So, where were you when the Nick Foles era started? You will always remember this moment. Make it last.
Less than 24 hours after Foles showed significant progress during the Eagles’ loss to the Cowboys last night, head coach Andy Reid announced that he’ll remain the team’s starting quarterback, even once Michael Vick has fully recovered from his concussion.
And while we’re pondering our place in the grand scheme of time, maybe there was a more pressing question to lead with: where were you when the Michael Vick era in Philadelphia ended? Let’s pause for a moment, and remember the good times.
Pour one out, guys.
Vick’s health right now remains very much in question, as is the nature of the lingering, unpredictable concussion. He’s missed three games, and he’ll undergo further testing today. Currently he’s still stuck in phase four of the five-step concussion rehab process. But at this point after eight straight losses and with the Eagles’ season deep in grimy gutters along with the employment contracts of Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn, Vick’s health matters little. He’s not starting now for the Eagles, and he’s not starting ever again for the Eagles.
Reid didn’t say that directly, because right now he surely can’t say anything definitive regarding Vick’s future. During his press conference today he said that his former starter’s health is improving rapidly, and he used coach injury-speak (“fast track”) to describe Vick’s status, saying that he may be available for Philly’s Week 14 game against Tampa. But he doesn’t need to say anything directly, because his actions did the talking.
If Vick is healthy, ready, and in uniform, he’ll be the backup, making it painfully obvious that his recovery wasn’t the motivating factor in this decision, even if Reid applied the appropriate amount of sugar by saying he was mindful of Vick’s long-term health. As a backup he’s still one bad hit away from seeing game action.
This was the most telling comment: (from Jeff McLane)
“I think, where we’re out, with the season, it gives this kid an opportunity to play and finish it up,” Reid said. “He’s playing well enough that I think he can win football games for us. Where we sit at this position in the season, it’s the right thing to do.”
Yes, Andy, of course it is. This is a trial, and an extended experiment to see if the Foles we saw last night — the one who had a season high passer rating of 96.6 — can reappear next Sunday, and again the following Sunday, and so on. If he succeeds, he then spends the offseason preparing to be the starter next fall, with an experienced veteran perhaps brought in to be his trusted backup. If he fails, the aggressive pursuit of someone who won’t fail will surely begin, with the Eagles currently holding the third overall pick in next spring’s draft. Such an experiment isn’t conducted if there’s faith, trust, and a long-term vision for the displaced starter.
So the Eagles move onward, or at least most likely, almost surely move onward, just one year after the 32-year-old Vick was given a six-year contract worth $80 million, $32.5 million of which was guaranteed. If Foles is still even moderately successful and shows that he can be groomed, there are 15.5 million more reasons why the Eagles won’t be employing Vick next season. That’s what he’s owed in 2013, while Foles will make only $660,000. That money isn’t just talking; it’s yelling, and it’s downright deafening.
With that sorted, you’re still wondering how this will impact your run to a fantasy championship. Well, we have hope to cling to, don’t we? That was Foles’ early holiday gift to us, but so was uncertainty. Lots of uncertainty.
Realistically with DeSean Jackson gone for the remainder of the season, there are only three offensive players left on the Eagles’ roster who are consistently worthy of starting consideration in standard 10- or 12-team leagues. Their names are Brent Celek, and Bryce Brown or LeSean McCoy once he’s healthy. No, Jeremy Maclin isn’t on that list, as despite the improvement we saw last night, he remains a fantasy casualty of the Foles era. He’s fallen to at best low-end WR3 status and most weeks he’ll be a flex play, with the wide receiver targets and production spread out between Maclin, Jason Avant, and Riley Cooper during Foles’ three starts.
Even when Vick was healthy earlier in the year Maclin’s production was sporadic, but that was tied to his injuries. A healthy Maclin is a receiver who’s targeted often, as prior to Foles taking over he had four games with 10 or more targets (14 in Week 1, 10 in Week 6, 10 in Week 8, and 12 in Week 10). During Foles’ three starts he’s had only 93 receiving yards, which includes a game with zero catches on three targets. In total a wide receiver who was averaging 7.8 targets per game prior to Week 11 has only 15 since.
That decrease of nearly three targets per game has been significant, as it’s translated into eight catches over those three games. Meanwhile, Cooper also has eight grabs during Foles’ starts, and like Maclin he was targeted five times last night. So was Jason Avant, and so was Bryce Brown. Brent Celek had eight targets two weeks ago in the game when Maclin’s three didn’t result in a single catch, and last night the tight end received eight targets again, hauling in seven of them for 73 yards.
Getting dizzy? Get used to the feeling. This is a depth chart and a group of pass catchers where a hierarchy may not be clearly defined going forward, which limits your confidence in any one option. As the safety valve for a rookie quarterback, Celek can still be started every week, and obviously those Brown and McCoy guys can be too as they’ll be leaned on heavily and asked to support said rookie.
But you’re chucking heavy dice if you’re regularly using any other wide receiver as anything beyond a flex play.