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A Better Fit: Nick Foles or Michael Vick

Chip Kelly took over the Oregon Ducks in 2009 after serving two years as offensive coordinator. He inherited two mobile quarterbacks in Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas, both of whom he had worked with previously. These two split quarterback duties for the Ducks over the following three seasons. Below are their rushing statistics by year:

2009 Masoli – 121 carries, 668 yards, 13 TD
2010 Thomas – 93 carries, 486 yards, 5 TD
2011 Thomas – 56 carries, 206 yards, 3 TD

Notice the trend? The amount of carries per season for his quarterback decreased significantly each season. Kelly wants quarterbacks who can run, but he really doesn’t want them to choose that option, too often. As they learned his system and adapted to it, they ran less and less each year. Despite Kelly no longer being at Oregon, they are still using his system; we are seeing a similar trend with new starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. He ran the ball 106 times in 2012, 8.2 times per game. His pace in 2013 is 6.8 times per game.

No one is going to confuse Nick Foles for Michael Vick; their skill sets could not be more different. Before getting hurt, Vick averaged more than six carries per game, but half of them were not on designed run plays. Kelly’s offense is much more reliant on controlling tempo, quick decision making, creating 1-on-1 mismatches, accuracy down field, the ability to read the field pre- and post-snap, and being aware of what’s going on around the quarterback than it is a running quarterback. Decision making, awareness and reading the field are arguably Vick’s three worst traits. These issues caught up to him after a strong first two weeks as his completion percentage dipped below 50 and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

Foles may not be an elite quarterback. He has his own issues reading the field at times, has a tendency to execute poorly under duress, and is never going to win with his feet. However, he is much more decisive in his decision making and is significantly more accurate down field. This is a big reason why he has completed almost 70 percent of his passes in the last two games with an eye-popping six touchdowns and no turnovers. Kelly’s schemes get wide receivers to the holes in the defense and Foles is able to exploit it before a pass rusher gets a mitt in his face.

Against Tampa Bay, who inexplicably run a base zone with stud cornerback
Darrelle Revis

, the Eagles continually ran wide receivers away from his zone. Foles would read Revis then throw somewhere else, over and over again, while the Buccaneers refused to adjust. Unlike Vick, Foles is much more accurate down field, which also explains the variance in their completion percentage. The Eagles’ quarterbacks have two of the three highest average depth of targets, according to
Pro Football Focus, in the league, so down field accuracy is a requirement to succeed in this offense.

This will continue. According to Adam Caplan, Kelly’s Eagles are only one of four teams in NFL history to gain at least 400 yards in each of the league’s first six weeks. If Kelly opts to keep Foles as his starter for the remainder of the season he will finish as a top-10 quarterback in 2013; maybe higher. It’d be unfair to say Foles has nothing to do with it, but it has a lot more to do with Kelly than it does him.

Still, he is the best fit in this offense among the current options available. He’s a quick decision maker, more accurate down field, reads the field better than Vick, and is less likely to make the back breaking mistake Vick is prone to making. I don’t think it will lead to a job in Philadelphia beyond this season, but that’s an issue to discuss in February; not October. Now, get to him in FanDuel like I will before his price corrects next week.

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