I don't know if you've gotten the memo, but quarterback is the main topic of discussion for the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason and for the 2013 NFL Draft.
What quarterback is the best of this draft class? Should the Chiefs draft a quarterback? What round should we draft a quarterback? Should we get a quarterback in free agency? Is Geno Smith awesome or terrible, with no in between? What quarterbacks are available via trade?
And on and on it goes....
I'm not immune to this latest obsession with quarterbacks. I'd say the decision as to whom the Chiefs place behind center next season will largely make or break the next several years (if not the next dozen years) of Chiefs football. If the Chiefs blow it, we'll continue to be trapped in mediocrity for a couple of years. If the Chiefs knock it out of the park, we might contend for a Super Bowl for a decade. Somewhere in between and we could go back and forth between the two for awhile. It's kind of a big deal.
I'm a guy who has, after watching as many throws as YouTube could provide me, decided that Geno Smith is the quarterback I'd like to see us go after.
(Off topic, for those who don't know what I'm talking about when I mention YouTube and think I made my judgments based on highlights, listen up: on YouTube, you can find videos that show every throw made by various QBs in various games. Just search Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Geno Smith, or Marr Barkley Barkley and you'll find them. They are a great resource, and I would advise anyone and everyone to watch them before deciding what QB you want. Anyways...)
But that subject has been, is being, and will be beaten to DEATH, so I'd like to explore another option: Nick Foles.
Whatcha think? With the recent hire of Chip Kelly, would the Eagles trade their second year QB? And if so, would the Chiefs want him? I can, as always, see both sides of the argument. So I thought I'd try and present a fair and balanced view that fairly portrayed both sides' viewpoints.
Then I thought, "Nah, that's too hard and not much fun. Wouldn't it be a lot more fun to just barely present the side against acquiring the kid, and then argue really strongly in favor of it? Wouldn't this be a lot easier AND have benefit of making others argue with me?"
The answer, as always, is that easier is better.
The Arguments Against Nick Foles
1) He hardly tore the roof off the house in Philly during his brief time starting
2) He fell to the third round of the draft for a variety of reasons (for those who drool profusely over the draft and believe where a guy was taken is a legitimate method of deciding if he's a good player)
3) He'd be a retread
4) If a team is willing to trade a guy, that's a bad sign
5) This is stupid because they aren't going to trade him regardless
6) Because five reasons doesn't sound like as many as six
All right, got that out of the way and acknowledged there are two sides here.
Now, about the idea of getting Foles...
The Arguments FOR Nick Foles
First and foremost, let's address the idea of availability. None of us know how Chip Kelly actually feels about Foles running his offense. We do know that Kelly has repeatedly praised Foles and claims to really love his toughness.
Kelly's offense, unless changed to a rather large extent, doesn't seem to fit the type of player Foles is. Additionally, new coaches almost always seem to mean new quarterbacks. Everyone likes to bring in their own guy when they start out (a totally over-generalized and completely unresearched statement, but I'm almost positive it's true. Good enough for the interwebz, amirite?). So there ARE reasons to think Foles might be available for trade. For argument's sake, let's assume he's available for a third or second rounder.
Do we as fans freak out if that trade is made?
I don't, and here's why...
1) The Andy Reid Factor
In our little hypothetical, Andy Reid would likely be the driving force behind such a trade. While Reid (along with Clark Hunt and John Dorsey) have insisted that our new GM holds the power over personnel, it's tough to imagine Dorsey trading a high pick for a guy Reid coached for a year without Reid pushing for it to happen.
Many will say Foles isn't a good QB, that he fell for a reason, that the Chiefs can get a superior young QB with the No. 1 pick, and other such things. But that ignores the familiarity factor. As said, Reid has coached this kid for a full year. Gone through training camp with him. Gone through practices, preseason, and regular season games with him. Seen how he's handled things such as watching game film and picking up an offense. Watched as the kid was forced into starting duty.
That year of experience will tell Reid a great deal more about Nick Foles than he could possibly learn about Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson. If Reid green lights a trade like this, he does it knowing what he's getting. If we trust Reid enough to let him pick a quarterback first in a year where there's plenty of debate on the subject, shouldn't we trust him if he says, "This is a guy who can deliver for me" and trades for Foles?
Foles has almost everything you want physically in a starting NFL quarterback. He's tall (listed at 6'6) but not scrawny (listed at 243 pounds). He's got a solid arm. He's got gigantic hands (which is apparently a very big deal, as it's mentioned constantly). He enjoys long walks on the beach and crossword puzzles (there's a slight chance I made that last one up. This was just starting to feel like a personal advertisement). From every scouting report I've read on Foles, his ability to physically make any throw at the NFL level has never been in question.
One thing that HAS been questioned is his speed. He ran a 5.13 40 at the combine. For a little perspective, our notoriously slow-moving and powerful DL Tyson Jackson ran a 5.00 even. 5.13 is CRAWLING at the NFL level. Of course, if you ask me he looks just as fast as Matt Cassel out there, but that's hardly a vote of confidence.
Regardless, it was never the tangibles that made people question Foles. He's always been a prime physical specimen (there I go sounding like an online dating ad for the guy again. I'm scaring myself. And Manti Te'o). What dropped him were the intangibles.
I'm going to talk a little bit more about Foles as a prospect before we move onto what he did last year with the Eagles.
According to the scouting reports I read in preparation for this column, the major concerns about Foles were his decision making and field vision. Apparently, the concern was that he had a little too much "gunslinger" attitude and was taking too many risks (reminds me of Glennon or Wilson this year). Those who argued for him said he had to make up for a mediocre team around him in college and was forced to take too much upon himself, resulting in some forced throws that he otherwise wouldn't have made (also a lot like Glennon or Wilson). There were also fears that he was a "system" QB.
Outside of those issues (which I admit are BIG deals), Foles has a ton going for him in the "intangibles" department if scouting reports are to be believed. The word "warrior" popped up more than once, as he was a guy who would not wilt in the face of pressure. Good things were also said about his pocket presence and leadership ability.
Hmmm... interesting stuff all. But really, anyone here can look to Google for scouting reports on Foles coming out of college. The real question is; what has he shown in the NFL?
4) The Eagle Year (Part 1)
Foles was called into action against the Cowboys when Mike Vick went down with an injury. What happened in that game and the games after I can talk about in two different ways: with stats and with context added via the opinion of Eagles fans.
First, let's look at him statistically when compared with other rookie QBs in 2012 (fortunately, we have a giant sample size with multiple rookie QBs seeing tons of snaps):
Foles, in roughly nine games, had statistically "meh" results. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 6.41 YPA. He threw six TDs and five INTs. All in all, that's not overly impressive.
Looking a little deeper, though, we see more to that story. Foles was asked to throw 37.9 passes per game he played in. That was a full three throws more than any other rookie QB but Andrew Luck (who threw 39.2 passes per game). Taking that into account, we see that Foles was asked to do more than any other rookie but Mr. Luck himself. RGIII and Russell Wilson were only asked to throw roughly 26 and 24 times per game, respectively. Clearly, a heavier burden was placed on Foles when it came to throwing the ball.
Yet despite that burden of being in a pass heavy offense without much help, Foles played decently. In fact, his completion percentage and TD:INT ratio are far superior to the only other rookie QBs who were asked to throw the ball remotely as many times as he was (Luck and Brandon Weeden). Neither of them were able to throw for more TDs than picks (neither was Ryan Tannehill, fourth on the list of attempted passes per game at 30). In fact, Foles' INT percentage of was fifth in the league (with five picks in 265 passing attempts).
Those who are swooning over Luck and praise the potential of Tannehill should seriously question why they wouldn't pursue Foles. He was able to do some things better than they were statistically when being asked to throw the ball just as much. Something to at least take into account when spitting on his "mere" six TDs and 5 INTs.
Another stat to look at with Foles: 15.85. That's the number of time Foles got either sacked, hit, or hurried per game. For those who are not fans of math, that's roughly 42 percent of his dropbacks. In case you think this is a common occurrence, let's compare to a few other teams.
The Seahawks allowed the QB to be "affected" by a sack, hit, or pressure on 32 percent of their passing plays. The Cardinals (widely acknowledged around the league to have an AWFUL offensive line) allowed the QB to be affected a hair below 32 percent of the time. Our own Chiefs allowed the QB to be affected on 27 percent of our passing plays.
In other words, Nick Foles was getting pressured far and away more than most other quarterbacks. it's worth noting that he managed to still produce at an OK rate despite all that pressure.
5) The Eagle Year (Part 2)
Now comes the part where I talk about the context of the situation Foles was in. We've already talked about that offensive line he had "protecting" him. But what about skill position players? After all, aren't the Eagles loaded with talented skill guys like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy?
Well... not exactly. Not while Foles was playing. McCoy was injured and absent for four of the seven games Foles played in. Jackson was absent for four games as well. In three of those games (against the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Bengals) both were gone. Jason Avant, a decent receiver who is often overlooked, was also absent from two of the games in which Foles started.
Oh, and did I mention this was all happening while Philly's defense was giving up points at a ridiculous rate (27.8 PPG against average, 29th in the NFL)? This kid got chucked into an absolute nightmare of a situation. Injured players, a terrible OL, a team that wasn't really playing for anything, and a defensive sieve. Yet he still managed to keep from crapping himself on the field or even playing badly.
(I'm trying to ignore the fact that this mess of a team was coached by the Chiefs new HC. Breathing... breathing... remembering that all coaches' tenures tend to end badly if they stick around too long... breathing... OK, I'm good now.)
But those of course will not tell the full story.
So where to turn? Well, go to the source right? Eagles' fans have been watching this guy for almost half a season. Normally, I wouldn't go to a fan base to ask questions about a young quarterback for fear of getting drenched in Kool-Aid. But these are EAGLE fans. Is there a more pessimistic group of souls that exists? So I went for it, creating a post over at their fine SB Nation site Bleeding Green Nation which asked about Foles (I also haunted a few of their threads to get a general sense of how they feel about Foles).
The responses I got were surprisingly positive. I assumed, looking at Foles' basic stats, that most fans would want to move on from the guy. However, that is not the vibe I picked up on. The comments generally centered around a two things; pocket presence and toughness, saying that Foles has those things in spades. His arm and accuracy were generally praised, but his accuracy on deep throws was considered poor.
Overall, the vibe on Foles is a largely positive one. Those who talked about moving on from Foles almost always were saying it in reference to switching to whatever system Chip Kelly is going to run.
Between the videos I could find and the very positive opinion of the vast majority of Eagles fans (I honestly don't believe I saw one comment that said, "Foles is bad, we need to move on" or anything like it), Foles appears to have done pretty well for himself in tough circumstances.
I still want Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson
When it's all said and done, I didn't see enough (and I don't think enough evidence exists) to convince me that trading for Foles would be better for our team than drafting our own QB in the first round. However, after looking into the guy, I'd be pretty pleased to have him brought here. Two big reasons for this:
1) The Andy Reid factor mentioned above. If Reid gets him traded here, you know it means Reid thinks he can play. Given that the two of them worked together for a year, that's good enough for me.
2) Watching and reading about the way Foles handles pressure. In my opinion, almost everything necessary to be a successful NFL QB can be taught. The only things that can't are the requisite physical talent, the necessary intelligence to read defenses quickly, and the ability to stay calm and move in the pocket when under pressure. After years of watching Matt Cassel (and then Brady Quinn) panic in the face of pressure, we know how important that "clear head" is to a quarterback. In my opinion, Foles has that part down. We know he's got the physical ability as well. The only question remaining is whether he's smart enough to get the job done, which is a question that will be answered for us if Reid is willing to bring him on board.
Do I think this is all that likely? Not really. But I have to say, I'm almost rooting for it.