As many of you may remember, or at least can determine by the site headline above, this blog was founded on a quarterback controversy. Not to be hipster about it, but that one, between Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb, mattered a lot more. It was about the future of a franchise, turning over the reins to a player who had been groomed for success and jettisoning the veteran who led the team for a decade.
This one between Michael Vick and Nick Foles pales by comparison -- largely because I don't think the outcome matters much.
Let's look first at the performance this season. Who gives the Eagles the best chance to win against the Cowboys on Sunday (assuming Vick is back to 100% health)? Again, in broad strokes I'm not sure it matters. Chip Kelly has shown a remarkable ability to adapt his offense to fit the strengths of his quarterback.
With Vick starting through the first five weeks, Kelly called a heavy does of read-option. I've never seen a running game perform as well as the Vick-LeSean McCoy combo. They helped the Eagles to a dominant #1 rank in rushing DVOA. Vick has also been solid through the air. He's only completing 54% of his passes, but his interception rate so far is a career low (1.5%) and his yards per attempt a career high (9.0).
With Foles at the helm on Sunday, Kelly pared down the option plays in favor of straight power runs. McCoy finished with 116 yards on 25 carries, down from his rushing average in the previous games. Less explosive but still effective, those runs set up short passes that catered to Foles' accuracy. The second-year QB ended up with the best DYAR performance this week. As Football Outsiders acknowledged, that came with a lot of help from his teammates converting dump offs into long gains -- and Foles completed a much higher percentage of long balls than he did last year. Still, a great performance.
My gut reaction, based on the caveats above, is that Vick is still the better option to win right now. But the difference may be marginal. The offense ranked 5th in overall DVOA through the first five games. Then with a different QB, it put up 31 points against the 3rd-best DVOA defense. Regardless of who starts under center (or in shotgun), poor performance on defense and special teams remain the limiting factors for this team in 2013.
As for 2014 and beyond, neither Vick nor Foles is the answer. Vick is 33, constantly banged up, and has no more improvement left in him. Foles is young but limited. Not only is he largely immobile (QB draw aside), but his passing skills rely on the low upside combination of poise and short passes. His arm is weak and interception rate last year was bouyed by drops. Long term, that's not a combination worth investing in.
What the Eagles need will likely come in the 2014 draft: a high-upside passer and runner who can orchestrate the entirety of Kelly's offense for years to come. Whether that's a Marcus Mariota, Tajh Boyd, or even Johnny Manziel, the next generation Chip QB hasn't arrived yet. Arguing about who should start on this year's transitional squad is a waste of energy.