The Eagles have struggled to sustain drives in the 4th quarter of their previous two games. They did not lose either game, in fact they have not lost any game in which they entered the 4th quarter with the lead, nor have they lost any game where they led at halftime. By Win Probability, the closest game the Eagles have led at the half was against Green Bay, where they had a 77% chance to win and were facing a third string QB. Washington never got above a 17% chance to win in the 2nd half and Arizona never got above 21% despite the offense’s inability to move the chains for large chunks of time. But two poor 4th quarter performances in a row and now some fans want to seriously explore the idea of using Michael Vick as a “closer” in situations where the Eagles should and want to run the ball on every play. (We’ll overlook that the closer is the most overrated position in sports.)
When Vick was the QB and the offense was struggling in the Red Zone, the idea was tossed around that when they got down to the Red Zone that Nick Foles could come in because he’s a better passer and wouldn’t turn the ball over like Vick was doing. Now the offense sputters in the 4th quarter for two games and it is Vick, the player fans didn’t want making decisions in the Red Zone, who should come in during crucial situations. Funny how things change.
Mike Vick as a “closer” is a bad idea.
The argument, as laid by Mark Saltveit, is:
When you go to the clock-killing fourth quarter run-only offense, add a second dimension back in by bringing in Mike Vick as your quarterback. Then and only then. He would be a specialist, a closer like Mariano Rivera. Foles would be QB in every other situation.
But here’s the thing: the offense is still one dimensional if Vick is never throwing the ball. The defense has to now respect the running abilities of Vick, but since in this scenario the Eagles have declared they will not throw the ball at all, defenses can call the Eagles bluff and overload against the run. So how much of an advantage are the Eagles really gaining? The Wildcat went from big play offense to run of the mill hit or miss trick play by the next season because defenses realized that without a legitimate NFL passer behind center they could ignore the possibility of anything beyond a short throw. If Vick isn’t going to throw the ball at all, then the effect is the same if not worse: the defense has no reason to defend a pass that is never going to be thrown.
And all of this is reaction from two games, one of which was against one of the best defenses in the league, though it should be noted that opponents run it more and most efficiently and pass it least efficiently against the Cardinals in the 4th quarter. If they have the lead against Detroit and they move the chains in the 4th, everyone will shut up about it until they struggle again. Nick Foles was the QB when the Eagles running game made a mockery of a very good Tampa defense in the 4th quarter with nothing but runs and when it had a ridiculous 9:32 game ending drive to close out a win over Green Bay. No one was clamoring for Vick then.
That said, part of me is intrigued by this. I like the thought of this succeeding and the media going nuts about how Chip doesn’t trust Foles, how he’s running a gimmick offense and other such BS all while it works and the Eagles are winning. And that’s the key. If you’re going to do this, it has to work. Otherwise they’re just treading water and the best idea you can come up with is little more than a gimmick offense that doesn’t work.