Before we begin, let me flip to page 35 in my football writer’s cliché book to find an ideology that’s referenced after each quarterback injury, and especially during the offseason when young whipper snappers are drafted at the position, and old vets are signed. The backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on any football team, even though in an ideal year he won’t see the field or play a single meaningful snap.
For the Eagles, one the most important offensive positions is infinitely more important. Philly employs an electric starting quarterback when he’s healthy, but health is an elusive creature for Michael Vick. The 31-year-old has missed six games over the past two seasons, and even when he was on the field last year Vick was often a shell of himself after being repeatedly pummeled while playing behind an offensive line that resembled a cooking device of some kind.
So sure, the Eagles need a backup who’s more than just capable–their No. 2 arm needs to be effective. There were opposing examples last year of the approach to the backup quarterback, and how slotting in the second guy on the depth chart can lead to either instant doom, or a sound salvage effort. In Indianapolis, Bill Polian’s failure to have a sufficient backup for Peyton Manning led to his firing, and a new place of employment for Manning. In Houston, the Texans roll with third stringer T.J. Yates and still hung on to their division crown and won a playoff game despite losing Matt Schaub in Week 10, and Matt Leinart in Week 11.
But in Philadelphia, they’re nervous, and they’re nervous about…Trent Edwards?
Yes, Trent Edwards. Vince Young is gone after the Eagles won a game in spite of him, and not because of him against the Giants in 2011 with Vick out. He’s gone on to continue being mediocre elsewhere (Buffalo), leaving Edwards behind Vick during OTAs along with young Mike Kafka, and rookie Nick Foles.
Edwards has started 33 career games over four seasons between the Bills and Jaguars, but because of injuries and ineffectiveness (much, much more of the latter), he’s never spent a full season as a starter. He was cut by the Raiders last season during training camp–a team that’s now giving a roster spot to Leinart–and he hasn’t started a game since Week 4 of the 2010 season.
Yet still, there’s concern over his virtual exclusion from OTAs in Philly so far, where he hasn’t taken a single rep during practice. Enough concern for this headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Will the Eagles give Trent Edwards a chance to show his ability?”
Tell us why we should be worried, Phil Sheridan:
It’s hard to know what the former Stanford quarterback can do, though it seems likely he can do more than Kafka.
But the drafting of Foles added a new thread to the narrative. If the coaches are as high on the 6-foot-6 rookie as it appears, they may see him as capable of being the No. 2 guy by midseason. If that’s the case, Kafka can keep the clipboard warm as he did while Young (almost) learned the offense last year.
So Edwards may never get a fair chance. And when – not if, but when – someone has to step in for Vick, the Eagles may wish he had.
While the apprehension in Philadelphia is understandable given Vick’s brittle bones, the Eagles tried the veteran approach last year. It failed spectacularly, and in three starts Young threw nine interceptions, and had a passer rating of 60.8. Which begs the question: does experience always have to trump talent when teams are evaluating a backup quarterback?
Sure, usually it does, because an element of trust is desired if the starter goes down. But even though Edwards has started 33 more games than Kafka and Foles, in those games he’s largely been a sub par quarterback with a career passer rating of 75.4, and an average of 6.5 yards per attempt. There’s also a very average stink to his interception/TD ratio (26 TDs and 30 INTs).
Foles, meanwhile, was a third-round pick, and last year when Vick was injured there was a legitimate debate over who should start between Kafka and Young. Kafka received limited and sporadic snaps throughout the season, and not nearly enough to pass a fair judgment. But he’s been in Philadelphia longer than any quarterback not named Vick, and he knows the offense.
Either Foles or Kafka are the answer, not Edwards. It’ll be uncomfortable and difficult, but eventually the Eagles have to lean more towards talent over trust and youth over veteran savvy behind Vick, because Edwards has done little more than fail.