Playoffs Still a Possibility for Eagles… With Michael Vick Under Center

What Sunday's loss to Dallas taught us about this year's Birds.

Michael Vick and Nick Foles

When Nick Foles was led off the Lincoln Financial Field to have his head injury examined, it would have been perfect if Michael Vick had risen from the bench and begun running sprints, just to show everybody that he will be ready for action next Sunday against the Giants.

Perhaps he was doing that in his mind. It was hard to tell, because he maintained a bored expression throughout most of the game. While his knucklehead brother tweeted profanities and other typically immature missives, Vick appeared nonplussed by Sunday’s disappointing proceedings.

After the game, coach Chip Kelly refused to anoint either Vick or Foles as his starting quarterback, since each is dealing with an injury. The only certain thing is that if Matt Barkley is the first-stringer, the New York secondary could have more catches than the team’s wideouts.

The most likely scenario is that Vick will play next week, and the Eagles season will continue on as it was supposed to, which is to say with Vick running the offense. And, despite his mediocre 53.8% completion percentage–low even for him–Vick remains the best QB on the roster to operate Kelly’s spread attack.

Foles’ performance Sunday was problematic for two reasons. First, he was 11-of-29 throwing (a career low 37.9%) and made Vick look accurate by comparison with his many wayward missiles. Foles underthrew people. He overthrew them. He threw behind receivers and too far in front of them. His duck to a wide-open Jason Avant in the third quarter was emblematic of his rotten day. Against a Dallas defense that had entered the game allowing rival QBs to throw for 329 yards and complete 65.6% of their passes, Foles was awful.

The second reason Vick needs to return can be found in LeSean McCoy’s yards per carry average Sunday. After a solid game against Tampa Bay, which for some reason considered Foles a threat to run, McCoy managed just 3.1 yards on 55 carries, with a “long” of 10 yards. Dallas entered the game surrendering 4.4 yards per tote. Despite Kelly’s protestations, the Eagles’ 2013 attack requires a quarterback capable of running. For this offense to thrive, defensive linemen have to respect the QB’s speed. That is absolutely not the case with Foles. There were plays when Foles handed the ball off to McCoy and carried out his fake without a single Cowboy’s paying attention to him. That negates the advantage created by the inside zone read, especially when you are playing without a fullback, and your tight ends aren’t exactly blocking studs.

Sunday’s Foles fiasco provided some compelling evidence that while he has what it takes to thrive against some rivals, he might not be ready (ever?) to get the job done against better teams. Nobody will mistake the Cowboys for Seattle or Denver, but Dallas hung tight with the Broncos and has lost its three games this year by a combined 12 points. And since Foles struggled in this forum, it’s risky to think he’s the guy to lead this team in the future, especially because of a skill set that doesn’t fit the offense.

What does that mean? Barring a remarkable recovery by Vick and a performance in the ensuing nine games that convinces Kelly and GM Howie Roseman that he can lead the team to Big Things the next couple seasons, the Eagles will need to draft a quarterback next May. That won’t be the best thing for a team that has so many holes on defense. Sunday, however, that side of the ball wasn’t the problem against a Cowboy offense that was hampered by the absence of DeMarco Murray.

This is not to say that Foles is dead to the Eagles. He is a solid backup and certainly better than what a lot of teams have. But as his body of work swells, and he is forced to play against better opposition that has good strategies to control him, Foles looks more and more like just that–a backup. Unless Vick’s hammy is still greatly compromised, he should be out there next Sunday and for the remainder of the season. Again, he sure isn’t a perfect solution, but he fits the Kelly mold better than does Foles.

The good news for the Eagles is that the highly dysfunctional Giants visit Sunday. And a trip to Oakland follows that. It’s entirely possible the team could be 5-4 by the time it visits Green Bay, and the Nov. 17 game with Washington could have some serious ramifications in the NFC Island of Misfit Toys Division. A spot in the post-season is still a possibility. Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys was extremely disappointing, especially after the huge buildup. But in a 16-game season, there are many other opportunities. With Vick under center, this imperfect Eagles team has a better shot than it does with Foles in command.

Sunday showed that.

Sucker Punches

• It’s clear that the Phillies made a significant upgrade when they gave the centerfield job to Ben Revere, after dealing away Shane Victorino in 2012. Right. All Victorino did Friday night was hit a grand slam to send the Red Sox into the World Series. Victorino’s salami was exactly one more homer than Revere’s featherweight bat has mustered–in his career. Only another month or so before Ruben Amaro starts working his roster magic to get the team ready for a big 2014.

• Seven games into the NFL season, and only one coach is still pristine. That would be one Andrew Reid, whose Chiefs are a spotless 7-0. Say what you want about the man’s GM skills or his media relations touch, but the guy can coach. Next up are the Browns, who visit KC with a 3-4 record. Wonder if those ’72 Dolphins are getting nervous yet.

• Is there anything more comical than the local weather “reports” at halftime of the four o’clock NFL games? A cog in the Hysterical Weather Machine stands there and tells us that a cooling trend is on the way, and that we should tune in at 11 for details. What is this, 1978? These days we have things called “apps” and “computers” that give us stuff like weather information immediately. Newspapers couldn’t understand how to cope with technology, and it appears local TV “news” broadcasts are following the same playbook. “The Eagles played Dallas! Tune in at 11 to see who won!!”