Before we get started here, I’d like to first make the point that I didn’t want to write this until I had fully digested the Eagles’ QB situation through 6 games. Calling for a crucial player to be benched or a coach to be fired is not something I venture into lightly. But after a week of letting the issue swirl around in my head, I’ve come to the conclusion that Michael Vick needs to take a seat on the bench.
The issue is moot of course, for now anyway, seeing as the Eagles plan on starting Vick next Sunday against Atlanta, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But over the next 3000 words, I’ll address all of the following:
- A breakdown of Michael Vick’s turnovers this season.
- Michael Vick’s missed opportunities.
- Vick is taking an inordinate number of hits this season, partly because the offensive line stinks, and partly because he’s holding onto the ball for an eternity.
- If Michael Vick can’t survive behind the Eagles’ offensive line, then how can a rookie? And if in fact the rookie takes a battering behind that OL, will it ruin his psyche?
- Michael Vick’s good qualities: The 4th quarter drives, Vick’s running ability, and “teammate adoration.”
- Andy Reid’s job security, and how that factors in. Does a switch mean the Eagles are “throwing in the towel” on the season?
- The unknown.
QB turnovers are often the fault of somebody other than the QB. For example, the WR ran the wrong route, the ball slipped through the hands of the receiver and led to a pick, a ball was tipped at the line and picked, etc. Unfrotunately for Michael Vick, the argument can be made that he has been the culprit on 12 of his 14 turnovers. Here are all 14:
2. Vick has a clean pocket, has Clay Harbor open momentarily, waits too long to fire and throws into heavy traffic. The ball is tipped by D’Qwell Jackson, and picked by T.J. Ward (Shown to the right). Vick’s fault.
3. Vick throws to Maclin on a drag route with two defenders in the area. It’s an inaccurate throw that Maclin probably should have caught, but it bounces off of Maclin’s fingertips into the arms of Joe Haden. Vick and Maclin can share blame here.
4. Vick simply doesn’t see D’Qwell Jackson, who jumps a Maclin slant route and takes it to the house for a pick 6. Vick’s fault.
5. Vick sees a small window where he can fit it over the Ravens defender and into Clay Harbor in the back of the end zone. The problem is he’s being chased by Ravens defenders while rolling to his right, and he has to throw back to his left as he’s running out of room on the sideline. The degree of difficulty on this throw is simply too high to attempt on the opening drive of the game (Shown to the right). Vick’s fault.
6. Bad fumble exchange between Vick and Bryce Brown. Brown looked like he was looking at the defenders coming at him instead of securing the handoff. This one is on Bryce Brown.
7. Vick throws behind Brent Celek (perhaps by design), as Celek tries to settle into a zone. However, Ray Lewis is right there with good coverage. With Lewis draped all over Celek, the pass is also high. It deflects off of Celek’s fingertips and is picked by Ed Reed. This isn’t Vick’s worst INT of the season by any stretch, but it’s still on him. Vick’s fault, with an assist to Celek.
8. Vick has time to throw, rolls left, sees nothing he likes, rolls back to his right, still sees nothing and decides to get what he can, except he doesn’t tuck the ball away. Sam Acho gets a hand on the ball and punches it out, but it’s not as if this is some kind of big hit (Shown to the right). Cardinals ball. Vick’s fault.
9. The disaster. On 3rd and G at the Cardinals’ 1 yard line with 6 seconds to go, it’s either hit a receiver quickly or throw the ball away and get 3. Vick does not see the defensive back blitzing from his left side, takes a huge hit, coughs it up, and it’s a TD going the other way. There are excuses to be made here, such as: Why were the Eagles not in shotgun? Why was there no protection on the edge? Etc etc. I’m not as forgiving. Vick has to see that blitzer, something he has struggled with going back to the Tuesday night debacle in 2010 against the Vikings when Antoine Winfield stripped him and went for a score. Vick’s fault.
10. With 1st and G from the 3, the Eagles run a QB draw. Ryan Clark gets a shoulder on the ball, and it squirts out. Inexcusable. It’s not as if Vick was back to pass, didn’t see what he liked, and took off. It’s a designed run. Protect the ball. Vick’s fault.
11. Vick doesn’t see anything he likes, takes off to run, doesn’t tuck the ball away, and it’s stripped by Lawrence Timmons. Vick’s fault.
12. Center Dallas Reynolds thinks he sees Vick lift his leg to ask for the ball, and he snaps it. Vick isn’t ready for it, and it glances off his shoulder. Lions ball. I’ll give this one to Reynolds.
13. Vick has plenty of time to throw, waits, eventually gets pressure, then throws high to an open Jason Avant. The pass sails over Avant’s head and is picked by Louis Delmas. Vick’s fault, with an assist to the play call for asking the OL to sustain their blocks for at least 3 seconds.
14. Vick has DeSean Jackson open on a deep post. This would have been a TD in 2010. In 2012, it’s a pick. Vick has a perfectly clean pocket and is able to step into the throw, but he doesn’t lead Jackson to the inside, as it’s thrown behind him. Chris Houston makes the easy pick on a play in which he should have been beaten (Shown to the right). Vick’s fault.
Fumbles Vick didn’t lose:
1. Fumbled center exchange vs the Browns, recovered by LeSean McCoy.
2. On the final drive against Cleveland, Vick sells out to get a first down on 3rd and 10, takes a couple of big shots, and fumbles. Credit to Vick for recovering his own fumble.
3. Against Pittsburgh, Danny Watkins is beaten badly by a Steelers defender, who strips Vick. Watkins recovers. Not Vick’s fault.
4. Vick scrambles up the middle, dives for extra yardage and the ball pops out. The Steelers recover. The play is reviewed, and Vick is fortunate that a Steelers defender has barely nicked his ankle on the way down. Because he was contacted (ever so slightly), the ground cannot force the fumble. The Eagles challenge and the play is reversed. This was not a fumble in the stat sheet, but it’s another example of careless ball security.
5. Fumbled center exchange against the Lions.
Michael Vick’s turnovers are extremely well documented by now, but that is just an absurd number of mistakes when you’re only 6 weeks into the season. However, something that hasn’t been noted nearly as much are the opportunities that Vick has had a chance to make down the field but has missed.
As noted above, Vick had a streaking DeSean Jackson against the Lions, and he simply threw a poor pass that was intercepted. A potential TD, or at least a big gain became a turnover. There have been plenty more like that play this season. A short sampling:
Here’s a play against the Giants in which Vick has DeSean Jackson running free in the Giants secondary. Instead of lofting a touch pass over the defenders into the wide open area of the field where DeSean is running, Vick tries to fire a laser into a tight window, which goes into the dirt. Here are two views of that play:
The ball needs to be thrown into the circled area of the field, where DeSean can catch and run. It is not. Missed opportunity.
Here’s a deep ball to Jeremy Maclin against the Steelers. Maclin has one-on-one against Ike Taylor with no safety help, and while he doesn’t have Taylor smoked, he does have inside position and there’s a play to be made here. However, Vick once against doesn’t lead his receiver to the inside, and Maclin has to hold Taylor so this pass isn’t picked:
And then of course there’s the missed opportunity to Jeremy Maclin against the Lions last Sunday. Lions LB Justin Durant (circled) is going to come on a blitz:
The Eagles pick up the blitz beautifully:
Maclin beats the jam at the line, the defender stumbles, and Maclin has nothing but open spaces in front of him:
A simple, easy touch pass will do, but Vick instead fires a laser into a clogged up passing lane:
Some might see this play as bad luck that Ndamukong Suh was able to get his hand up and make a play. To some degree I agree that there’s an element of bad luck there. But I also think a better QB reads Durant’s blitz and lofts a pass into the area vacated by him for and easy pitch and catch that goes for a monster gain.
These are the kinds of plays Michael Vick made in his outstanding 2010 season. They are missed opportunities in 2012.
Vick is taking an inordinate number of hits this season, partly because the offensive line stinks, and partly because he’s holding onto the ball for an eternity.
The Eagles’ offensive line was one of the few strengths of the 2011 Eagles. With Jason Peters being lost to an Achilles injury and Jason Kelce being lost for the season, the Eagles OL has become a major liability. Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz did a great job breaking down the Eagles’ offensive line. Definitely worth the read.
On that “Bad OL” theme, Tim McManus of Philly Mag wrote a very good piece on why Michael Vick should remain the Eagles QB. I’m going to steal an excerpt from his article:
Ron Jaworski has been charting the hits on Vick this season, and the numbers are maybe even more staggering than you would think. Vick has been knocked to the ground 103 times through six games by Jaws’ count (18 times against the Lions). He has had contact an additional 44 times when he was not knocked down.
If last year’s hit rate was alarming, this season is off the charts. Consider that for all the battering Vick endured a year ago, opposing defenses averaged five QB hits in games he played last season. This year, the average is over eight quarterback hits per outing. The opposition registered double-digit hits on Vick once in 2011. Three teams have accomplished that feat through six games this year.
The offensive line is certainly to blame for some of Michael Vick’s hits. However, there is plenty of guilt that can be put on Vick as well. From Tommy’s OL piece:
Ron Jaworski recently noted that he had Pro Football Focus time the release of all 32 QBs in the NFL. Vick was last. He held the ball on average for 3 seconds per pass play. I cannot find the data online, but I think he said the next QB was at 2.5 seconds. That shows you a significant difference in Vick and other QBs. He doesn’t do as well pre-snap and he doesn’t anticipate plays well. Vick needs to see it. That means holding the ball and letting plays develop. Part of that blame does go to the coaches for throwing deeper passes. Call shorter plays and Vick should get the ball out quicker, which helps him and the OL.
That leads to the following question:
If Michael Vick can’t survive behind the Eagles’ offensive line, then how can a rookie like Nick Foles? And if in fact the rookie takes a battering behind that OL, will it ruin his psyche?
Here’s what Andy Reid said about Nick Foles the day they drafted him in the 3rd round of the draft:
“He played behind an all-freshmen offensive line, so he’s not going to stand up here and tell you that. I’m going to tell you that that’s not an easy thing to do. He never complained about it, he rallied those kids around him; he took some pretty big hits knowing that those kids are going to be good players down the road, but they were learning at that time.”
“His percentage under pressure was as good or better than anybody in the country. The receivers, obviously (Arizona WR Juron) Criner was a heck of a player for him and he was his go-to guy. After that, there weren’t a lot of people around him. There were young guys that he helped develop for the future of Arizona there. That’s reality. Those are things that as a coach and as a scout, there are things (general manager) Howie (Roseman) and I had to look at and evaluate. Coming out of it we still felt like he did a heck of a job.”
In other words, playing behind a bad offensive line, and playing well behind a bad offensive line, is nothing new to Nick Foles. Obviously, there’s a big difference between the Pac 10 and the NFL, but at least Foles knows a thing or two about the value of getting the ball out quickly when you don’t have ideal protection up front. At this point, I trust Foles to get the ball out quickly far more than I trust Michael Vick, even without having seen Foles play a single meaningful NFL snap.
A switch to Foles would almost force the Eagles to transition to more of a short to intermediate passing attack, which has actually been more successful when they’ve gone that route with Michael Vick this season. In theory, the Eagles could just move to a short or intermediate passing attack with Vick, although I see that development as an unlikely one. But even with a shorter passing attack, again, I trust the rookie to make better pre-snap reads than I do the 32 year old vet who still has “potential.”
The other issue that I’ve seen thrown around is the whole “psyche” thing. The thinking is that if you insert Foles in behind this bad OL and he takes a bunch of hits, he could become a scared QB in future years, stunting his development. Frankly, if a QB has a “fragile psyche,” who really cares about ruining him for the future? In my opinion, they’re already ruined if their “psyche” is in doubt.
Michael Vick’s good qualities: The 4th quarter drives, Vick’s running ability, and “teammate adoration.”
The 4th quarter drives:
The one saving grace for Michael Vick, in my opinion, has been his ability to lead clutch 4th quarter drives. In Week 1, Vick got very lucky that Browns rookie LB T.J. Fort didn’t intercept this terrible pass on the final drive:
However, here were late drives that Vick led against the Browns, Ravens, Giants, and Steelers:
- Browns: 16 plays, 91 yards, 5:07, TD to take the lead.
- Ravens: 10 plays, 80 yards, 2:48, TD to take the lead.
- Giants: 12 plays, 75 yards, 4:56, FG to take the lead.
- Steelers: 17 plays, 79 yards, 8:18, TD to take the lead.
Very impressive. Of course, if the Eagles weren’t 2nd to last in the NFL in points scored as a direct result of Vick’s turnovers, they wouldn’t need these late heroics in the first place.
Vick’s running ability:
There’s no questioning Michael Vick’s unique and dynamic abilities as a runner. It’s a skill set that Nick Foles can’t emulate in his wildest wet dreams. However, Michael Vick has run the ball 41 times this year. Take out the 6 combined kneel downs against the Browns, Ravens, and Giants, and he has run the ball 35 times. In those 35 times Vick has run the ball, he has fumbled 5 times. Note: I’m not including fumbles on dropbacks, fumbled snaps, bad handoff exchanges, etc. I’m counting only the fumbles in which Vick took off to run.
Again… 35 runs, 5 fumbles. That’s a 1 in 7 chance Vick will fumble if he takes off to run this season. So what are we really losing there?
I’ve seen it noted that Vick’s teammates like him. That’s fine. I think there’s some value in that. But personally, it doesn’t factor into my decision on who plays QB… at all. My guess would be that the Eagles’ wide receivers have the following priorities in their quest for professional happiness in the NFL:
- Am I getting paid?
- Are passes coming my way?
- Are those passes accurate?
- About a dozen more things here.
- Do I like my QB on a personal level?
I’ve met Nick Foles. I’ve spoken with Nick Foles. Not a lot to hate there. We’re not talking about Jay Cutler here.
Andy Reid’s job security, and how that factors in. Does a switch mean the Eagles are “throwing in the towel” on the season?
Jeffrey Lurie has already made it clear that another season of mediocrity will not be enough for Andy Reid to keep his job. I think the perception is that if you put in a rookie, you’re throwing in the towel on the season, and perhaps building for the future. Obviously, if Reid is going to be fired after a bad season, then building for the future doesn’t do him any good. In my opinion, this would be a move to save THIS season, not build for the future. Is it a little ridiculous to hope that a rookie 3rd round pick is somehow going to save the season? Unquestionably. I guess that just goes to show what my confidence level in Michael Vick has become.
We all saw how impressive Nick Foles was in the preseason. But the preseason is the preseason. We don’t know how Foles will adapt to the speed of the games that matter, nor do we know how rapidly the kid is progressing in terms of mastering the playbook. Only the Eagles know that. The only thing I can truly analyze is what I’ve seen from the player that HAS played.
And it has not been good. Let’s see what you got, rook.