Yesterday, we picked on CBS' Pete Prisco a little bit for his assertion that Nick Foles is "overrated." Prisco had published a column listing an overrated and underrated player on all 32 teams, and his 40-word blurb on Foles didn't exactly go into great detail. Other media outlets also jumped on Prisco's column, as WIP's Afternoon Show with Rob Ellis and Ray Didinger (filling in for Anthony Gargano) had Prisco as a guest on their show.
Radio interviews for these kinds of debates are great, because you can really separate who knows what they're talking about and who is basically just making stuff up. Ellis and Ray Diddy did a great job drawing Prisco's reasoning out (you can listen to the full audio here), as Prisco revealed that he really has no idea what he's talking about.
According to Prisco, Foles' success was due to Chip Kelly's offense. That is actually a premise I can get on board with to some degree. Kelly's offense is certainly quarterback friendly, however, Prisco is way off on his reasoning why.
"Here's another number," said Prisco, "and this is spoken from NFL quarterbacks, a couple of different ones who told me this. Anybody in the league can throw two interceptions if they want to. Anybody. But it doesn't mean you're taking the shots (down the field) that you need to take. And I love the design of the offense. I think that Chip Kelly has done a heck of a job. I was one of those guys who wasn't sure if he would. But he has, and the design of the offense makes it very easy to play quarterback in that system."
OK, so Prisco's argument here seems to be that Foles is Kevin Kolb 2.0, AKA "Checkdown Charlie." Didinger was then quick to note a pair of stats that completely obliterate that argument.
Didinger responded, "He was not by any means dinking and dunking the ball here, Pete. I mean, he averaged nine yards per attempt, so the idea that it was a very conservative kind of passing game... not really. I mean, they led the league in 20+ yard plays."
Unfazed, Prisco stuck to his guns.
"Yeah, and a lot of those plays are designed screens," replied Prisco, "where they roll one way and come back the other and hit a big play in one-on-one coverage. They're easy throws to make. And I give Chip Kelly a lot of credit that he makes it easy for his quarterback to make those throws."
Ellis smelled blood and did a good job keeping Prisco talking about his wrong point.
"Donovan (McNabb) I thought got overly conservative at points in his career," said Ellis. "I didn't think that was Foles last year. I didn't think he was scared to make the tight throw a lot of times, and I think Donovan wouldn't pull the trigger on a tight throw."
After some filler, Prisco came back to his point again about Foles making easy throws. "Again, it's the design of the offense," said Prisco. "When you get the defense flowing one way and you throw back to (LeSean) McCoy and he rips one off on a screen pass for 33 yards that looks like a great play on the stat sheet, right? But you could make that throw."
Got it. So everyone other than Foles was responsible for all of the Eagles' big plays last year, and throwback screens (which Prisco mentioned twice) were a big reason why. Let's unpack that a bit.
In 2013, the Eagles led the NFL not just in 20+ yard plays overall, as Didinger mentioned, but they also led the league in 20+ yard pass plays, with 80. The next closest team, as the chart below will show, is the Broncos, with 68.
Of those 80 pass plays of 20+ yards, McCoy had eight, Bryce Brown had two, and Chris Polk had one. If you add them up, you get a total of 11 pass plays of 20+ yards to the running backs. If you wipe those 11 plays out, the Eagles would still have 69 plays of 20+ yards. I'll even show my work:
Sixty-nine pass plays of 20+ yards would of course still lead the NFL.
But... but... his throws to the receivers and tight ends were all short throws, and then they did all the work after that, right?
While Eagles receivers did a good job getting yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus, 17.4 percent of Nick Foles' throws last season traveled at least 20 yards in the air, which was the highest percentage in the NFL.
Nick Foles, Captain Checkdown.
Mr. Prisco, with all due respect, just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.
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