's results have been up and down (with a very down 2012), so that position is understandable. But, clean slate, new coach, and this coach in particular, I see Michael Vick as having far more upside for this year for the Eagles.
Right now, the offense and playcalling (and defenses) are all pretty vanilla. The offense is flexible enough to be tailored, via installs and gameplans, but if I'm looking at potential for this season, I go with Vick as the answer to the following questions:
- Who gives you a schematic advantage over opponents?
- Who allows you to make the defense cover every square inch of the field?
Caveat: I don't claim to know what Chip Kelly will do with his offense. However, I'll consider what he's done in the past, and some of his core principles.
One of the characteristics of Kelly's offense at Oregon was Chip's use of formation and play design to create a schematic advantage over the defense. Often, via the zone read or threat of the zone read he would leave certain defenders unblocked, held in check by the play design (or 'blocked by the quarterback' , as he would say). That provided his offense with a +1 advantage over the defense, meaning his teams would often have an extra blocker to either get up to the second level or double at the point of attack.
Now, the zone read is not the be all and end all of this offense, and Foles is mobile and athletic enough to run it. However, the threat of Foles on a keeper is something that a defense would have to consider, like a quarterback bootleg. The threat of Vick on a keeper is something that a defense will have to gameplan for and devise specific schemes to counteract. A team may live with telling their DE to crash down on the play fake to stop the potential for Shady on the cutback, knowing that occasionally they'll give up 5-10 yds to Foles. They will not, however, routinely do this with the threat of giving up 20 or 30 yards.
The threat of the bubble screen (playside or backside) as well as play action up the field is there for either quarterback. The added dimension of a significant run threat is a decided advantage to Vick.
Make the defense cover the whole field
From what I've read from training camp, both Foles and Vick have generally been pretty well in driving the offense. Both have had times when they get the ball out quickly, but the tendency is that both could improve in that area. That is to be expected with both QBs playing in Kelly's system for the first time. Beat writers who've timed the release have said that both have been getting the ball out in about the same amount of time, so there's no major separation there.
Turnovers are rightfully a concern for Vick over the last couple of years. He's not going to have too many opportunities to fumble while wearing the red shirt, however, he's thrown one pick in camp. Foles has thrown more picks and almost picks. Not enough for alarm, after all, it is practice, but certainly if we're making a determination off of last season, there's no reason to think that Foles is ahead in this measure and, if we take TC into account, he'd be even or slightly behind. Vick is in the lead on fly swatters, though, but I don't think that's that big of a deal.
So what's the differentiator, if both QBs are generally making good decisions and getting the ball out at the same rate? Arm strength. From what I've read (and hopefully will see tonight), Foles' arm strength has improved somewhat, since his rookie year. Still, in reading the aggregated twitter feeds, I've seen a lot of descriptions of him underthrowing deep balls, slightly underthrown balls, and WRs coming back to make the catch, or break up the INT. On the good side, he has also hit on several bombs throughout TC, showing that he can get the ball downfield. Again, all things being equal, I'm taking the guy who I can half-roll to one side of the field, and then hit a 9 or 8 (Go or Post) all the way on the other side of the field.
Yes, you can scheme guys open via route design, play action, etc., but there's a whole other dimension to the threat that Vick's arm creates, just as with his legs.
As I mentioned above, Vick is a +1 in the running game, regardless of scheme, because you have to account for his ability to tuck the ball and go.(Teams countered this by sending secondary pressure, post-Vikes game, and Andy and Marty never countered with a quick passing game with short options, or by spreading out the WRs to keep safeties or nickelbacks from having the short corner to blitz from).
Desean is a +1 player in that teams typically have to double him, which takes one player out of the box. (Andy and Marty, however, never took advantage of this and would still pass, pass, pass versus looks designed to stop the pass).
I haven't talked about scrambling, etc., because I'll take Kelly at his word that he wants the QBs to get the ball out quickly. But given all of the above, there are simply many, many more things he can do with the offense if Vick is there than with Foles. I think he can get it done, and the Eagles can win with either QB. But it will be easier to do with #7 under center, and Kelly's scheme.
Splitting the reps as he has done throughout camp allows Kelly to really make sure of what he thinks he sees, as well as drive it home to Vick that this is his last, best chance to the be the player he can be, as well as to have Foles confident and prepared in the event that Vick goes down to injury.
The defense is going to be a HUGE question mark regardless. But if Kelly is serious about about winning this year, I think he needs to start Vick. (And no, the money shouldn't make a difference. Vick's 2013 salary is not unreasonable for a good backup QB, and between him and Foles, they have a very modest amount tied up in the position).