PHILADELPHIA — Desperation wasn’t enough for Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid to make a change at quarterback. Neither was the public outcry to start a rookie.
Michael Vick’s concussion made Reid’s decision for him.
Reid, the NFL’s longest-tenured head coach, had no choice Sunday but to make a move he had avoided for weeks, either out of stubbornness or blind faith in Vick. Or maybe rookie Nick Foles just wasn’t ready. In the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field, Vick suffered a concussion, and the Eagles turned to this year’s third-round draft pick. Foles wasn’t good enough to bail out his team, which lost its fifth consecutive contest, this time 38-23 to the Dallas Cowboys.
“There’s going to be tough times; there’s tough times in life, and you know, this is a tough time,” said Foles, who competed 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
It’s unknown whether Vick will be healthy enough to play next Sunday against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, or whether Reid will make a long-term change. He indicated after Sunday’s loss that, if healthy, Vick would remain his starter.
“He’s the quarterback,” Reid said. “He’s hurt, so we’ve got to see how he’s doing.”
Foles was, for weeks, one of Philadelphia’s most popular men. Vick is the same electrifying player he’s always been, but he’s also the same inconsistent player. Foles represented hope, unproven as it was, but at least that was something.
As the Eagles drifted toward a losing season, and Reid’s job security dissolved, the fans’ whispers turned to pleas. Vick simply couldn’t be counted on. His passer rating, which was 77.7 entering Sunday’s contest, was ranked 27th in the league. In half of Vick’s first eight starts this season, he threw as many or more interceptions than touchdowns. Why not give the kid a chance?
After Vick was knocked down and later escorted to the locker room, the team announced that he had suffered a concussion and wouldn’t return. Foles’ popularity perhaps peaked, receiving a standing ovation as he joined the starters in the huddle. Then he played every bit like a rookie — and one who, it’s clear now, hadn’t been starting for good reason.
Sure, he found Jeremy Maclin open in the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown, but that was less an impressive read by a young prodigy than a breakdown by the Cowboys’ secondary. Even if it had been all Foles, the 6-foot-6 and 243-pounder, he followed it by floating passes toward receivers and struggling to make smart reads.
One would-be interception was called back because of defensive holding. Another near pick was dropped by a defender. But yet another was tipped and reeled in by cornerback Brandon Carr, who returned it 47 yards for a touchdown.
“I’ve got to be more accurate,” Foles said. “That’s on me.”
Foles has plenty of ability; his size, arm strength and college resume are impressive. What he lacks is experience, and with the Eagles desperate for wins, waiting for Foles to develop won’t do any favors for his popularity.
“We’ve just got to keep working,” he said.
The thing is, the Eagles’ problems aren’t restricted to quarterback. Injuries have piled onto a disappointing season, and Philadelphia’s coverage team looked helpless as Dwayne Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown. After Vick was ruled out Sunday, so was wide receiver Jason Avant, the Eagles’ emergency quarterback who had suffered a hamstring injury. With third quarterback Trent Edwards inactive, Foles was the Eagles’ best and only chance.
Now with five consecutive losses hanging over Reid, it’s becoming a foregone conclusion that without a turnaround, his 13-year run as coach will end after this season, if not sooner. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated before the season that it would take something better than another .500 season to save Reid’s job.
That’s the way it goes in the NFL, whether you’re a coach or a quarterback: win now, and win consistently, or be shown the door. Reid’s five appearances in the NFC championship game are mostly forgotten, and popularity fades — sometimes in the blink of an eye.
Reid’s future won’t be the only one debated in Philadelphia this week. Vick’s role with the Eagles will likely be the more pressing topic. Teams’ post-concussion procedures vary, depending on the injury’s severity and its lingering symptoms, but Vick likely will undergo further testing this week before Reid has a chance to make a decision. Even then, is it better to trudge through a season with a 32-year-old veteran with declining abilities or a 23-year-old with plenty still to learn?
“We’ll see,” Reid said. “We’ll see how all that goes.”
After the mistakes and injuries and bad luck, Foles had a chance to lead a comeback with less than a minute to play. But Anthony Spencer sacked the rookie near the goal line, and Foles fumbled; Dallas defensive end Jason Hatcher fell on it for another touchdown.
That’s how quickly fortunes can change in this league. Opinions, too. As the remaining fans began their exit, many of them booed Foles on their way out.