Young quarterback doesn’t fit system
Nick Foles is a young quarterback with great promise, a passer with uncanny accuracy, a leader with undeniable presence. The only thing he lacks right now is a coach who really loves him.
And that’s why, five days before a huge game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Foles hasn’t been named the Eagles’ permanent starting quarterback. Technically, Mike Vick is still the starter — in name, if not in production. Vick will remain so until new coach Chip Kelly comes to his senses.
On Monday, Kelly maintained a poker face when confronted with the growing controversy involving his quarterbacks, insisting that the issue is irrelevant until Vick recovers from a hamstring injury. Of course, nothing in sports is more relevant than an NFL quarterback, especially in Philadelphia.
“We’ll evaluate everything,” Kelly said, more than once, after the Birds had outlasted Tampa, 31-20. “We’ll go back and watch the film, see what [Foles] did, see where we are, see where Mike is.”
The real story here should be clear to everyone by now. Kelly inherited Foles, and he likes the tall, slow quarterback. He just doesn’t love him. That’s why Kelly coaxed Vick back onto the roster last spring, why he named Vick the starter at the end of training camp and why he still refuses to acknowledge the obvious: Foles is better than Vick. Period.
Statistics don’t lie. Foles has a 129.0 QB rating, to Vick’s 90. Foles has led the Eagles to four touchdowns from the red zone, in seven attempts; Vick is 5-for-14. Foles is the most accurate passer in Eagles history; Vick is, well, not even close. Yes, Vick runs much better than Foles, but Kelly has insisted quarterback mobility is not essential in his offense.
Even more revealing is how Foles’ presence Sunday made his teammates around him better. Riley Cooper had four catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, DeSean Jackson burned elite corner Darrelle Revis for six catches and two touchdowns, and LeSean McCoy managed 171 total yards, including 116 on the ground. Through it all, in Foles’ first full game of the season, the Eagles received only three penalties.
So why doesn’t Kelly see the potential of a marksman whose calmness under pressure has just led to two come-from-behind victories? The best guess is that Kelly will not commit to Foles because the coach has other long-range plans in mind. There are eight highly-rated quarterbacks expected in next year’s draft — including Kelly’s Oregon protégée Marcus Mariota — and embracing Foles at this point could foil that effort.
Chip Kelly has made many smart moves since accepting the Eagles’ job last winter, and his offensive creativity may be unrivaled in football. The Eagles have already amassed six straight 400-yard games, a team record. But his blind spot with Foles has the potential to turn into a disaster.
Tampa safety Dashon Goldson walked off the field Sunday enamored with the young quarterback. After his defense gave up 296 passing yards to Foles, Goldson said: “He’s a good football player, for sure. He could start anywhere.”
Except maybe in Philadelphia.
Fresher is always better, Mr. Snider
Ed Snider needed only six words to explain 38 years of failure and to ensure a similar fate in the seasons ahead: “We don’t need a fresh perspective.” The Flyers chairman barked out that angry message last week, not long after Peter Laviolette was fired as head coach.
For those who remember the two Stanley Cups of the mid-1970s, these are poignant times. Snider became an icon in this city not only because he won championships, but also because his team did so with clenched fists and bloody faces. Among the Broad Street Bullies, the biggest fighter was the owner himself.
Unfortunately, more than half the people alive today do not remember those glorious days because they weren’t born yet. Since the last Flyers parade in 1975, the team has not progressed with the times, nor has its chairman. They are a bad club burdened by a flawed plan, but the man in charge refuses to acknowledge his own shortcomings.
As much as any team in recent Philadelphia sports history, the Flyers need a fresh perspective. They need a general manager who seeks the players most effective in today’s game — young and fast, and skilled. They need forward thinking, not nostalgia. They need the best people running the team, not the boss’s best friends.
When Snider defiantly barked out “We don’t need a new perspective,” he was really announcing all we need to know about his Flyers and their future. They are doomed until the biggest Bully of them all finally gives up the fight and walks away.
Amaro has right attitude, wrong plan
In one unsolicited phone call last Friday, Ruben Amaro Jr. illustrated everything that is good about him as Phillies GM, and everything that is not. He called my WIP radio show that morning just to talk some baseball — something we really haven’t done in this city since his team finished with its worst record in 11 years.
Fans ask all the time why Amaro doesn’t receive harsher treatment from the media for dismantling a championship team with dumb trades and ridiculous contracts. The answer is right there, in that phone call. He never ducks and hides. He is far more honest and accessible than most GMs. He treats fans with respect.
Unfortunately, his ideas for building a winner are failing spectacularly. For example, in that call, he reiterated his desire for more and more pitching, even though the biggest problem is offense. His team can’t score runs. His two aces, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, had a combined ERA in the second half of 2.93, and still the team was 16 games under .500 during that span.
Equally stunning was Amaro’s statement that he is no longer ruling out a platoon at first base with Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf. If he follows through on that plan, the Phillies will have the first $25-million, part-time player in baseball history — and for three more years. Is there a bigger indictment of Amaro’s money decisions than that one?
Unlike Ed Wade, or Joe Banner, or so many other run-and-hide GMs we have had over the years in Philadelphia, Ruben Amaro is the kind of sports executive worthy of our support. The problem is, his philosophy on rebuilding the Phillies is not. And ultimately, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Former Sixer coach Doug Collins said last week that Andrew Bynum’s failure to play last season was “nobody’s fault.” Really? It was nobody’s fault that thousands of fans bought tickets under false pretenses? Or that the coach asked these same fans to pray for a lazy millionaire athlete? Please.
» If you are still undecided about the ethics of the NFL, check out the brilliant Frontline documentary entitled, “League of Denial.” You will never see commissioner Roger Goodell or his greedy partners the same way. It’s on PBS.org.
» Outside linebacker Trent Cole is making $5.35 million with the Eagles this season for no apparent reason. He has no sacks — none — in the first six games. Why is the Eagles’ defense so pathetic? Start with Mr. Invisible, Trent Cole.
» After a loss last weekend to Phoenix, many of the Flyers refused to speak to the media. With the team at 1-5, how long will it be before the media doesn’t want to talk to the Flyers?
» Now that the Phillies have brought back Larry Bowa as a bench coach and are begging Charlie Manuel to join Dallas Green in the front office, does anybody know how to contact John Felske? Apparently, if you manage the Phils, you have a job for life.