Friday, July 26, 2013
Does Foles need to win the locker room?
By Dan Graziano
Leafing through some of the stuff I missed while on vacation, I found this interesting piece from Tim McManus on the way Michael Vick is viewed by his Philadelphia Eagles teammates and whether Nick Foles needs to overcome that in order to win over the locker room if he's to be the starting quarterback. Guys like LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson -- the key non-quarterback parts of the offense -- grew up idolizing Vick and still sometimes can't believe they're in the same huddle with him on Sundays:
Given Vick’s stature, it should come as little surprise that Jackson would predict that Vick would win the job, or grab his back when the QB said he’d like a starter named before camp. He’s like a big brother, only instead of playing against him in Madden growing up, you played as him.
How does Foles compete against that?
“I think what Nick has to do is be himself,” answered quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor on Thursday. “His teammates will respect him when they know who he is and that he is genuine. What I see on the practice field is that when we’re out there and he’s running the offense, when I watch him get other guys lined up or tell them what to do, I see them react because they trust that he knows what they’re supposed to do.”
Chip Kelly is looking for accuracy and decision making out of his quarterback above all else, but there are obviously intangibles that are a big part of the position as well. A QB needs the team to respond to him and follow him. Lazor feels like Foles has managed to capture the respect and attention of his peers, even with the presence of someone like Vick on the roster.
Kelly doesn't strike me as the type of coach who would let the locker room pick the starting quarterback, and if Foles outperforms Vick in the key areas we've been discussing -- accuracy, decision-making, getting rid of the ball quickly -- then I believe Kelly will pick him. But it's worth watching the way in which this (and every other) Kelly decision is received in the locker room as the Eagles embark upon an uncertain season.
Surely, if Foles wins the starting job and the Eagles win their first three or four games, you're not going to hear anyone in the locker room grumbling that they'd rather have Vick under center. But if the Eagles struggle early in or throughout Kelly's first season, everything he does that's different from Andy Reid will be subject to grouchy analysis by a roster full of players who loved Reid.
This doesn't mean that Kelly should coach scared or make decisions based on what will keep his players happy. It's just something to watch as things unfold in Philadelphia in 2013. Winning would obviously smooth over everything, but winning can be elusive for first-year NFL head coaches with shaky quarterback situations, and Kelly's first season is likely to have more valleys than peaks. If he picks Foles and they still struggle, he could find himself putting out a lot of silly fires.