Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

03 Jan 2014

ESPN: Numbers Don't Lie for Nick Foles

Sure, Nick Foles' interception rate was a bit fluky, but when you look closer at all his snaps you find there weren't many "almost interceptions" either. We also know that no quarterback throws more screens or more deep passes.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 03 Jan 2014

12 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2014, 9:12pm by Intropy

Comments

1
by Sporran :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 2:00pm

Good article. I'd be interested in knowing how Foles's performance differs on play-action passes versus non-play-action passes. It seems that with McCoy being as great as he is, Foles has benefited more than other QBs with lesser RBs.

2
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 4:00pm

I'm sure in the offseason we'll do a proper article on play-action usage in 2013. What I can tell you right now is Foles definitely used play-action to hit big plays (15 TD, 0 INT), but he was also very good without it.

3
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 4:06pm

I have no idea how much of the Eagles' offensive success is down to Foles. It he was a free agent how much would he get paid? If you replaced him with a competent but thoroughly average quarterback like Alex Smith, what would the offense be like then?

The system is so different to any other being run in the NFL, and the supporting players are very good.

4
by ElJefe :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 5:45pm

I don't know about his value as a free agent, but if the 2012 draft were re-done he might be picked second. Andrew Luck would still be first but there would be a healthy debate between Foles/RGIII/Russell Wilson for who's next.

It's easy to dismiss (or at least take with a grain of salt) because he only played about 2/3 of the available snaps, but Foles had one of the great seasons for a QB in NFL history. If Josh McCown had thrown one less pass for the Bears, Foles would have become only the 2nd player since the liberalization of the passing rules (1978) to lead the NFL in TD%, Int%, and YPA. The other was Steve Young's MVP season in 1992.

If we get separate numbers for play-action passes I expect Foles to lead the league in YPA by a large margin. I also saw every snap Foles took and it certainly felt like every time there was a play fake the ball was going deep.

Overeducated Layabout

5
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 6:11pm

I'm not trying to suggest that he wasn't effective, just that I don't know how much that was as a result of playing with great players in an innovative scheme.

7
by Borkowskowitz (not verified) :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 6:28pm

great players like DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, and LeSean McCoy have really helped Foles, but he has also helped other players. He figured out how to use Riley Cooper's size advantage, he gave Ertz a hell of a rookie season, and he's helped Celek revitalize a flagging career. The good/great players helped him slide into a favorable situation, but he's used that favorable situation to make everyone else better.

As for Kelly's system, it's hard to tell how much the system has helped Foles, and how much Foles has helped the system. Foles has used pump fakes and his eyes very well to make the zone read game and play action more effective, and he's great at the screen game which offsets his lack of foot speed. Conversely, the spread game, and McCoy's presence allows him to face more favorable coverage downfield, so he's making less complicated reads downfield which has helped his deep game. I think the most you can say about Kelly's presence is that he always has a wrinkle to throw at the other team so Foles never faces a team that's figured him out. Now, that's huge, but it would be meaningless if Foles didn't have the tools to run the offense.

6
by rosmith51 :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 6:14pm

Something else slightly improbable: the Eagles had 12 different guys catch passes this year... 11 of them averaged 10+ yards per reception.

The only guy to average less than 10 a catch? Not a TE or RB... it was seldom used WR Damaris Johnson. He caught two passes all year (8 yards and 6 yards).

8
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 6:37pm

I do think Foles will have a hard time shaking the "it's Kelly's system" argument. He doesn't make many "wow" plays during a game, but he makes a lot of smart ones and avoids a lot of the bad ones. Some QBs (Stafford and Cutler) have never learned that after all these years. I could easily see Foles develop into a top 10 QB, if not higher once the HOFers start retiring.

9
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 6:56pm

He could well become a top ten but his raw numbers were much better than that this year, so that implies that you view him as being boosted by his surroundings right now.

10
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 7:11pm

Maybe.

Almost by definition, 2 INT seasons are fluky. That's a typical halftime total for Eli Manning.

11
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 7:26pm

Based on pure 2013 performance top 10 is too modest for Foles, but when I say top 10, I'm thinking more of a career ranking. I'm not going to put him over guys like Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rivers and Romo just based on a dozen games from this season. Same reason I can't rank Luck and Wilson too high yet.

12
by Intropy :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 9:12pm

I tend to think the same way. See Cam Newton as a good recent example. He's a good player, but after his first half season a lot of people were a bit prematurely exuberant about him.