Michael Vick concussion opens the door for Nick Foles
Midway through the second quarter of Sunday's critical NFC East showdown between Philadelphia and Dallas, Vick was knocked from the game with a concussion, forcing Foles into his NFL debut. Vick took a couple of tough hits prior to heading to the locker room: Dallas' Jay Ratliff landed hard on Vick after Vick dove headfirst during a scramble attempt; on the next play, Vick's head snapped back and his helmet appeared to hit the turf after he was knocked down by Ernie Sims.
Vick's sometimes reckless play always puts him at risk for injury -- he missed three full games and parts of others in 2011 with a concussion, broken ribs and multiple hand injuries.
He's also proven himself to be one of the tougher players around, gutting it out through every snap of Philadelphia's 2012 schedule (prior to leaving Sunday), despite being battered and bruised behind a porous offensive line. It has been Vick's turnover-prone ways, not to mention the Eagles' general malaise, that led some Philly fans to start calling for Foles -- Vick entered Sunday with nine interceptions and he had fumbled an NFL-leading 10 times.
Foles was a third-round pick out of Arizona in last April's draft. He burst onto the NFL scene with a dazzling preseason, in which he completed 63.5 percent of his passes (40 for 63) and posted a 110.1 QB rating. The 6-foot-6 rookie also tossed six touchdowns along the way, leading the Eagles to cut Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards, the other two backup QB options.
The injury Vick suffered Sunday could put Philadelphia's quarterback of the future on the fast track. And that may be bad news for Andy Reid.
The Eagles' coach opened this season on the hot seat after a disappointing 8-8 2011, and his team's 3-5 start to the year did nothing to ease his plight. The general feeling out of Philadelphia is that anything shy of a playoff berth will lead to Reid's dismissal. But making a second-half run to the postseason might be even more difficult if Foles is forced into permanent duties. After Sunday's 38-23 loss to Dallas, the Eagles play four of their last seven games on the road.
An extended absence for Vick might also force the Eagles' hand when it comes to deciding his future. He signed a six-year, $100 million contract prior to the 2011 season, but almost all of the guaranteed money included in that deal will have been paid out before 2012's up -- meaning it would be much easier, financially, for Philadelphia to cut ties with Vick come the offseason.
The conundrum is that Vick, when he's on his game, remains one of the league's most dynamic players. Consistency has been a major issue, but Vick has played very well in (small) stretches and started off Sunday's game strong.
Foles was a record-setting quarterback at Arizona, but he's had some turnover issues himself -- while he threw for 38 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons combined, he also had 24 interceptions. Against the Cowboys he was intercepted once and suffered a strip sack that the Cowboys recovered for a touchdown in the closing minutes. Regardless, Foles finds himself thrust into the fire for the near future.
And the same goes for Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Kaepernick, a 2011 second-round pick, had to step in for Alex Smith after Smith suffered a concussion of his own, just moments after Vick exited his game in Philadelphia.
We've seen teams absolutely nosedive when forced to turn to their No. 2 QB (look no further than the Colts sans Peyton Manning in 2011). San Francisco might be able to weather the storm a bit, thanks to its terrific defense and first-place spot in the NFC West.