Let’s talk about Vick

Most of you can probably guess that I was shocked and disappointed at yesterday’s announcement that the Eagles have restructured Vick’s deal for a year.  To be abundantly clear: I think it’s a bad move.  However, there are a lot of different aspects to this decision, which I’ll endeavor to discuss here, some of which may be quite positive/hopeful.

– Chip Kelly clearly isn’t enamored with Foles.  Not a huge surprise, due to Foles’ relative lack of mobility, but I was hoping Chip would value the accuracy and poise more highly than he apparently has.  Also, I’m not buying the whole “open competition” comment.  Foles and Vick could not be more different as quarterbacks.  As a result, whichever “system” Kelly puts into place will tilt heavily towards one of them.  If the offense relies on the read-option, I don’t see any way Foles would win a competition for the starting job, he’s just not a fit for that scheme.

Also, the rumored discussions with Dennis Dixon should be added to the puzzle here.  In total, it’s clear that despite Chip’s professed flexibility, he really does want a truly mobile quarterback that can threaten defenses with his legs.

If I was Andy Reid, I would already be calling the Eagles and making an offer for Foles (or waiting to see if I could sign Alex Smith, then making a play for Foles).

– That doesn’t mean he’s in love with Vick.  My current belief is that Kelly doesn’t like either Vick or Foles as his permanent QB.  However, he has a specific system that he wants to install, and Vick was as close to a “fit” as there was on the market.  The fact that Vick wanted to stay here and was willing to rework his deal made that option very attractive.  Under this scenario, Kelly gets to fully install his system year 1 with Vick as the caretaker, rather than adapting it to suit Foles’ skills and then restarting when he finds “his guy”.  This makes some sense to me, though it suggests Kelly is heavily invested in his scheme, which makes me nervous considering he’s never tried it in the NFL.  In this case, it’s also possible the Eagles have their eye on a couple of QBs in the draft, and if they get one of them, can cut Vick before the season starts.  Vick gives the team insurance and means they don’t have to reach or overpay in the draft for a rookie.

– Maybe Chip is reading this blog.  Over a number of posts, I’ve explained why this past season the Eagles, in all likelihood, underperformed their “true success rate”.  The team was beset by injuries that decimated the OL, arguably the most important position group behind the QB.  Additionally, the Eagles had terrible luck when it came to turnovers (both giving/receiving and recovering).  Add in the near-historic special-teams ineptitude and it’s quite possible Chip reviewed last season and decided the potential is there for a much better football team than we saw this season.  For those of you looking for hope, this is the theory for you.  Predictions, for the most part, are worthless, especially when it comes to sports.  However, I’m going to make a couple here that I am extremely confident in, each of which bodes well for the team (I’ve mentioned them before):

1) The Eagles will not lose 22 fumbles next year or have a TO Differential of -24.  I’ve explained that fumbling the ball is largely random, and this year the Eagles caught the tail of that distribution.  Of the last 320 NFL team seasons, the 2012 Eagles had more lost fumbles than 99.4% of them (only one team had more).  THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN NEXT YEAR.

2) In a related note, the Eagles recovered just 35% of all fumbles last season.  This number is almost completely random and over the long-term should be around 50%.  Though it’s certainly possible for the team to be unlucky again next year, I’m going to predict that the Eagles will recover MORE THAN 35% of all fumbles next year.

3) The Eagles this year had the worst relative field position BY FAR at -6.67 yards (a result of turnovers and terrible special teams).  A previous post of mine showed little persistence in this measure from year-to-year, therefore there is no reason to believe the Eagles will be that bad again next year.  So…the Eagles will have SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER average field position next year.

I apologize for repeating these, but they are vital pieces of evidence towards my most hopeful Chip Kelly/Vick/Eagles scenario.  None of these predictions require any great insight, just a cursory exploration of recent historical statistics and basic analysis.  It is quite possible (likely in fact), that Kelly and/or Roseman has reviewed these numbers and arrived at the same conclusions.

If so, it is entirely reasonable for Kelly to believe that combining better luck with a healthier OL, the #4 pick in the draft, and a few positional upgrades to the defense (hard not to find upgrades since they were so bad last year) will result in a significantly better team and one that can compete for both a playoff spot and a division title.

– Grace-period utilization.  Due to the performance of the team this year, it’s clear that Chip Kelly is not expected to perform a miraculous one-year turnaround.  He knows he has, in essence, a free year.  I mentioned early on in the coaching process that regardless of Kelly’s motives, he had to be salivating at the thought of Shady and Bryce Brown together in the back field.  Add in a healthy D-Jax, and you’ve got the type of speed Kelly prized at Oregon (and is VERY difficult to collect in the NFL).  In light of this, Chip might be thinking he has nothing to lose by trying to shoot the moon by adding Vick to this line-up.  I’m seeing a few people talking about Vick losing a step, but I don’t agree with it.  I’ve been pretty clear about Vick’s shortcomings as a QB, but speed is one area I am not concerned about.  Even at 85% of his prime-speed, Vick is fast enough to devastate defenses.

If Kelly has been given explicit guarantees of his job security (i.e. low expectations for this year) from Lurie, and I bet he has, then he really has nothing to lose by trying to go for it with Vick for 1 year.  The only cost here is impeding Foles’ development, but as I mentioned above, I don’t think Kelly cares about that and wouldn’t be surprised if Foles gets traded.

– Run-heavy option offense.  The biggest problem with Vick, outside of his fragility, is his propensity for turnovers.  However, Kelly might believe he can solve that problem fairly easily. How?  Don’t throw the ball.  Shurmur has already alluded to a run-heavy attack, and with Shady and BB, that should be the strategy.  It’s possible, though, that he’s underselling just how run-heavy the offense could be.  Could the Eagles try to run a Georgia Tech-style triple option in the NFL?  Why not?  Kelly has already stated that the only reasoning he won’t accept is “that’s the way it’s always been done”, which BTW is my absolute favorite thing about him.  With the speed in the Eagles backfield, a healthy OL (a healthy Peters especially), and perhaps a stud OT with the #4 pick, Kelly might believe he has the necessary ingredients to make an extremely run-heavy option offense work in the NFL.

If Vick doesn’t throw the ball, he can’t throw interceptions.  Fumbles are another story, but IMO they are much less of an issue than interceptions (both more random and easier to fix).

Concluding – Hopefully the thoughts above have given you a few new things to consider.  In any case, the Eagles will be interesting and entertaining, which at the end of the day is why the team exists.  We can complain all we want about not having a Super Bowl, but at least the team isn’t boring.  Would you rather be a Bucs fan?  If I was in charge, I would have already cut ties with Vick, but in exploring the situation, I can see a few strands of logic in the decision to keep him.  The fact is Kelly is coming into the league with such a good reputation, that anything he does right now deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to tear him up later.

 

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10 thoughts on “Let’s talk about Vick

  1. Just found your site from a link on igglesblitz.com. I like your statistical analyses and I thought your last article about the QB situation made a lot of great points.

    • Thanks, glad you like the analysis. Just trying to give a different take (mostly stat-based) than most writers/bloggers are providing. If you like the stats stuff spend some time going through the past posts (if you havent done-so already) and let me know what you think.

  2. Interesting take. I can get behind all of your ideas here, but I do think you are somewhat underselling Vick as a passer. Although he is not a top flight pocket passer, if the safeties are creeping in, he can deliver one of the best deep balls in the NFL. He has the arm strength to make all the throws (but please someone teach him the back shoulder fade), and may be viably successful if he only passes 15-20 times a game. Clearly Andy Reid’s strategy of passing 45 times a game did not play to Vick’s strength. Hopefully Kelly can make it work… I was also done with the Vick experience, but for now it’s the best we got. Go Vick 3.0!

    • Fair assessment. Vick’s arm strength is definitely still there. That’s what could make an extremely run-heavy offense interesting. BUT, that is heavily dependent on the OL all coming back 100% (big assumption) and probably getting one in the draft. I just don’t think Vick’s decision-making is anywhere close to where it needs to be, but it looks like Kelly is gonna give it a go. Throwing 15 times a game, Vick could light it up, especially because (as you said), safeties will have to cheat towards the run. With that as the foundation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better combo than Vick/D-Jax for beating an 8 man box with a deep ball.

      • Agreed, although the OL concern applies equally to Vick, Foles, Alex Smith, or Geno are under center. For Chip’s vision of having the McCoy/Brown attack work we need excellent OL play, especially in the run blocking department. Getting JP and Kelce back is crucial. I would also not be surprised to see Lockel or Fisher taken and Herramans moved back inside. Hopefully Vick having a simplified role will improve his decision making… he seems articulate enough in interviews for me to assume that he is not simply a Vince Young. IMO the decision making issues appear to be linked to repetition and/or coaching than pure intelligence.

        BTW Do you think the Vick signing hints at Kelly not being enamored with Geno Smith? IMO this at least points toward the Eagles not being willing to trade up to get him.

  3. The OL is important for every QB, but even more-so if Chip wants to go run-heavy. I’m really surprised at how many people are down on Foles. They kid put up a historically VERY good rookie season, behind a terrible O-line. If he’s not a fit for the offense and Chip wont adapt, then obviously he has to go, but given the right situation (a true west-coast offense), I expect to see Foles have a pretty good career.

    RE: Vick – I dont think its simply a matter of intelligence. Just saw DNL, where Gonzo seemed to believe anyone saying Vick can’t make decisions is saying Vick is stupid. I’m definitely not saying that. However, Vick is now almost 32 years old. NEVER in his career has he showed a good ability to consistently make the right reads or, more importantly, not try to force throws into coverage. I just can’t believe he’ll suddenly improve now. At this point, IMO he is what he is. If he doesn’t have to throw much in a new offense, its got a chance of working, but im definitely skeptical.

    RE: Geno Smith. I basically agree with you. Based purely on what I’ve read, he’s definitely not worth the #4 pick (and obviously not worth trading up for). Being the top QB in the draft may inflate his stock. But as I mentioned in the post, I think perhaps the best thing about bringing Vick back is that its insurance in case they don’t get a guy they like in the draft. Vick will draw a lot of press, but at the end of the day he may really just be a placeholder that buys the team another year to find a QB (while fixing some other holes). It sounds like Nassib is a decent fit, so maybe the team sees if it can draft him with the 2nd rounder (in which case we could cut Vick). If they can’t get him, role with Vick and try again next year.

    • All good observations. BTW I was not implying that you were questioning Vick’s intelligence, just stating that the limiting factors seem to be habitual rather than cognitive. Whether it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks is a better question for Vick (half-clever insinuation intended). ^^

      The only thing I disagree about is Foles. While his stats were acceptable– especially considering the OLine–I am not convinced he could replicate the production over a sixteen game season. Food for thought:
      1. Foles’ production may have been a byproduct of Reid’s system, much like Garcia and Kolb. Andy Reid is known as a QB wizard for a reason.
      2. We have a small sample set bias here in regards to NFL teams not having adequate time to map Foles’ tendencies. Six games seems to be the magic number where the league becomes a much tougher place to play. That is probably the main reason why you cannot project small sample size performances onto a 16 game season and say he played similar to Flacco.
      3. Based on Foles’ college career, his specialty is playing behind a porous OL. While I do not mean to take away from what he has done, I would say that having no OL was less of a detriment to Foles than it was to Vick.
      4. His deep balls were horrendous: poorly positioned, under-thrown, floaty and just ugly. IMO this is the main reason Kelly does not like him; having an ineffective deep ball kills a large part of the benefit of having a strong run game.
      5. Foles also turns the ball over a lot, but Vick seems to be the only one catching heat for it. In his 6.5 games played, Foles has 5 picks and 8 fumbles. I know that fumbles seem to be statistically random, but if we are knocking Vick for turnovers, Foles should get equal condemnation.
      6. Foles was sacked 20 times in 6.5 games. More than Vick if we extrapolate the numbers.
      This probably sounds like I am a Vick supporter, but truth be told I was hoping for Alex Smith just so we can have an accomplished game manager. However, when presented with the option of using Vick as a band-aid, or going through the growing pains of developing Foles, I can see why Vick is very appealing. Basically, same conclusion as your article, but different rationale for getting there.

      • Regarding Foles, almost all of your points are completely true and I agree with them.

        The sample is very small, so we dont really “know” anything about Foles. However, IMO he showed more than enough to be given the shot at starting, especially because there isn’t a can’t-miss guy available at #4 this year.

        The deep ball is clearly a weakness, but one I thought Foles might be able to improve upon given a full off-season with NFL coaches (and assuming that’s the focus of his practice).

        The one big argument I have with you’re last comment is the Foles TO bit. He fumbled too many times, but he threw an interception on just 1.9% of throws. People forget just how many times Reid had Foles throwing the ball last year. His college numbers are very good, so there’s less reason to believe the small sample size is hiding any potential issues with interceptions. In all, Foles appears to be very good at taking care of the ball (when it comes to throws).

  4. I just looked up Foles’ passes attempted numbers, and he threw over 45 times in 3 of his 6 starts!?!?!? 265 passes in 6.5 games for a rookie? That extrapolates out to 652 over a full season. Andy & Marty went full retard it seems… For ease of reference: Russell Wilson (393), RG3 (393), Weeden (517), Tannehill (484) and Luck (627!?!?!?).

    If we are looking at Int/Att however, lets also remark on his lack of TD/att. Foles (2.26%), Weeden (2.71%), Wilson (6.62%), RG3 (5.09%), Tannehill (2.47%), and Luck (3.67%). Even Mark Sanchez is better at (2.87%). This indicates to me that while Foles takes care of the ball, he is risk averse to the point of probably “taking points off the board.” Again, both of our arguments for taking care of the board vs. detrimental risk aversion suffer from small sample size. But it is always interesting to see the numbers from a differing point of view. [Sidebar: one of my favorite quotes is from a foreign movie where a guy says “statistics are wonderful because using them I can convince you that an alligator is longer than he is greener.”]

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