One more thing about Foles

Not a full post today, just a point I had wanted to include yesterday but forgot about.

The lack of excitement/”believers” regarding Foles may be a direct result of his “elite” skill.  as I said yesterday, it’s possible that interception-avoidance is Foles’ “plus” trait.  If that’s true, he’s never going to command a huge following.

Think about it.  The best plays Foles makes are, by definition, the ones you DON’T see, simply because they don’t happen.  As a fan (or anybody), it’s impossible to identify the plays in which a replacement-level QB would have thrown an interception but Foles does not.  Sure, we can talk about it in the abstract, for instance when he takes a sack and we say “it’s better than an INT”.  However, that’s obviously never going to be featured in a highlight reel.

In particular, Foles might be hurt by the way the game is analyzed today.  With the prevalence of All-22 breakdowns, countless people are going through game-tape and identifying everything that happened.  Once again, interceptions NOT thrown is never going to show up on those.  Instead, you’ll get a handful of wide open receivers that Foles missed.  The take-away, naturally, will be about what an “elite” QB WOULD have done, given the same openings.  However, that type of analysis doesn’t account for Foles’ “elite” skill.  Yes, maybe another QB would have made a few more plays.  However, he also may have then turned the ball over, completely negating the additional positive plays.

I’m going to try to dig a bit deeper into both interception rate and sack rate.  Hopefully, I’ll find evidence one way or another indicating the degree of skill involved in each.  Until then though, keep in mind:

IF Foles’ “elite” skill is his ability to NOT throw interceptions, he will never be fully appreciated.  Not only is it not a real “measurable” skill, but it doesn’t show up on replay.  While other QBs may be able to make a lot of positive plays that Foles can’t make, Foles may AVOID a lot of negative plays that those other QBs don’t.

That’s not as easily identifiable and it doesn’t lend itself to highlight reels, but in theory, there’s no reason it can’t be just as significant a skill.



10 thoughts on “One more thing about Foles

  1. The fear is that this “skill” is a Smith/Schaub skill that only gets you so far. And that real elite QB’s would be throwing more interceptions early in their career as they work through their learning curve.

    I want to believe, I really do. But I guess I’m saying, if you looked at Smith or Schaub in one of their good years, and compared to Foles, is there something about Foles that tells us he doesn’t have their lower ceiling?

    • Alex Smith is 2-27-1 (from the his rookie season to 28OCT13) in games where the opponent scores 24+ points. Foles (56) also completed more passes beyond 10 yards (in the air) than Alex (54) did on 191 fewer total pass attempts. Alex Smith is a classic dink and dunk passer. You can see that in how bad he is in high scoring games.

      Matt Schaub is a better comparison but he still was never even close to the interception rate that Foles put up this season. His TD:INT ratio is 130:84.

  2. Wise point. Just wanted to comment that avoiding interceptions was a great and under-appreciated strength of Donovan McNabb. Per Chase Stuart (via the first link below):

    “McNabb for his career has 5,374 attempts and 2,204 incomplete passes. His career INT rate is 2.2%, and [he] has thrown an interception on 5.3% of his incompletions. Based on league average [Picks On Passes In Play*], we would have expected him to throw an interception on 3.2% of his passes. For his career, he has 117 interceptions and we would estimate that he would have thrown 171.1 interceptions. As a result, McNabb has thrown 54.1 fewer interceptions than we would have estimated (this is what the table is sorted by). He has thrown one fewer interception per 100 passes than we would have projected.”

    *Stuart’s post explains this concept, and his posts that use it (some that I know of:,, and may help you and your readers in our quest to project Foles’ future and to understand understand luck vs skill in avoiding interceptions.

    i’ll also be curious to see how Foles does in FO’s Adjusted Interceptions ( once I see 2013’s data. Is that data accessible now anywhere if we know where to look?

    -Allen Rodriguez (

  3. If the int thing with Foles is real, I think it’s probably part of an invisible larger skill set. Foles is already beyond his years at manipulating a defense through subtle things like using his eyes and subtle pump and shoulder fakes. This opens up windows in the defense. It’s apparent on the all 22 but it doesn’t show up on tv the same way.

    If we buy your window heuristic, this could mean that Foles first finds windows he can throw into and helps create them. Second, he makes good judgments about them given his skill set. His accuracy with yac on screens and the short to medium stuff doesn’t hurt either. And I do think he has serious functional pocket mobility.

    Put this all together and images of Brady come back. He’s obviously not there yet, but then again, it’s not like Brady has the stats or wow plays recently that make me scream “elite”! It’s Brady’s body of work that gives him that label.

    • A big factor fans don’t account for is having a QB that simply knows the extent of his skill.

      If we look at Drew Brees, we see a QB with worse-than-average arm strength. However, he’s still able to lead one of the best passing attacks in the league. The key is that he knows his limitations and doesn’t attempt throws that are outside of his skill set (well not often anyway).

      Foles might be the same way. It’s OK for a QB to not be able to “make every throw”. It’s much more destructive if the QB tries to make those throws anyway (see Eli Manning).

      What helped Brady was his early SB. He would have faced a lot of skepticism by virtue of his low draft spot and similar lack of a “wow” skill. However, SBs are weighted so heavily that he immediately overcame those doubts, even though it his title teams were built largely on the back of a great defense (everyone forgets this).

      On Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 9:52 AM, Eagles Rewind

  4. Earlier in the year, Fole’s was also throwing very few near interceptions. Football outsiders confirmed this a few weeks ago. It seems to me that while interception rate may vary season to season because of luck and other factors, an extremely low “adjusted” interception rate would be more indicative of a skill. If he threw only two interceptions, and had relatively few dropped interceptions, that would seem to be far more indicative of a skill than mere luck. Indeed, if you look at the quarterbacks with the six best adjusted rates from last year who played this year, Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Bradford, Alex Smith, and Gabbert, the only outlier is Gabbert.

    • Agree completely, just wish there was more adjusted rate data. That should definitely be more skill-dependent. Where did you see the FO comment on Foles? I’m still waiting for their Adj Int rate post for this year (last year it didn’t come out until march)

      On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 4:57 AM, Eagles Rewind

    • Thanks. Read this and forgot about it. If we add in the 5 dropped INTs the article mentions, that gives Foles an adjusted rate of just 2.2%, which is still amazing (and much more likely to be sustainable).

      I’m hopeful that this is, in fact, an “elite” skill. The biggest issue is that we really have never seen another QB begin his career with TO rates as low as Foles has (without sacrificing downfield throws).

      On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 9:36 AM, Eagles Rewind

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