Monday, November 4, 2013

Nick Foles Ended A Lot Of Debates Today

Nick Foles is 24 years old. In 2013, he's thrown 13 TD passes and no interceptions. He's even ran for a score. He's got NFL height for a QB, can throw the deep ball, and has won two of his last three starts. And he just had, assuming one does not factor in the quality of the opposition, the best game ever in throwing the football in the 75-year history of the franchise.

Better than anything Donovan McNabb ever did, better than Michael Vick's best day, better than anything ever done by Randall Cunningham or Ron Jaworski or Norm Van Brocklin, and so on, and so on. In 1,155 games played by this laundry, no QB was ever better in the air.

So I guess he's won the starting job. And by the way, that was no small feat. Players are not statisticians, and they like magic tricks better than efficiency. Vick has fans in this locker room, and always will. But seven scores is a whole 'nother level of magic.

And the bipolar nature of Foles' game -- seriously, he'll probably win the NFC Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in four weeks, having lost the starting job in the interim -- can be excused by the nature of his age or personality... or, perhaps, the level of his competition?

Look at the film of Foles' touchdowns again. On the first to WR Riley Cooper, the wideout probably gets away with a pushoff and gets wide open. On the second to Cooper and DeSean Jackson's ball,  the DB just plain falls down, and the only skill of the QB is to keep the ball in play, and allow the WR to run. On the flat fly to Shady McCoy, he leads the RB perfectly, but that's still a simple screen pass that turns into cottony-soft YAC. Cooper's third ball comes with the pass rush having more or less given up. TE Zach Ertz is standing alone in the corner of the end zone waiting for his score, while TE Brent Celek has nice separation for his ball, too.

In other words, the seven scores are not the work of a star-level surgeon, or a guy doing magical things. He's just simply executing the throws against a defense that is getting worked like a speed bag.

Now for the bad news: this level of win by the Eagle skill players has not been achieved at any time this year, and isn't likely to again. The game may start and end with the QB, but having watched this laundry for, well, ever.... I've never seen a game where the team did more to get separation, and made all of the catches. This was a wilding.

So... well, how and why did it happen? It looked like Oakland wasn't ready for the tempo of the Blur Offense, which is kind of amazing, considering that this is what they've tried to do for all of 2013. It also seemed that the offensive line and backs were particularly on point with the blocking today. Foles was comfortable even in deep reads and secondary targets. It wasn't as if the offense was dealing with short fields or a ton of turnovers; Oakland doesn't commit their first mistake in that regard until deep into garbage time, and special teams didn't make a ton of moves in the return game. (At least, with Damaris Johnson banished for now, they didn't make any big mistakes, either.)

What happened today was the offense executing the way that the system is supposed to, and if you got him alone and away from a microphone, I'd bet you that Chip Kelly thinks this should happen every week. Regardless of who is under center.

Now, this isn't meant to demean the accomplishment here. Foles made a ton of good throws that didn't go for six, and it's more than possible that he wore the Raiders to a nub before these throws, especially when combined with the excellent tempo. And beating down the Raiders does not give a man star status; if that there the case, there would be any number of AFC West guys in Canton over the past 15 years. But what he has done, clearly, is won the job for the rest of 2013, even if he looks as bad in Green Bay next week as he did against Dallas at the Linc two weeks ago.

 Because what Foles did today was execute the offense in the speed and manner that was the closest point to its full potential seen to date. Yes, even more than the 30-snap first quarter that Michael Vick managed in the Washington game, even more than the 30 point yardage-a-thon against a better than realized Charger team, even better than his own efforts against Tampa and the combined work in New York. He did it against a good defense on the road, and the fact that the defense played terrible is as much his doing as there own. Very little in life is all one thing or the other. What Foles did today was remind everyone in the NFL that a potentially game-changing offensive coaching mind is at work here, and that what he's doing will not be ignored or dismissed just because life went badly for a couple of games.

Also this. Foles proved that the Kelly offense does not need the QB to run for first downs, or that without the threat of the QB doing that, the running game wasn't going to be effective. (Note: the Eagles ran it 22 times for 126 yards today, assuming you exclude the Matt Barkley kneeldowns, and you should.) If Foles does wash out over the rest of the year, Kelly and GM Howie Roseman will not need to draft a QB with wheels over one without, because they will have this tape to show how that isn't very important.

The QB needs to be accurate and decisive more than he has to be fleet. So long as Foles stays that way, and the line does its work, this team is a threat to do serious offensive damage.

And if the receives get separation? Well, maybe this might not be a rebuilding year after all...

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