If healthy, Vick deserves to start
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - You'll be hearing a lot about a quarterback controversy this week as the Eagles get ready to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That's what happens when the starter (Michael Vick) goes down with a hamstring injury and the backup (Nick Foles) comes in and leads his team to a road victory over a division rival.
These two quarterbacks, of course, have a deeper history than this one Sunday afternoon that resulted in a 36-21 Eagles victory over the winless New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Fans and NFL observers have been divided since the start of training camp about the Eagles' quarterback issue, and both sides have valid points.
Go with Vick because he has experience and had a slightly better training camp.
Go with Foles because he's younger and has a better chance to be the quarterback of the future.
The Foles camp will be screaming Monday morning that the win against the Giants was proof they were right all along. Tell them to stop screaming.
Kelly chose Vick, but said Foles had also earned his confidence. Nothing has changed.
"I said, really, from the day we walked in here, you've got to have two quarterbacks. I felt confident in Nick with Mike not being 100 percent," Kelly said.
From his entrance near the end of the second quarter to the game's finish, Foles confirmed Kelly's opinion. The backup quarterback faced a second-and-10 situation from his own 7-yard line with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in the second quarter when he stepped on the field. That's kind of like being a pinch-hitter with the count at 0-2 and Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
Undaunted, Foles almost flawlessly managed the two-minute offense, completing 7 of 8 passes for 68 yards to set up a 36-yard Alex Henery field goal that put the Eagles up 19-7 at halftime. Even more impressive was how Foles rallied the Eagles after they fell behind by two points with 3:53 left in the third quarter.
The momentum had shifted, and the Eagles' last two offensive drives had produced just one first down and zero points. Life had been pumped into the Giants' home stadium for one of the few times this season, and this appeared to be a lost cause for the Eagles.
Undaunted once again, Foles led the Eagles on three scoring drives, including a couple of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to pull out a victory that ended the first three-game losing streak of his head coach's career.
And still Foles should be the backup quarterback when the Eagles return to work Monday, provided, of course, that Vick is able to return from his hamstring injury Sunday in Tampa Bay. With one word, Kelly confirmed that was the case following Sunday's game.
"Yes," the coach said when asked if a healthy Vick was still his No. 1 quarterback.
Before suffering the injury to his hamstring on a first-down run with just under five minutes left in the second quarter, Vick was moving the Eagles offense just fine. In fact, he was the primary reason the offense was moving.
Faced with a third and 20 from his own 37-yard line on the Eagles' second series, Vick escaped pressure and ran 34 yards to the Giants' 29-yard line, setting up a Henery field goal. He also had a 56-yard completion to DeSean Jackson that set up the Eagles' first touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Like almost every team the Eagles play, the Giants were determined to shut down running back LeSean McCoy. When Vick is at quarterback, however, it creates a second problem for the opposing run defense. Vick, carrying seven times for 79 yards, burned the Giants more than McCoy Sunday, and once he was gone, so was the Eagles' rushing attack.
Without Vick in the game, the Eagles ran 14 times for 10 yards Sunday. McCoy had 12 carries for 48 yards with Vick behind center. He ran eight times for minus-two yards after the Eagles' starting quarterback left the game.
Foles and the Eagles' offense made it work against the Giants without a running game, but that act isn't going to fly most weeks in the NFL.
"As an offense, we look at Nick Foles and Michael Vick as two starters," McCoy said, repeating his coach's refrain. "They had a competition earlier in the year to be starters, and they both played very well. We always think they're both starters, and when Nick came in, we were still confident."
McCoy, however, knows that Vick makes opposing defenses far more uneasy.
"I think in the run game, you want to take me out for sure and Mike Vick, you want to stop him, too," the running back said. "I think it's always something different when Mike is in the game. You see the spies they have on him, and the defensive ends are slower to rush when Mike is in there. I mean, it's Michael Vick, and he can take off at any given time."
Vick did that several times Sunday and ended up with 79 yards. He also ended up with an injury to his left hamstring. It's a good thing that Nick Foles is his backup, and that's just the way it should stay.