The Eagles finished a week-long rendezvous with New England last Friday by getting drubbed by the Patriots in the opening pre-season game. The over/under, set at just above 40 points, was probably the easiest money ever made. If you have the courage, I highly suggest running it back on Thursday against Carolina where the number sits at 42. You know Chip wants to get their all on his own, and the Birds certainly won’t be stopping anyone. Not this year.
One preseason game is hardly something to get bogged down with, but the results already have Eagles’ fans nervously looking for reassurance. The newness of the coach, the excitement of the offense are going to wear off quickly if the Eagles can’t field a competitive team. In terms of viability, the place to look on most NFL teams is the QB position. Can you win with this guy? For too many teams the answer is a definitive “no.” In the midst of a race to name the starting QB, the Eagles should be trying to identify if not a franchise QB, at least the best guy to lead them through this season, but is Philadelphia the rare NFL team where the QB choice won’t make much difference? Can any of these guys be winners? Will the Eagles be so bad on defense it won’t matter?
With all do respect to Matt Barkley, I’m going to leave him out of this particular discussion. Barkley has the kind of arm that keeps cut-off men in business, and I don’t know one person who thinks he’s a viable option as a starter this year. It’s not going to happen, and if does then things have already turned ugly. That leaves us with Nick Foles and Michael Vick. It’s a QB controversy that lacks an identity.
Some basic types of QB controversies:
1. Established/Popular veteran vs. Young Gun. Here’s one where fans and even pundits will be split. Think Favre/Rodgers, or way back in the day for a Philly example Jaworski/Cunningham. Teams will sometimes try to avoid this (Indy trading Manning for example), because once that young guy comes in (Unless he’s Tommy Maddox) he’s going to get a shot. Why divide the fan base or locker room? But, Vick isn’t established enough and Foles isn’t prospect enough to fit this category.
2. Place Holder vs. Rookie/Young QB. Pederson vs. McNabb. Warner vs. Eli. Maybe even Smith vs. Kaepernick? In this case the ascension of the young QB is inevitable and there is no remorse about losing the veteran starter. It’s just a question of, is the team ready for the rookie to start? Will we stunt his growth? But, Foles is certainly not promised the job at some point and Vick has enough support still that some would protest his benching or dismissal.
3. Slop vs. Slop. When teams are really bad why not give everyone a chance? Gabbert vs. Henne. The Cardinals. Colt McCoy vs. Anyone. This is the nightmare scenario for a fan–your team forcing you to have an opinion on two terrible QBs. But, Vick and Foles certainly aren’t this bad. They could MAYBE be starters in the NFL.
You get the sense that Foles and Vick are battling to be the Place Holder. At some point down the road the Eagles are going to acquire their next starting quarterback, but it’s not certain he’s currently on the roster. If that’s the case, does it really matter if Vick beats out Foles or vice versa?
Michael Vick is a known commodity. He’s almost Jeff George-like in his ability to have people rave about his potential well into his 30s. His ceiling for an individual play is probably without peer. But over the course of a full season, Vick will do those other things he’s known for–turning the ball over, getting injured, etc. If you had to win one game, you’d probably choose Vick, but you have to win a lot more than one game. I
It’s no secret that I don’t care for Nick Foles. Or “Poles,” as I call him. When I intentionally call a player by the wrong name, it’s meant as disrespect. When I state it so boldly, it seems irrational and mean-spirited, but it happens. It happened with Kevin Coal-buh, and Ashanti Samuel, and it will continue through the Nick Poles era. Foles is the only QB on the roster with a real chance to be the long-term QB it seems, but I don’t sense there is much of a chance and there’s almost no support for this in the fan base. Obviously if Foles turns the corner and becomes a star people will claim they knew it all along, but if he was cut today, or traded away for a conditional 5th round pick. I don’t think you’d hear a whimper.
That’s because I’m sensing a diminished level of hope among Eagles’ fans and those who are optimistic seem to be more general in their prognostications. “The offense will be good.” Rather than, “Foles will develop into a front-line starter.” And, it’s easy to see why this is happening. First, because the fans have been sold on Chip Kelly’s system. That’s what will be different. Kelly’s innovation and technique will allow the Eagles to score points regardless of the QB. The second reason is because the Eagles defense looks like it could be particularly terrible.
The Eagles gave up 27.75 points a game last year (2nd worst in the NFC) and it’s hard to imagine them being significantly better on that side of the ball this year. Factor in a new scheme, which they may or may not have the personnel for and Chip Kelly’s fast pace possibly having them on the field even more and the 31 points the Eagles surrendered on Friday might end up being par for the course.
The bottom line is, with a defense this bad, or at best this unproven, Eagles fans are going to have to wait until the season starts to see if they have a chance at anything resembling a winning season. Because, in the end, the fate of the Eagles might not rest with the quarterback, regardless of who wins the job. Welcome to Philadelphia where hope isn’t in the hands of the signal caller.