Tag Archives: Michael Vick

Chip Kelly, Power, and the Trend of Increasing Expectations

The two-year anniversary of Chip Kelly’s hiring in Philadelphia is 13 days away.

For an hour or two yesterday afternoon, there was some fear that January 16 could arrive with the innovative Eagles coach elsewhere, fed up with dysfunction in the Eagles front office and friction with now former general manager Howie Roseman.

Thankfully everyone across the Delaware Valley can take a nice, deep breath.

The Eagles in their tweet used the verb “elevated” to describe Roseman’s new role. Perhaps he will get a new coffee machine in his office, a bigger desk, a shiny new nameplate, and a higher salary, but he lost control of the one thing he always aspired to do — Be an NFL GM.

Kelly wrestled it away from him, and as the coach has done so many times in his brief but eventful two years, once again raised expectations for himself and the team he coaches and now runs completely.

More than fast-paced offenses or sport science techniques, quickly raising expectations has been the overarching theme of Kelly’s rookie and sophomore NFL seasons.

For as pumped as I was when Kelly was hired, a lot of folks might be surprised to learn that I envisioned a scenario where he might not make the playoffs until Year 3. As I wrote a week ago, Andy Reid left his roster in absolute shambles, and Kelly was tasked with cleaning up a mess on the fly.

I predicted the Eagles would go 7-9 or 8-8 in 2013, a very respectable improvement from 4-12 under a first year coach. I assumed they would improve by another game or two this past season, and then really make their big move in 2015.

The idea that they could immediately go from a 4-12 punching bag to a 10-6 playoff team was farfetched to say the least, and no other 2013 coaching candidate would have been able to do it, including Bruce Arians, who like Kelly has had back-to-back double digit win seasons in Arizona but also only one playoff appearance due to a deep NFC.

It happened though, of course, in another example of Kelly raising the bar faster than even most of his biggest believers could have anticipated.

When he opted for a flawed but experienced Michael Vick over a — at the time — unproven Nick Foles, expectations were immediately raised with the idea that maybe the Eagles could compete in a wide open NFC East.

When Kelly unveiled his offense to a national audience on September 9, 2013 with Vick running it flawlessly en route to a 33-27 win over the defending NFC East champion Redskins, expectations were raised again.

The following week, some reporters who had covered him at Oregon claimed he would take the league by storm and win 11 or 12 games in his first season.

They were a game off, but when Vick inevitably suffered an injury in the fifth game of the season and folks realized that Foles could play, expectations quickly shot up again.

Nothing may have increased expectations more than the division title in Year 1 though. While still a couple rungs below the Seahawks, the Eagles were tossed around as a darkhorse Super Bowl candidate this past summer, and for three months, that looked pretty spot on.

The 23-point Thanksgiving victory in Dallas raised hope even more.

Brief setbacks sometimes followed the raised optimism though. The three game losing streak in 2013 after the opening victory, the back-to-back home losses to the Cowboys and Giants last October that produced a total of three offensive points, and of course, the mini collapse this past December.

All of those slight bumps were quickly countered though, and that is what Kelly did again yesterday.

There is no more ambiguity as to who has final say on certain personnel matters. We thought we knew before, but there is no doubt now.

If the Eagles fleece another team in a trade and acquire a player the caliber of Darren Sproles or Cody Parkey, Kelly gets all the credit. If the Eagles draft another version of Marcus Smith, who cannot play, in the first round, Kelly shoulders the blame.

We know Kelly can coach after consecutive 10-win seasons. We are pretty confident he can evaluate talent based on his four years at Oregon. We will soon find out whether or not he can draft.

During his tenure so far, the Eagles have had one really good draft, which played a large role in their quick turnaround, and one bad draft, which hindered them from making more progress in Year 2.

Let’s hone in on the 2014 draft and the Smith pick for a second. No one knows who had final say on that inexplicable decision, but yesterday’s reshuffling gives me more belief that it was Roseman who made the final call there.

For as much as Kelly wanted to have his best players on the field last Sunday to win, I find it odd that he wouldn’t allow Smith to see the field a little bit if he was planning on walking into Jeffrey Lurie’s office demanding more power against one of the owner’s closest allies and had to hold himself accountable for a first round rookie gone wrong.

More than likely, Roseman, who was decent at his job but also made his share of mistakes, made the pick and Kelly realized it couldn’t happen again if the Eagles were going to take the next step from a good team to a great team.

This April, it is Kelly’s show to run. Time will tell whether or not that is a good thing, but expectations will only grow.

Be it a free agent splash, releasing a productive veteran player, mortgaging future draft picks to move up high enough to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or something else, the momentum will not stop.

Whether he will acknowledge it or not, raising expectations is what Kelly has always done — at New Hampshire as an offensive coordinator, at Oregon as first an offensive coordinator and then a head coach, and at Philadelphia as first a head coach and now in charge of player personnel decisions.

With great power comes great responsibility — and greater expectations.

Role Reversal: This Eagles-49ers Game Eerily Reminds Me of When They Played in 2011

As I mentioned two weeks ago before the Colts game, when the Eagles face a non-NFC East opponent, we will try to do a history esque lesson reflecting back on a previous matchup between the two teams.

Ideally we would go further back than three years ago for this feature, but today’s game reminds me a lot of a 2011 matchup, only the roles flipped completely upside down here.

Allow me to refresh your memory, and you can decide on your own if you see such parallels.

The date was October 2 (another Week 4 game), and the 49ers came to Philadelphia with a surprising 2-1 record. The Eagles entered on a two-game losing streak at 1-2 but were still a home favorite and perceived to be the better team.

They had the more established coach albeit similar to Jim Harbaugh now, some questioned if Andy Reid was losing his grip on the team at the time. They also had the more accomplished quarterback in Michael Vick, and most figured it was a game set up for the Eagles to win and get back to .500 at 2-2.

Early on, it seemed like things would follow that exact script. The Eagles jumped out to a 23-3 lead. An inexplicable lateral near the goal line by running back Ronnie Brown would cost them points, but everything was still going well.

Alex Smith found Josh Morgan for a 30-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter to cut the deficit to 23-10. It was thought to be a relatively harmless touchdown pass at the time, but Vick and the Eagles went three and out. The 49ers scored again, and all of a sudden, a 23-3 lead was now 23-17 with 20 minutes still to play.

The Eagles looked prime to respond on their next drive and make it a two-possession game again, but rookie kicker Alex Henery missed a 39-yard field goal wide right three plays into the fourth quarter.

Juan Castillo’s defense was able to force a punt, and with less than seven minutes to go, Henery had a chance at redemption from 33 yards.

He missed again.

This time, Alex Smith and the 49ers would take advantage of a golden opportunity. Frank Gore capped off an eight-play drive with a rushing touchdown from 12 yards out. Former Eagles kicker David Akers nailed the extra point, and Lincoln Financial Field was in a state of shock.

The Eagles still had time and were actually moving the ball, but Justin Smith forced a Jeremy Maclin fumble on the edge of field goal range in Niners territory that was recovered by Dashon Goldson. A slim chance still existed, but Frank Gore was able to run for two first downs to salt away the clock.

Andy Reid’s squad would lose a game at Buffalo before it won again and would never completely recover from the 1-4 start, finishing the season 8-8. The 49ers would not lose again until Thanksgiving night as they advanced all the way to the NFC Championship game.

A box score from the game is here. A screenshot of the scoring summary and video highlights are embedded below.

Eagles-Niners Screenshot

The 49ers broke the Eagles will that afternoon, and today, the Eagles have a chance to do the exact same thing in San Francisco at the newly opened Levi’s Stadium.

They come in rolling while the 49ers are reeling after losing two straight. They have a better kicker now and a hot shot coach making waves throughout the league.

Everything feels so eerily familiar. All that’s needed is an Eagles victory to flip the script as part of the sequel.

Nick Foles, Overcoming Adversity, and Earning Patience

Regardless of the twists and turns that his NFL career takes, the numbers ’27 and two’ will always be synonymous with Nick Foles.

It represents the touchdown to interception ratio that the Eagles’ third-year quarterback posted during the 2013 season, (technically 29 and two if you count the two touchdown passes thrown in a playoff game where Foles out dueled future Hall of Famer Drew Brees).

It also represents an NFL record and normally serves as a conversation starter about the signal-caller going forward. Foles believers cite it to illustrate just how good he was last year and to show that they are convinced he is a franchise quarterback. Foles doubters mention that the two numbers are not sustainable and that some regression in 2014 is guaranteed.

The exercise is a great example of how the same statistic can be bent in different ways to form two complex arguments.

Foles’ projections for 2014 are all over the map. I personally put him down for 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions before the season started. Regardless of what folks think he will do for an encore though, those numbers ’27 and two’ should have one unifying trait between fans and detractors.

They should be a reminder of patience as the year gets into full swing — Way more patience than what was exhibited Sunday afternoon when Foles got off to a less than stellar start against the Jaguars in the season opener.

A promising season was less than 30 minutes old, and calls for Mark Sanchez began to ring out both at Lincoln Financial Field and throughout Eagles Twitter. Philly.com even went as far as to put up a poll about the topic as the Eagles struggled through an ugly first half that saw them head into the locker room down 17-0.

I am not sure how much the page has been visited post-Sunday but as of clicking on late Thursday night calls for Sanchez were still at 33.1 percent.

Eagles-Jaguars Poll

Thankfully, Chip Kelly, Pat Shurmur, and Bill Musgrave stuck with their Pro Bowl quarterback knowing he had recovered from adversity before and could do it again.

Benching a quarterback who is healthy but ineffective has always been a real sensitive topic to me. The position comes with so much prestige that you cannot simply put the toothpaste back in the tube once it is out.

If you pull a quarterback coming off a breakout season less than a half into a new one, you better be sure the good version of Sanchez from the preseason isn’t a mirage because you may never get Foles back once the trigger is pulled.

It is not like baseball when your ace has a bad start and the manager takes the ball telling him to try again five days later. Five days later may never arrive in this instance.

Sticking with Foles paid off as the quarterback went 15-for-22 for 183 yards in the second half with two touchdown passes. The 68-yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin may have been a bit of a coverage bust, but the 25-yard pass to Zach Ertz to cut the Jaguars lead to three had some nice touch on it.

Foles was certainly shaky during the first 30 minutes, but it should say something about him that he was able to bounce back quickly, just like last November where he threw seven touchdown passes two weeks after playing an awful game against Dallas that saw him exit with a concussion. At the time, it was believed that Foles had fumbled away his chance to win the starting quarterback job with Michael Vick recovering from injury, but he quickly got another shot and made the most of it.

Lost in all of this as well is that Foles was not the only quarterback to have some Week 1 issues. Tom Brady avoided throwing an interception but was 29-for-56 — a measly 4.4 yards passing per attempt — in a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins.

Completions Attempts Yards Turnovers Score
4 8 46 2 (fumbles) 17 — 0
6 9 56 1 (interception) 10 — 0

Take a look at these blind quarterback stats for a second. The top column is Foles’ first three drives. The bottom column is Andrew Luck’s first three drives against the Broncos Sunday night.

Luck, the Eagles’ Week 2 opponent, did not have a particularly good start to the season either, but nobody freaked out and called for Matt Hasselbeck to replace him because Luck was the number one overall pick in the draft back in 2012. He gets a pass for any bad stretches he experiences, chalked up to growing pains and learning on the fly. Foles was the 88th pick in the same draft class and the sixth overall quarterback selected. He does not get those passes because most third round picks are perceived to not be franchise quarterbacks.

You would think after 2013 that we would be past this, but apparently that isn’t the case. The fact that Foles was a third round pick should be irrelevant after what he did last season. Foles’ numbers were better across the board and both quarterbacks won their respective divisions. The only difference was Luck got to play one more game because his defense held when he led a fourth quarter comeback in a playoff game while the Eagles’ special teams let Foles down.

The Colts were my Super Bowl pick, and I also had them winning on Monday when I did my Eagles predictions, but I cannot wait to see the reaction should Foles outperform Luck like he did with Brees last January.

This should be a fun time when it comes to following the Eagles. It reminds me of the 2000 and 2001 Andy Reid teams where the talent was good enough to get to the playoffs, but sky high expectations had not yet set in to the point where watching was more stressful than fun and anything short of a Lombardi Trophy would be considered an absolute failure.

The big difference I see between now and then is that the Giants were still pretty formidable in those days before falling off for a few years. Right now, the rest of the NFC East is awful.

Foles won way more than he lost in 2013 (nine wins compared to three losses specifically), and I often think about tying that into a Chip Kelly quote a few days after the playoff loss to the Saints last year.

Kelly was essentially asked by a reporter if he considered himself an ‘NFL coach after completing his first season in the most competitive league in the world. In typical Kelly fashion, he responded by saying that he thought he was an NFL coach 10 times and not one seven times, an obvious ode to the Eagles record.

Well, if we apply the same logic, Foles was a franchise quarterback nine times and not one three times. Seventy five percent — That sounds pretty damn good to me.

A record setting touchdown to interception ratio, nine wins, the first NFC East title since 2010, and a flawless fourth quarter playoff drive. Natural regression suggests he cannot repeat that, but let your mind wander for a second. What if he does? What if he comes really close to those numbers again?

And you were ready to potentially throw all of that away because of one bad half?

If Nick Foles did not already have your trust going into Sunday, he probably did not earn it, however, he should have earned your patience last season, and that should last for way more than a half.

If You’re Turnt AF for Matt Barkley Time Tonight, Clap Your Hands

Clap clap!

The team that nearly ruined Mark Sanchez plays the team that is rebuilding him in the preseason finale tonight at Lincoln Financial Field. In less douchey terminology, the Eagles and Jets meet in the annual fourth and final preseason contest before roster cuts are due and teams get ready for the actual show.

I unfortunately will not be watching the action live tonight, but unlike a lot of folks who tune out the fourth preseason game because they falsely believe it is completely meaningless, I have to work late before spending Labor Day Weekend in Pittsburgh at a friend’s wedding. You may have already seen that mentioned on here.

I get that some people cannot stand this final game. I really do, but to the fringe players that participate in it, tonight could help make or break their career. It happened 14 years ago in Philadelphia with A.J. Feeley and will happen again around the league tonight.

When I arrive home from work, I will probably throw on a replay while packing for the wedding and attempt a 53-man roster projection.

In the meantime, here are five things I hope to see from the Mark Sanchez-Michael Vick Bowl Matt Barkley-Michael Vick Bowl when I fire up the DVR:

  1. Matt Barkley has an excellent audition — I like Matt Barkley. I think he can have a future as a starter in this league, just not in Philadelphia (where Nick Foles is the starting quarterback for the next 1000 years). Since he entered the league 16 months ago, Barkley’s game has been picked apart every which way. Such is life when you go from a prodigy who some scouts had ahead of Andrew Luck to a fourth round pick following a rough senior season at shoulder injury. Tonight is Barkley’s chance to show some of the naysayers that he belongs and to catch the attention of some quarterback needy teams who might be interested down the road.
  2. Alex Henery is mistake free — I am at the point where I don’t know what else to write about the embattled kicker. I attempted to explore his issues in-depth and even defended him after an awful miss last week. I am still very confident the Eagles enter Week 1 with him as their guy, but the margin for error has never been smaller. I will update the kickoff tracker when I get home but nothing live during the game sadly.
  3. A wide receiver on the bubble shows they want the spot — Between Jeff Maehl, Arrelious Benn, and Ifeanyi Momah, the birds have a trio of receivers competing for what is likely one final spot on the depth chart there. All have flashed but have also displayed their inconsistency that has put them squarely on the bubble. Maehl is the safe bet considering he played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and knows the system, but I think Benn and Momah have a much higher ceiling. If they want to reach that ceiling though, they need to show it tonight.
  4. Jaylen Watkins doing good things on defense — I could have picked a lot of people here but hope to see the rookie defensive back in action tonight. He had a rough time against the Bears but also flashed his potential and versatility with an interception before all was said and done.
  5. A standing ovation for Michael Vick — Call this a cop out, but the former Eagles quarterback is back at the Linc in a different shade of green after five years in Philadelphia, and I think he earned it. I never thought Vick was a very good quarterback, but I believe he left here a better person and teammate than when he arrived. I think a lot of people are still unsure about how to judge him stemming from his dogfighting troubles of the past, but our country loves a comeback, and Vick has certainly made the most of his second chance.

We almost made it. The finish line is in sight. See you folks for more analysis once we cross it.

Think Tonight’s Eagles-Jets Game is Meaningless? Travel Back in Time and Tell that to A.J. Feeley 14 Years Ago

Before Chip Kelly became the biggest thing once associated with Oregon football to spread his influence on the Eagles, there was A.J. Feeley.

A career third-string and backup quarterback, Feeley was able to live out his dream as a fill-in starter during a few different seasons in Philadelphia, even going 4-1 during a five game stretch in 2002.

At the time, it was a fun story, but all of it might have never been possible were it not for one epic drive in the final preseason game back on August 30, 2001.

This is your Eagles history lesson of the day, and while it may not have been ridiculously important, it underscores a significant theme that will run rampant throughout tonight’s Eagles-Jets preseason finale almost a decade and a half later. While the fourth preseason game can be a vacation for the starters, it is the complete opposite for some of the backups. It’s their career.

The Eagles were trailing the Jets 12-6 with time winding down. Whether or not they won or lost was irrelevant, but for the rookie quarterback, it meant everything. The year before, Koy Detmer and Ron Powlus had backed up Donovan McNabb, who led the birds to a playoff victory on wildcard weekend in his first full-time season as the starting quarterback.

The following spring, the team had drafted Feeley in the fifth round, but they were still only going to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster. It was very possible that Powlus would hang onto the job and Feeley would have to find a home elsewhere, until things changed on that final drive.

Third year coach Andy Reid essentially said to Feeley ‘Alright rookie, get us in the end zone, you’ve got your spot on the team.’

Feeley delivered with an improbable 80-yard drive, eventually finding Sean Scott for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the Veterans Stadium end zone with only 23 seconds remaining. For as much as I like to flaunt my Eagles memory, it doesn’t translate perfectly to the 2001 preseason.

I recalled the touchdown pass that flipped the quarterback competition, but earlier on the drive, big passes were completed to Anthony Gray and Penn State graduate Tony Stewart.

These are some links and screenshots to news articles recapping the game from the Los Angeles Times and the Allentown Morning Call.

Feeley Screenshot 1

Feeley Screenshot 2

A somewhat incomplete ESPN box score of the action is available here.

I never expected to be writing about it so many years later, but I remember watching it, probably well past my fourth grade bedtime at the time, just happy that the Eagles won even though it didn’t really count.

Powlus, who had a nice college career at Notre Dame, was cut a day or two later and never played in the NFL again. Feeley lasted for 11 years, and when McNabb and Detmer both suffered serious injuries in 2002, he helped keep the ship afloat, throwing for six touchdown passes over a six game stretch, allowing the Eagles to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

He would fail as a part-time starter on a terrible Miami team in 2004 but eventually made his way back to Philadelphia, leading the Eagles to a victory against the Falcons in the 2006 season finale and nearly knocking off the then undefeated Patriots at Gillette Stadium in November 2007, throwing for three touchdown passes and 345 yards through the air.

Not a bad NFL career for a fifth round pick who lost his starting job at Oregon to Joey Harrington and wasn’t expected by some to make the team that summer of his rookie year.

What if Scott had dropped that touchdown pass though? What if Gray or Stewart had the balls thrown their way hit off their hands and turn into interceptions? What if a blocking assignment had been missed earlier in the drive and Feeley never made it past midfield?

We can fill a ton of space what-iffing to death, but the idea is to show that while many folks like to disregard the last preseason game, small details — even in the final few minutes — can mean everything to underdog players.

For an Eagles backup quarterback who has been out of the league less than five years, the game everyone loves to hate served as the springboard to a decade-long stay in the NFL, and there are other A.J. Feeley’s out there tonight, throughout the league, be it at quarterback or another position, just looking for that one moment that could be their big break.

Tonight’s game means nothing, eh? Travel back in time to the summer of 2001 and try telling that to A.J. Feeley.

Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild Mark Sanchez. We Have the Technology

Work with me for a second here as we progress through this fake conversation.

The date is Monday, March 24, and Chip Kelly is sitting in his NovaCare Complex office watching tape from the 2013 season.

Footage from the fourth quarter of the first Cowboys game just finished playing featuring rookie Matt Barkley throwing three interceptions after having to relieve a concussed Nick Foles.

Kelly: Secretary, bring me a smoothie and set me up on a Skype call with Howie, Pat, and Bill. 

Secretary: Sure coach, but if you don’t mind me asking, who is Bill, Billy Davis? We have a lot of Bill’s who work for us. 

Kelly: No, not him. Bill Musgrave, our new quarterbacks coach. 

Secretary: Wait, wasn’t the old quarterbacks coach also named Bill? Billy Lazor or something?

Kelly: Yes, he’s in Miami now. You know I hate wasting time, and right now you’re being inefficient with these questions. Get them on the phone, please.

(Shurmur’s ring tone is the Michigan State fight song. Musgrave, in the process of completing his move from Minnesota to Philadelphia, takes a few rings to answer)

Kelly: Afternoon, guys. I’ll cut to the chase real quick. We need to address our quarterback situation. Nick may be the starter for the next 1000 years, but he has suffered some type of injury just about every year going back to his college days at Arizona. I like Matt, but watching some tape from last year, I’m not sure he’s ready to be our backup. Let’s hear some suggestions.

Shurmur: Why don’t we make it easy and just re-sign Mike, Chip? He liked it here and already knows the system.

Kelly: Pat, you gotta keep up here, dawgy. Mike signed with the Jets last Friday. That’s why I’m calling. Bill, you’ll be their position coach. What have you got? (Silence) Bill, talk!

Musgrave: Sorry, Chip, little hard to hear over the Minnesota wind outside the airport here, can’t wait to get to Philly. I used to coach Joe Webb…

Roseman: Bill, no! I realize you’re new here, but we don’t mention that name around these parts after what Webb did on a Tuesday night in December 2010.

Kelly: Howie, let’s make Bill feel welcome and let him finish. In December 2010, I was preparing for Nick Fairley and Auburn’s defense. I wasn’t here for any of that. Go ahead, Bill.

Musgrave: Sorry, Howie, I should have thought of that,, but yeah Joe Webb, very athletic, he would be my choice.

Kelly: Meh. Let’s…

Roseman: Uh Chip, not to interrupt, but I just got a text. Webb signed with the Panthers 30 seconds ago.

Kelly: No loss. Pat, now that you’re all caught up, what do you think?

Shurmur: Well Chip, I used to coach Colt McCoy in Cleveland, threw 14 touchdown passes for me in 2011. What about him?

Kelly: I don’t hate it, but he’s had some bad shoulder injuries. Let me jump in here guys. You know who I like? Mark Sanchez.

(Silence for 10 seconds)

Kelly: I said I like Mark Sanchez, guys. Wind blowing up again, Bill?

Musgrave: Nah Chip, I heard you that time. I’m just kinda shocked. I’d be happy to try to coach him up, but he had 27 turnovers in his final year with the Jets. Are you sure?

Shurmur: Yeah, Chip, I’m kinda with Bill here. I know you were still at Oregon, but in Mark’s final four games with the Jets in 2012, he threw eight interceptions to only one touchdown pass and completed 50.4 percent of his passes. Plus, you mentioned shoulder troubles with Colt. Mark had surgery for a torn labrum in the fall. I just…

Kelly: Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology — and good wide receivers. Get the deal done, Howie. We’ll talk about DeSean later.

(Phone clicks as Kelly immediately returns to watching film)

I have not yet really broached the topic that is the revitalization of Mark Sanchez throughout this preseason. I avoided it in part because I didn’t believe what I was seeing. I also thought there were more pressing issues to address, but to ignore writing about Sanchez any longer would be irresponsible given what we are witnessing.

Considering Kelly announced that Sanchez will not play against his former employer when the Eagles host the Jets Thursday night, now seems like a good time to go more in-depth on him. Sanchez’s preseason is over — a three game stretch that saw him go 25-31 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception while leading six touchdown drives.

Most impressive perhaps is that in the third game, Sanchez successfully moved the ball against the Steelers’ starters on defense, who were still playing deep into the third quarter.

The sixth year signal-caller was poised and comfortable in Kelly’s up-temp offense, looking like the quarterback who defeated Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady in playoff games during his first two years in the league and nothing like the deer-in-headlights quarterback who lost his way during his final two years with the Jets.

Consider me as surprised as anyone. I never had any major reason to dislike Sanchez but watching how bad things had gotten for him had almost become a must-see circus from afar. Nothing would top the butt fumble, but you started tuning in just to see what crazy turnover he would commit next.

Needless to say, I was not excited when the Eagles signed him. I had been decently high on Matt Barkley going back to when the birds drafted him. In Kelly’s system, a quarterback needs to be a good, quick decision-maker above all, and Sanchez, with 95 turnovers over four seasons, was far from that.

As I alluded to earlier in the fake conversation, I thought a guy like Colt McCoy — who has a lesser resume but also fewer turnovers — would have been a solid pick if they didn’t give the job to Barkley.

Even as training camp started, I held out hope that Barkley would be able to beat Sanchez out. I really don’t think Barkley played poorly either, but it became crystal clear during the opening game against the Bears, that I was not going to get my wish.

I was wrong, and unlike pond scum hack Mike Freeman, I will try to admit when I am wrong about something.

Sanchez right now looks like a great signing for 2.25 million dollars and one of the best backup quarterback options in the NFL.

Eagles Mark Sanchez
Cowboys Brandon Weeden
Giants Ryan Nassib
Redskins Kirk Cousins
Packers Matt Flynn
Bears Jimmy Clausen
Lions Dan Orlovsky
Vikings Teddy Bridgewater
Panthers Derek Anderson
Saints Luke McCown
Bucs Mike Glennon
Falcons T.J. Yates
Seahawks Tarvaris Jackson
49ers Blaine Gabbert
Cardinals Drew Stanton
Rams Shaun Hill
Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo
Dolphins Matt Moore
Jets Michael Vick
Bills Thaddeus Lewis
Bengals Jason Campbell
Steelers Bruce Gradkowski
Ravens Tyrod Taylor
Browns Johnny Manziel
Colts Matt Hasselbeck
Titans Charlie Whitehurst
Jaguars Blake Bortles
Texans Case Keenum
Broncos Brock Osweiler
Chiefs Chase Daniel
Chargers Kellen Clemens
Raiders Derek Carr

What we have in that chart is a list of all the projected backup quarterbacks in the league. The 32 of them combine for 12 playoff wins. Matt Hasselbeck owns five, Michael Vick has two, T.J. Yates is responsible for one, and Sanchez has four.

If you are high on rookies like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jimmy Garoppolo, you could say that they are better options than Sanchez, but once the first three become starters, it is tough to make a solid case that Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Cassel are better.

No one on that list can say they have out-dueled two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks en route to road playoff victories.

After being left hung out to dry with no competent weapons and a defensive oriented staff in New York, Sanchez again looks like a capable quarterback with guys like Jordan Matthews, my dude Zach Ertz, James Casey, and Arrelious Benn to sling the ball to.

The bad Sanchez flashed at one point against the Patriots with an ill-advised throw into double coverage intended for Casey that resulted in an interception, but mistakes have been few and far between.

All of a sudden, Sanchez is an asset again after being an afterthought as recently as five months ago. The best part is that other teams know it too. The Rams just lost starter Sam Bradford to a torn ACL and in the past have been on record as wanting Sanchez.

This is what I am referring to when I constantly say on Twitter that the Eagles’ bottom half of the roster is the best it has been in quite some time. Talent at a few starting positions probably needs to improve before they can really challenge the Seahawks in the NFC, but depth is a valuable thing, and they have reserve players who could start for other teams.

It sounds like Sanchez doesn’t want the Rams though as much as they might want him, and the Eagles have no reason to move him unless the Rams absolutely blow them away. Sanchez, of course, wants to be a starter again, but why be in such a hurry to leave the coaching staff that is helping to save your career?

Sanchez Tweet

Some folks will want to see Sanchez show competency in a regular season game before they believe this is for real, however, I think some quarterback needy teams would be willing to take a chance even if they never get to see that.

In a perfect world, they won’t. I believe Nick Foles is way better than Sanchez. Therefore, I won’t go as far as saying ‘Foles could get hurt and the offense won’t miss a beat,’ but I do now believe that Sanchez could step in for a week or two, move the offense, and win a game if the Eagles needed him. I didn’t think that a month ago.

It appears I was wrong, and as weird as it is for me to see him in a different shade of green, I couldn’t be happier about being wrong here.

The ideal outcome is that Sanchez will carry a clipboard throughout the season and then take what he learned here and sign somewhere in the offseason where he can really compete to be a starter again.

If Chip Kelly stays in the NFL long enough, his influence will touch many people and places. His Year 1 offense already set several Eagles records. Other organizations are already trying to catch up to him when it comes to the sports science department and play-calling. His coaching tree has already started to grow with Bill Lazor going from Eagles quarterbacks coach to Dolphins offensive coordinator, hired to try to take what he learned from Kelly and apply it elsewhere.

The last paragraph and Kelly’s resume will only grow as the years go by. Hopefully there is a Super Bowl on it soon that will sit at the top, but rebuilding Mark Sanchez?

That wouldn’t be too far behind.

An Eagles History Lesson: The Great Collapse of 2012 That Ended the Andy Reid Era Began Against the Steelers

Fifty years from now when someone not yet born does the current equivalent of typing “2012 Philadelphia Eagles” into Google, one will likely reach the immediate conclusion, “Wow, that team was really awful.”

They would be correct, except there is a bit of a catch. The Eagles finished the season 4-12, their worst record since 1998 when they were 3-13 in Ray Rhodes’ final year running the show before Andy Reid was hired.

The 2012 team scored the fourth lowest number of points in the league and surrendered the third highest. They were terrible, but there was a time early on when they weren’t.

The Eagles play the Steelers tonight in a preseason game, and while it doesn’t count, it is the first time the two teams have met since October 7, 2012. I find that if you watch sports long enough, you begin to internalize what other teams mean to you and automatically link that to said team.

For example, regardless of what they do in the coming years, the New York Mets will always be synonymous with their September 2007 choke job for me.

The Steelers, to me, are the team that helped begin an eight-game losing streak that would end the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.

The 2012 Eagles were poorly coached, poorly constructed, and not particularly likable, but by way of some talent and a spunky Michael Vick playing quarterback early on, they somehow won their first two games, each by one point. The only other time the birds had started a season 2-0 under Reid was back in 2004 when they went to the Super Bowl.

An ugly loss in Week 3 followed, but Week 4 was more of the same. Two weeks after beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles knocked off the defending champion Giants by two points with another fourth quarter comeback.

They easily could have been 0-4 but instead were 3-1 and sitting in first place in the NFC East.

A win at Heinz Field the following Sunday would have made the birds 4-1 for only the third time in the Reid era, yet no one was particularly excited. They figured it was too good to be true and were about to be proven correct.

The Steelers carried a 10-0 lead into halftime as a fumble by Vick on the Pittsburgh 1-yard line prevented the Eagles from getting on the board. They came alive though with an early touchdown in the third quarter and took a 14-13 lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Vick found Brent Celek for a touchdown from two yards out.

It looked like the Eagles might pull off another Houdini act, but this time, their defense couldn’t hold one more time.  The Steelers converted a key third and long deep in their own territory and another third down on the Eagles side of the field. They controlled the ball for six and a half minutes, setting up a chip shot field goal for Shaun Suisham as time expired.

Right down the middle.

16-14 Steelers.

Back home the following week, the Eagles blew a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining and lost in overtime to the 1-3 Detroit Lions.

Honestly, they deserved to be 0-6 but were one or two plays from somehow being 5-1. The reality was that they were 3-3, which wasn’t good enough for a desperate Reid who Andy Reid’d nearly as hard as he Andy Reid’d 21 months early when he gave Juan Castillo the job. This time, he threw his defensive coordinator overboard in a last-ditch effort to stop the bleeding.

The decision only made the cut deeper though. For the first time in 14 years, Reid lost a regular season game following a bye week. The Eagles would proceed to lose eight consecutive contests before beating Tampa Bay 23-21 on a last-second touchdown.

Four wins by a combined total of six points. The bottom had fallen out. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had no choice but to fire Reid, a guy many previously believed would be his ‘coach for life.’

As a result of driving back to State College after covering Penn State road games, I missed more games during the 2012 season than I have in most other seasons combined (I did watch this one). Conventional wisdom suggests that is a good thing given how south the season went, but not seeing them every Sunday still made me sad.

That team easily could have gone 0-16, but could the dumpster fire have been prevented had they just beat Pittsburgh?

I do not normally spend a ton of time thinking about the 2012 season, but when it comes to mind, I get hung up on it because in my opinion, it is an interesting case study in organizational behavior.

More inside information would be needed to really explore it, but it is not every day you see an absolute control freak in Reid lose complete control of a situation.

If the Eagles had came up with a stop against Pittsburgh on that final drive, would the meltdown against Detroit seven days later have still happened? Furthermore, could the entire losing streak have been avoided?

The great and also infuriating thing about sports is that we will never know and can only infer.

Conventional wisdom says no — an ugly stretch was coming either way. The Eagles were a bad team getting a few lucky breaks early on, and then things caught up with them. The collapse probably would have happened anyway. Still, in a 16-game season, 4-1 is a lot different from 3-2 and dare I say it, 5-1 leaves way more margin for error than 3-3.

To completely fail to acknowledge other factors would be ignorant. A series of poor personnel decisions in the years leading up to the 2012 season put the keys in the ignition on the road to Reid’s firing, but the loss to Pittsburgh and embarrassing defeat to Detroit revved the engine.

What if?

What if the Eagles had escaped the steel city with a victory? Would Chip Kelly be on the sidelines tonight when the squads play an exhibition game 22 and a half months later. Would Reid still be here instead of Kansas City?

I do not know the answer to that, but I do know that what may seem like a harmless game a half century from now was a damn important one in Eagles history.

Jim Johnson Died Five Years Ago Today and I Cried a Lot

Truth be told, I cannot explain exactly why I’m writing this post.

Even after it was finished and ready to go, I had a couple second thoughts before hitting publish. I didn’t want it to seem like I was using the anniversary of someone’s death as a way to generate clicks on a blog.

I don’t have any type of cool anecdote about Jim Johnson. There is a hat of mine autographed by some players and coaches during a few trips to Lehigh for training camp back in the day.

Eagles Hat Blog Post

The Eagles former defensive coordinator unfortunately isn’t one of the signatures. Never once met the man.

I think, however, I’m doing this because despite never crossing paths with the guy, I loved Jim Johnson and never properly said goodbye.

Everyone knew Johnson’s battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse, but it felt like the end came so quickly.

On the day Johnson passed away, I had been off the grid for about 12 hours from early in the morning until around 8 p.m. I was working as a camp counselor the summer before heading off to college, and it coincidentally happened to be the one day of the entire camp season that I had to work late, unable to check my phone or access the Internet.

Anyone who knows me now would wonder how I was able to do that, but it was the case back then. As I was walking to my car, a lifeguard stopped me and delivered the news. I can’t recall exactly what I said in response, but I got in the car and immediately turned on sports radio hoping it somehow wasn’t true.

But sadly it was. The defending World Series champion Phillies were 24 hours away from pulling off a blockbuster trade with rumors about Roy Halladay running rampant, and sure enough, WIP was discussing Johnson’s life and Eagles tenure, hosts and callers as distraught as I was about to become.

Before I could pull out of the parking lot, tears had already begun dripping down my face. They got heavier as the drive continued. At one point, I had to slam on my breaks to avoid running through a red light that I barely noticed.

Loved by players and fans, respected universally by colleagues,  and deeply feared by opponents — Legend. For 10 years, he would appear on your television screen on Sundays, and you knew everything would be relatively okay. No longer seeing that gray hair tucked under an Eagles hat and headset on the sidelines wasn’t going to be the same.

I was supposed to see my then-girlfriend upon getting home from work but still trying to compose myself, I told her that I needed a little while. ‘Jim Johnson died,’ I texted (or something very similar along those lines)

I don’t think she knew who Jim Johnson was, but rather than completely blowing it off, she kinda pretended to care, so that was cool.

Still home and wiping my eyes after delivering the news to my dad, I logged onto Facebook and posted a pretty generic RIP status. One of my best friends who I always texted during Eagles games sent me a message that said something along the lines of ‘For someone who loved him so much, I’m kinda disappointed you didn’t come up with anything deeper.’

I tried again, but still shaken, this was the best I could do, unable to really put into words what it meant to me.

Jim Johnson Facebook

I was sad and mad — Sad that cancer had stopped the 68-year old from doing what he loved and what he was best at too soon, sad that in what turned out to be his final game six months earlier, his ‘bend but don’t break defense’ had broken late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles clinging to a 25-24 lead and 10 minutes to go, Arizona marched 72 yards while eating up 7:52 of game time.

The drive ended in a touchdown. The Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. Johnson never got to coach another game, and the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since.

Most of all, I was sad that for all his hard work and all of the terrific defenses he oversaw, Johnson never got to hoist a Lombardi trophy.

Even in a lot of the Eagles playoff losses during Johnson’s reign, a collapse like that was so rare. A week earlier, his unit held the defending Super Bowl champion Giants to three field goals in an upset victory.

In a span of three years, he twice stifled Michael Vick during the prime of his Atlanta Falcons career, limiting him to a 53.2 completion percentage and a combined 406 passing yards, 56 rushing yards, yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions over two playoff games.

I don’t watch the Steelers on a week-to-week basis to fully appreciate Dick LeBeau, but I’ve never seen a defensive coordinator call a game and confuse opponents the way Johnson consistently did.

Going back to that Facebook status though, perhaps it wasn’t so bad. I’ve always said that coordinators need players to make their schemes truly go, but as guys came and went through the years, Johnson never lost a step.

According to an ESPN article published a week after his passing, Johnson’s defenses between 2000 and 2008 ranked second in sacks, third down efficiency, and red zone percentage.

Here’s a chart that further shows how good he was and the significant drop-off after he was gone.

Year Points Allowed Average Per Game League Rank Made Playoffs Playoff Victory
1999 357 22.3 22nd No No
2000 245 15.3 4th Yes Yes
2001 208 13 2nd Yes Yes
2002 241 15.1 2nd Yes Yes
2003 287 17.9 7th Yes Yes
2004 260 16.3 2nd Yes Yes
2005 388 24.3 27th No No
2006 328 20.5 15th Yes Yes
2007 300 18.8 9th No No
2008 289 18.1 4th Yes Yes
2009 337 21.1 19th Yes No
2010 377 23.6 21st Yes No
2011 328 20.5 10th No No
2012 444 27.8 29th No No
2013 382 23.9 17th Yes No

Sean McDermott initially had the challenge of being the guy to replace “the guy,” and he was decent but deemed not good enough at the time. So thinking he was closer to a Super Bowl than he actually was, Andy Reid fired him after two years.

Then, Andy Reid Andy Reid’d harder than he had ever Andy Reid’d before, replacing McDermott with Juan Castillo. A passionate worker and teacher but never having coached defense in the NFL before, it was an unmitigated disaster,

The missed tackles, the blown coverage assignments, the lack of effort, all of it would have had Johnson rolling in his grave had he saw what had become of his once proud defense.

Despite the still somewhat ugly numbers in that chart, things stabilized in 2013 when Chip Kelly brought in Billy Davis to run the show.

Davis took a group of scheme misfits and castoffs from other places and made a defense out of it. For the first time in a long time, things are looking kinda up on that side of the ball.

When someone like Johnson no longer has his job, the typical attitude is that the team looking to fill his role has to find an exact replica, “The Next  Jim Johnson” if you will. But that’s impossible. The reason he was so good is the exact same reason he is so irreplaceable.

Since Johnson has been gone, the game has changed a decent amount. Offenses are faster and more innovative with spread formations and wide open schemes. Still, it’s unlikely the final couple years of the Reid era would have gotten as ugly as they did had Johnson still been by his side.

The Eagles current head coach is one of the leaders of that innovation charge, but for as much as I love him, for as much as any intelligent Eagles fan loves him, part of the city has always identified with a dominant defense, and that’s a big reason Johnson was so beloved.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any special anecdote, but I thought this one from Reuben Frank of CSN Philly was pretty good. A few days before the 2005 Super Bowl, Frank casually asks Johnson if he’s enjoying Jacksonville and he responds bluntly with “I’ve got Tom Brady on Sunday.”

The man just ate, slept, and breathed football.

He died at the same time my situation was beginning to change and looking back, I think that’s maybe what contributed to the initial sadness. I was a month away from going to college and preparing to leave a good amount of my life behind.

It sucks because you know things will never be exactly the same, but you try to solider on because what else are you going to do?

The Eagles in time have begun picking up the pieces and appear primed to make another Super Bowl run behind rising star Nick Foles over the next few seasons.

Crying over Johnson five years later won’t bring him back or make the defense as dominant as it once was, but it will help preserve memories of a great run under a brilliant coordinator. Certain people are worth occasionally crying over. Certain people worth crying over who you’ve never met? Now that’s a bit more complex, but he was one of those folks for me.

I’ll watch the Eagles practice at Lincoln Financial Field today and at some point look skyward and tear up for a split second thinking about the legend who provided so many childhood memories.

I attempted to express some of this five years ago tonight and came up pretty empty, so now, I’m trying again.

I miss you so much, Jim Johnson, and I hope you’re having fun designing blitz packages in heaven right now.

Nick Foles, Kevin Kolb, Bobby Hoying, and not Letting Past Failures Frighten You About the Future

It is impossible to be on the Internet these days and not come across multiple Nick Foles think-pieces. Buzz phrases like dropped interceptions, small sample size, and system quarterback usually populate these articles.

Things sure have come a long way from a year ago when hack Mike Freeman had no idea who the Eagles signal-caller was.

The Eagles report for camp today. For the first time in five seasons, Michael Vick won’t be there, and that’s freakin awesome in my opinion. Vick left Philadelphia a better and more mature person than when he arrived, but the Eagles were never going to win anything beyond maybe a division title with him.

Those who follow me on the Twitter machine know that I was advocating for Foles to win the job from Day 1 last spring and summer. I don’t mention this now simply to say I was correct that Foles would ultimately end up with the gig at some point. Rather, it just seemed from the start that Foles was more equipped to run a Chip Kelly offense.

Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas put up monster numbers under Kelly before Marcus Mariota carried the torch, but I always perceived a quarterback in a Kelly led-system akin to a very good, but not quite superstar point guard in the NBA. The quarterback facilitates and distributes while the offense runs through everyone. Foles is exactly that. When Vick was the starter during the first quarter of the season, the offense went too much through Vick as the focal point.

By sticking with Foles and forgoing the opportunity to draft Johnny Manziel, Kelly — intentionally or not — fought back against the inaccurate narrative that he needs a mobile quarterback to win in the NFL.

The common theme regardless of the pundit opining on the guy who replaced Vick is that his 2013 touchdown to interception ratio of 27:2 is unsustainable and some natural regression will set in because quarterbacks just don’t throw so few interceptions in a season.

This is in all likelihood correct to a good extent, but in Philadelphia, the doubt seems to take on a different angle. The fear here comes from previous heartbreaks of seeing under the radar quarterbacks burst onto the scene only to quickly and violently combust before ever truly arriving.

It happened in 1998 with Bobby Hoying and occurred again more recently with Kevin Kolb. Now, four years removed from the Kolb sequel, some worry that another young, potential quarterback of the future has teased folks into thinking he’s the one only to let us down again.

Not so, my friends. Not so.

Let’s take a trip down memory’s lane with Hoying’s game log from 1997 courtesy of Pro-Football Reference:

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD
1 1997 10 1997-11-10 25-051 PHI SFO L 12-24 8 14 57.14% 94 1 0 101.5 6.71 8.14 0 0 0
2 1997 11 1997-11-16 25-057 PHI @ BAL T 10-10 * 26 38 68.42% 276 0 0 89.4 7.26 7.26 1 6 6.00 0
3 1997 12 1997-11-23 25-064 PHI PIT W 23-20 * 15 31 48.39% 246 2 0 97.0 7.94 9.23 5 -4 -0.80 0
4 1997 13 1997-11-30 25-071 PHI CIN W 44-42 * 26 42 61.90% 313 4 1 106.5 7.45 8.29 5 62 12.40 0
5 1997 14 1997-12-07 25-078 PHI NYG L 21-31 * 16 35 45.71% 209 1 3 38.9 5.97 2.69 1 6 6.00 0
6 1997 15 1997-12-14 25-085 PHI @ ATL L 17-20 * 16 34 47.06% 180 1 1 60.9 5.29 4.56 2 6 3.00 0
7 1997 16 1997-12-21 25-092 PHI @ WAS L 32-35 * 21 31 67.74% 255 2 1 100.9 8.23 8.06 2 2 1.00 0

That amounts to season statistics of: 11 TD’s, 6 INT’s , 1573 yards, and a relatively weak 56.9 completion percentage.

Not counting the 49ers game in which Hoying didn’t actually start, this totals a 2-3-1 record, but a further look inside the box scores shows that the shootout against Cincinnati really inflated these numbers. Hoying tossed six interceptions in his final four games and completed less than 50 percent of his passes in two of the three.

While these certainly aren’t awful numbers to post as a second year player and first-time starter on a below average team, the 1998 collapse isn’t shocking when seeing how the year before ended.

Open your eyes slowly. I assume no liability for what this chart may do to them.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD
8 1998 1 1998-09-06 25-351 PHI SEA L 0-38 * 9 23 39.13% 60 0 1 29.1 2.61 0.65 3 13 4.33 0
9 1998 2 1998-09-13 25-358 PHI @ ATL L 12-17 * 24 35 68.57% 232 0 0 86.8 6.63 6.63 4 18 4.50 0
10 1998 3 1998-09-20 26-000 PHI @ ARI L 3-17 * 13 23 56.52% 121 0 1 53.0 5.26 3.30 3 18 6.00 0
11 1998 5 1998-10-04 26-014 PHI @ DEN L 16-41 * 11 24 45.83% 96 0 1 39.6 4.00 2.13 1 6 6.00 0
12 1998 8 1998-11-02 26-043 PHI DAL L 0-34 13 39 33.33% 124 0 2 21.7 3.18 0.87 2 5 2.50 0
13 1998 9 1998-11-08 26-049 PHI DET W 10-9 * 15 21 71.43% 97 0 0 80.9 4.62 4.62 2 -4 -2.00 0
14 1998 10 1998-11-15 26-056 PHI @ WAS L 3-28 * 15 31 48.39% 110 0 2 30.3 3.55 0.65 3 5 1.67 0
15 1998 11 1998-11-22 26-063 PHI @ NYG L 0-20 * 14 28 50.00% 121 0 2 32.0 4.32 1.11 4 23 5.75 0

Season stats: Zero touchdowns, nine interceptions, 961 yards, and an even worse 50.9 completion percentage over eight games.

As a rookie with two years less experience and playing behind a broken down offensive line along with a dysfunctional coaching staff on its way out the door, Foles in comparison posted six touchdowns, five interceptions, 1699 yards, and a very respectable 60.8 completion percentage over seven games.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
1 2012 9 2012-11-11 23-296 PHI DAL L 23-38 22 32 68.75% 219 1 1 85.3 6.84 6.06 0 0 0 0 0
2 2012 10 2012-11-18 23-303 PHI @ WAS L 6-31 * 21 46 45.65% 204 0 2 40.5 4.43 2.48 1 0 0.00 0 0 0
3 2012 11 2012-11-26 23-311 PHI CAR L 22-30 * 16 21 76.19% 119 0 0 89.2 5.67 5.67 1 0 0.00 0 0 0
4 2012 12 2012-12-02 23-317 PHI @ DAL L 33-38 * 22 34 64.71% 251 1 0 96.6 7.38 7.97 0 0 0 0 0
5 2012 13 2012-12-09 23-324 PHI @ TAM W 23-21 * 32 51 62.75% 381 2 0 98.6 7.47 8.25 3 27 9.00 1 1 6
6 2012 14 2012-12-13 23-328 PHI CIN L 13-34 * 16 33 48.48% 180 1 1 62.7 5.45 4.70 2 5 2.50 0 0 0
7 2012 15 2012-12-23 23-338 PHI WAS L 20-27 * 32 48 66.67% 345 1 1 85.9 7.19 6.67 4 10 2.50 0 0 0

Opposite of Hoying’s first season, Foles ended on a high note with five touchdown passes and two interceptions over his final four games.

Let’s proceed to Kolb’s charts:

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
8 2009 1 2009-09-13 25-020 PHI @ CAR W 38-10 7 11 63.64% 23 0 0 67.6 2.09 2.09 3 4 1.33 0 0 0
9 2009 2 2009-09-20 25-027 PHI NOR L 22-48 * 31 51 60.78% 391 2 3 73.2 7.67 5.80 1 -6 -6.00 0 0 0
10 2009 3 2009-09-27 25-034 PHI KAN W 34-14 * 24 34 70.59% 327 2 0 120.6 9.62 10.79 1 1 1.00 1 1 6
11 2009 4 2009-10-11 25-048 PHI TAM W 33-14
12 2009 12 2009-12-06 25-104 PHI @ ATL W 34-7

These final numbers in a small sample size aren’t bad, but the three interceptions against New Orleans raises a bit of a flag. Foles has only once thrown multiple interceptions in an NFL game, and it occurred in his first ever start against the Redskins, zero times since.

Kolb’s 2010 season paints a slightly bigger picture of mediocrity.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
13 2010 1 2010-09-12 26-019 PHI GNB L 20-27 * 5 10 50.00% 24 0 0 56.2 2.40 2.40 0 0 0 0 0
14 2010 4 2010-10-03 26-040 PHI WAS L 12-17 22 35 62.86% 201 1 1 76.0 5.74 5.03 2 21 10.50 0 0 0
15 2010 5 2010-10-10 26-047 PHI @ SFO W 27-24 * 21 31 67.74% 253 1 0 103.3 8.16 8.81 3 17 5.67 0 0 0
16 2010 6 2010-10-17 26-054 PHI ATL W 31-17 * 23 29 79.31% 326 3 1 133.6 11.24 11.76 2 1 0.50 0 0 0
17 2010 7 2010-10-24 26-061 PHI @ TEN L 19-37 * 26 48 54.17% 231 1 2 56.9 4.81 3.35 3 18 6.00 0 0 0
18 2010 9 2010-11-15 26-083 PHI @ WAS W 59-28 0 0 0 0 0 1 -1 -1.00 0 0 0
19 2010 16 2011-01-02 26-131 PHI DAL L 13-14 * 18 36 50.00% 162 1 3 37.0 4.50 1.31 4 9 2.25 0 0 0

Completion percentage was always a strong attribute, and in fairness to him, the Cowboys game was played surrounded by backups. Still, this was a fourth year quarterback in a familiar system, and his numbers are still nowhere close to Foles’ last season.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
8 2013 2 2013-09-15 24-238 PHI SDG L 30-33 0 1 0.00% 0 0 0 39.6 0.00 0.00 0 0 0 0 0
9 2013 4 2013-09-29 24-252 PHI @ DEN L 20-52 3 4 75.00% 49 1 0 155.2 12.25 17.25 0 0 0 0 0
10 2013 5 2013-10-06 24-259 PHI @ NYG W 36-21 16 25 64.00% 197 2 0 114.9 7.88 9.48 3 1 0.33 0 0 0
11 2013 6 2013-10-13 24-266 PHI @ TAM W 31-20 * 22 31 70.97% 296 3 0 133.3 9.55 11.48 3 2 0.67 1 1 6
12 2013 7 2013-10-20 24-273 PHI DAL L 3-17 * 11 29 37.93% 80 0 0 46.2 2.76 2.76 3 25 8.33 0 0 0
13 2013 9 2013-11-03 24-287 PHI @ OAK W 49-20 * 22 28 78.57% 406 7 0 158.3 14.50 19.50 4 10 2.50 0 0 0
14 2013 10 2013-11-10 24-294 PHI @ GNB W 27-13 * 12 18 66.67% 228 3 0 149.3 12.67 16.00 8 38 4.75 0 0 0
15 2013 11 2013-11-17 24-301 PHI WAS W 24-16 * 17 26 65.38% 298 0 0 104.3 11.46 11.46 9 47 5.22 1 1 6
16 2013 12 2013-12-01 24-315 PHI ARI W 24-21 * 21 34 61.76% 237 3 0 112.0 6.97 8.74 9 22 2.44 0 0 0
17 2013 13 2013-12-08 24-322 PHI DET W 34-20 * 11 22 50.00% 179 1 1 73.9 8.14 7.00 6 23 3.83 1 1 6
18 2013 14 2013-12-15 24-329 PHI @ MIN L 30-48 * 30 48 62.50% 428 3 1 103.5 8.92 9.23 5 41 8.20 0 0 0
19 2013 15 2013-12-22 24-336 PHI CHI W 54-11 * 21 25 84.00% 230 2 0 131.7 9.20 10.80 2 17 8.50 0 0 0
20 2013 16 2013-12-29 24-343 PHI @ DAL W 24-22 * 17 26 65.38% 263 2 0 124.4 10.12 11.65 5 -5 -1.00 0 0 0

Minus the odd fiasco of the first Dallas game, it is pretty difficult to pinpoint a contest where Foles played poorly. His numbers against Detroit are average, but that game probably deserves to be graded on a steep curve given the snowy conditions. The Minnesota game is a bit inflated due to being behind in the second half and throwing nonstop but still nothing to really scoff at.

It should be clear as day that Foles is not a third coming of Hoying or Kolb, but we’ll touch on this topic again later. First, let’s have a bit more fun and compare Foles to some of the newer, more accomplished quarterbacks in the league.

QB Comp Att Comp % Yards TD INT Sacks Record
Nick Foles 323 520 62.1 4125 29 6 45 10 W, 6 L
Andrew Luck 339 627 54.1 4374 23 18 41 11 W, 5 L
Robert Griffin 288 442 65.1 3529 22 7 35 9 W, 7 L
Russell Wilson 252 393 64.1 3118 26 10 40 11 W, 5 L
Ryan Tannehill 282 484 58.3 3294 12 13 35 7 W, 9 L
Colin Kaepernick 259 433 59.8 3627 22 10 29 11 W, 5 L

All of these quarterbacks were selected in the 2012 draft ahead of Foles aside from Kaepernick who went early in the second round a year earlier. Brandon Weeden was left off because…well yeah. Some notes here as I want to be transparent with methodology:

  • I cut RG3 a break and did not include his playoff start against the Seahawks where he suffered a torn ACL. Rather, his 2013 opener against the Eagles was included to make 16 games.
  • Foles’ stats begin with the 2012 game at the Redskins and continue through the 2013 season beginning with the contest at the Bucs. The Giants game the previous week was not included since he did not start. The playoff game is also not included (but I promise more is coming on that)
  • Kaepernick begins with the 2012 game against the Bears, includes all three playoff games, and runs through the Week 6 game against the Cardinals in 2013.

Going through the categories, Foles is third in completion percentage, first in yards, and first in touchdown passes. His record is better than Griffin and Tannehill and only a game behind Luck, Wilson, and Kaepernick. Those three obviously have won playoff games, something Foles has yet to accomplish.

Taking less sacks is clearly something Foles can improve upon, but despite the second most passing attempts by a pretty wide margin, he has still thrown the least amount of interceptions with six.

There seems to be some perception that Foles got incredibly lucky when it comes to throwing only two interceptions last season. The overturned Patrick Peterson play is a popular one to cite, but as pointed out by Mike Tanier of Sports of Earth and several others, Foles only benefited from three of these dropped balls last season, which is totally normal.

Also consider that Foles didn’t play in three games and barely played in two others. While 27 and two won’t be repeated, there’s nothing wrong with 32 and 10. Plenty of quarterbacks get teams to the playoffs doing just that.

No scout would tell you that Foles is more talented than Luck, but based on the numbers from this chart, he can go toe-to-toe with any of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.

While this point cannot be measured in numbers, I’m going to make the claim that Foles’ roadmap to NFL success was a bit more challenging. He is the only quarterback on this list who played for a different head coach between Year 1 and Year 2. CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank has done a nice job chronicling Foles’ path to rising stardom in a 5-part series.

Never a sought after recruit, Foles by my count has been challenged to learn five different offensive systems going back to his senior year of high school in 2006. In his senior season at Arizona, head coach Mike Stoops was fired after a 1-5 start. For the first time in a long time, Foles finally has stability around him.

Additionally, Foles has to fight back against the narrative of being a third round pick. Generally, quarterbacks selected in the third round aren’t expected to become franchise cornerstones. If Luck or Cam Newton has a bad day and tosses three interceptions (something that has happened to them six and five times respectively), it’s more or less written off because they’re number one overall picks progressing through growing pains.

Foles has never thrown three interceptions in a single game, but all it took was one bad showing against Dallas last season for some folks to make the declaration that he can’t play and is destined to be a career backup.

Fittingly enough, the Eagles face every quarterback listed on the chart other than Tannehill this season.

There’s one quarterback not yet mentioned however. Let’s talk about Drew Brees for a minute — the guy who ended Foles’ 2013 season.

QB Comp Att Comp % Yards TD INT Sacks
Foles 23 33 69.7 195 2 0 2
Brees 20 30 66.7 250 1 2 2

I don’t think it’s any question which quarterback was better that night. Yes, the Saints won the game. The Eagles lost because of a disastrous first half drive, which included a sack of Foles, that ended with an Alex Henery missed field goal. Billy Davis made it such a priority to contain Jimmy Graham that the Saints gashed the Eagles on the ground, Riley Cooper dropped a wide open pass, and the offense took too long to get going.

When it got going though, it was something to watch, almost capping off a comeback after being down 20-7.

In Buzz Bissinger’s lengthy profile on Foles, he mentions that the quarterback “looked confused in the second half of the loss to the New Orleans Saints in last year’s playoffs.”

The numbers don’t really back that up. In the final two quarters, Foles was 10 of 16 for 97 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.

The last we saw of Foles was him finding Zach Ertz in the end zone to put the Eagles in the lead late in the fourth quarter. Does this drive chart resemble a quarterback who looked scared or “confused”?

Foles vs. Saints

Against a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a Super Bowl champion coach, and a defense that had surrendered the fourth lowest point total in the regular season, Foles in his first ever playoff game, calmly engineered a near flawless drive to walk off the field with the lead.

There was no way the Eagles were getting by Seattle last season, but they certainly would have stood a strong chance against Carolina and playing two more games would have been huge for the team’s development.

Unfortunately, it ended so quickly. The short kickoff, the horse collar, the 13 yard run on 2nd and 11, the chip shot field goal. It was over, and Foles never got another chance.

Seventy seven yards on nine plays though with your season on the line and absolutely needing a touchdown. I’d like to see Kolb or Hoying attempt that.

Thankfully we don’t have to because these aren’t your older brother’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Hell no. These aren’t Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles or Kevin Kolb’s Philadelphia Eagles, and they’re certainly not Ray Rhodes’ or Bobby Hoying’s Philadelphia Eagles.

No, these are Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles, and Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles are Nick Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles, and “Nick Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles” has a pretty nice ring to it — perhaps even a Super Bowl ring to it.

Mike Freeman’s 2013 Eagles Training Camp Preview is HiLOLarious to Go Back and Read

If you have ever read this blog previously or actually met me in-person before, then you know that I have a really good memory.

Sometimes it’s a blessing; other times it’s a curse, but I don’t forget things, so naturally, I remembered last Sunday that it was the one-year anniversary of me being blocked on Twitter by then CBS Sports and now Bleacher Report NFL columnist hack Mike Freeman.

Freeman 4

That will all be explained later for anyone who doesn’t know the story, but this memory recall led to me re-reading Freeman’s Eagles training camp preview from last summer, and holy shit, is it embarrassingly bad.

Here’s the full thing, but we’re going to go through it a few paragraphs at a time to examine just how awful this truly was.

If the Eagles can find a decent quarterback (and that’s a big if), and if they can keep that quarterback healthy (if it’s Mike Vick, that’s a huge if), and if Chip Kelly’s offense can work (gigantic if) then the player who could have a monster year is wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

There continues to be talk that Jackson has a chip on his shoulder and this offseason he’s worked as hard as ever. Jackson is still an intimidating weapon and if there’s a miracle, and Kelly can reproduce a reasonable facsimile of his college offense, Jackson could be the one to benefit the most.

Man, you sure love the word “if,” Mike. Overall though, this started off not terrible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that DeSean Jackson had a chip on his shoulder after missing five games due to injury in 2012, but he was correct about that. It gets better, I promise.

Key changes

For the first time since 1999, Andy Reid will not be coaching the Eagles. Think about that for a moment. This is a landmark year for the organization and it is also potentially a chaotic one. Chip Kelly is the coach now and he promises a more up-tempo style of offense. But many a college coach has promised to transform the NFL with their college-y ideas and many have failed. See: Spurrier, Steve, among others.

Ah, a Steve Spurrier reference. That’s about as lazy as you can get right there, Mike. At least drop Dennis Erickson’s name or something, makes you sound slightly less unoriginal.

Kelly does inherit a team with talent. The cupboard, despite Philadelphia’s dismal record last year, is not bare. LeSean McCoy missed four games last year but still had 1,213 total yards and five scores. What Kelly will have to do is patch an offensive line that was constantly injured last season. The quarterback situation is a mess. It’s basically an open competition that Mike Vick will likely win but even if he does, Vick doesn’t stay healthy. Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley will see playing time, maybe a significant amount.

The Matt Barkley line is the easy target, but more of that will be coming later, so let’s focus on the offensive line sentence. Can you name the starting offensive line, Mike? If you could, you would know that it was set going into camp last summer. Were there injuries in 2012? Yes, but “patch” is a pretty poor verb to describe a unit comprised of four previous starters (one of which was a five-time Pro Bowler) plus the fourth overall selection in the draft.

The most interesting thing to watch will be Kelly. He wants to run 80 to 100 plays a game, which will never consistently happen. For the past 30 years, the average number of offensive NFL plays has been in the 60s. The Patriots last season once ran 92. That was considered Haley’s comet territory. To run that many plays weekly is impossible and would lead to Kelly’s offense being physically battered. There wouldn’t be enough players to finish a season.

Alright, 80-100 plays might not be doable, but the Eagles ran 70+ plays four times and aside from Vick whose injury history predates even Kelly’s time at Oregon not once did an offensive starter miss a game due to injury.

Position battles

The quarterback spot. That’s the biggest. There are players on the Eagles who believe that Kelly will do everything in his power to name Barkley the starter.

LOLWUT. Your #sources were pulling a fast one on you here, buddy. Barkley took third-team reps just about all minicamp, and you would have known this had you done even a hint of research.

New schemes

For all of its alleged fast pace and openness, Kelly will utilize two (and sometimes three) tight ends to shore up a shaky offensive line. It’s yet another attempt by a team to duplicate the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end tandem that was the best in football until injuries and homicide charges destroyed it.

All indications are that the team will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Philadelphia wants to do on defense what the Eagles will try on offense — keep the game up-tempo and the team in attack mode.

All indications = Chip Kelly prefers a 3-4 base defense, and defensive coordinator Billy Davis has ran it throughout his career. Also, two mentions of a shaky offensive line doesn’t make your false claim any more true.

Bubble watch

Tight end Clay Harbor spent time this offseason practicing at outside linebacker. Jason Avant, a wide receiver, practiced several times in the secondary. When the new coach puts a player at a different position, well, that does not bode well for the future of those players.

For the sake of fairness, I’ll acknowledge that neither player is still on the Eagles roster, but Jason Avant played 841 snaps at wide receiver and zero in the secondary during the 2013 season.

Unheard-of-guy to watch

Isaac Sopoaga was a crucial free-agent pickup because he’s a ferocious run stopper.

Isaac Sopoaga was such a ferocious run stopper that he and his 10 total tackles scared the Eagles away. They traded him eight games into the season, inserted rookie Bennie Logan as the starting defensive tackle and watched him record 21 total tackles and two sacks as the defense surrendered 21.4 points per game during a 7-1 stretch compared to 26.4 in the first half.

Biggest concerns

Where to begin? Can Vick stay healthy? Can the offensive line? Can DeSean Jackson?

Most of all, will Kelly’s schemes hold up?

 

No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s move on to the best part now.

Something to prove

This is for certain: Around the league, few coaches think Kelly will succeed. Coaches are a highly cynical bunch. They think the daily rigors of the sport will beat Kelly’s schemes into oblivion and he’ll be chased back to college. It will be up to Kelly to prove them wrong.

So sneaky, Mike. Thought you could slip a cliché ‘this ain’t #college’ reference in at the end hoping no one would see it.

Upon first reading this a year ago, I was left with some questions. Which coaches? If you really did talk to coaches, wouldn’t one have fed you some anonymous quote to use? I didn’t expect to find that out, but curious, I decided to ask Freeman something else.

Freeman 5

He “answered.”

Freeman 6

Well Mike, that really doesn’t tell me anything. I tried again.

Freeman 7

I responded once more.

Freeman 8

Unfortunately, he never got it.

Freeman 9

Likely receiving some way less cordial reactions than the one I thought I provided, he followed up with this:

Freeman 1

Freeman 2

Please tell me which of these categories I fit into, Mike. Do I like the Eagles? Yeah. Was I high on Chip Kelly as a hire? Yeah, but if you come with some loosely sourced claim like that, you better be able to back it up and not act like an arrogant prick, especially when Bill Belichick, the best and one of the most influential NFL coaches of this generation, had picked Kelly’s brain and was on record that he would succeed.

A classic win-win situation for the columnist. If Kelly goes 5-11 last season and his offense averages 17 points a game, Freeman can high-five himself and say ‘I told you so.’ If Kelly succeeds like he did, there’s the ‘I never believed that. One or two coaches just mentioned it to me in passing’ way out.

More troubling, this is a perfect example of the ‘you need me more than I need you’ attitude that plagues part of sports media into falsely thinking readers and commenters aren’t important. He can question all he wants, but don’t you dare try to question him.

People who write about sports make mistakes all the time, myself included. I said Domonic Brown would hit 30 home runs this season. He’s lucky if he reaches 15.

When I covered Penn State football for Onward State, I wrote a piece essentially saying that former defensive coordinator John Butler would be a head coach within five years. While I still wouldn’t be shocked if that happened, he wasn’t as successful as I expected in his first — and only — season running Penn State’s defense. There are a few people who dislike both me and Butler who likely love that I wrote that article and talked him up as much as I did.

It’s one of the beautiful things about sports that despite all of the information and data readily available, we can still get stuff so wrong.

The thing is though, Freeman didn’t simply get predictions wrong. Had he wrote something like ‘Trent Cole will record less than five sacks and struggle transitioning to linebacker in a 3-4 defense after playing defensive end in a 4-3 for eight seasons,’ I could let him off the hook, but these aren’t incorrect prognostications. It’s a bunch of half-assed, uninformed, logical fallacies that could be thrown together in 15 minutes and does nothing to inform readers.

The worst part is should Freeman ever come across this, he’ll treat it as ‘Punk TwentySomething Takes Shot at Established Writer,’ and the exact same type of lazy journalism will be produced again and again.

Deep breath. We’re done, right? Nope. But Drew, that was the end of the article. What else could there possibly be to say here?

I don’t know, maybe that the buffoon DIDN’T MENTION NICK FOLES ONCE?!?!?!

Matt Barkley, a fourth round rookie coming off a separated shoulder taking third-team reps a month earlier in minicamp was referenced twice while Freeman pretended that Foles didn’t exist.

As surprising as Foles’ season was, it didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Foles quarterbacked the team for seven games in 2012, and while he didn’t win many contests, he did throw for six touchdown passes to only five interceptions and completed 60.8 percent of his passes as a rookie.

Perhaps more relevant, Foles and Vick split first-team reps evenly all throughout minicamp. While Vick may have been the perceived favorite, Foles pushed hard enough that Vick requested to no avail that Kelly name a starter going into training camp.

Apparently, Freeman chose to ignore all that. I guess someone eventually clued him in on who Foles was though because we got this hot garbage after Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes against the Raiders.

Go screw, Mike. Go screw, and I’d leave these two clips off your resume.

Freeman Resume