The operating theory all along, based upon nothing more than intuition, is that Nick Foles cannot win the Eagles' starting quarterback job by an inch — that he has to win it by a mile. Based upon what Michael Vick did on Friday night against the New England Patriots, that is not happening.
Vick played against the Pats' first team. He had the cleaner pocket. He had DeSean Jackson. And he threw the two most memorable passes of the night for the Eagles — a 22-yarder up the seam to Jason Avant and a 47-yard touchdown to Jackson. Both were excellent, authoritative throws.
Foles, by comparison, led the Eagles on one touchdown drive but he also had a turnover, trying to throw the ball away while being hit and fumbling instead. Add it up and Vick is ahead. There is no argument there.
Still, there was something about the Foles touchdown drive that was intriguing. Mostly, it was the tempo. You watched it and really thought you were watching the Chip Kelly vision of the future.
The plays were coming so quickly that there sometimes wasn't time to write them down. The throws were quick and short and precise. There was even a little whiff of the read option, it appeared — and there was another play where Foles — Foles! — scrambled and slid for 10 yards.
The whole thing just had a pace to it that suggested what all of us have been led to believe was the way Kelly wanted this thing to look. By comparison, Vick seemed more deliberate. That might have been by Kelly's design, at least for the first two plays, but it wouldn't change the overall numbers much.
Vick got off his quickest play at 25 seconds (twice). Foles got off five of his plays quicker than that, and two a lot quicker. These are not official numbers, but Vick's average was about 30 seconds between plays and Foles' average was about 26 seconds.
It does not sound like a lot — only 4 seconds, after all — but in the course of a game, it can be the difference between running 67 offensive plays in a game (which is about what the Eagles averaged last season) and 77 plays in a game.
We know that Chip Kelly values this kind of tempo. It is fair to surmise that both Vick and Foles are only going to get faster as they get more comfortable with the whole process, with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur talking in their helmet heaphones and a variety of signals being waggled into everyone else on the offense from the sideline. But for this one night, with an admittedly small sample, Foles was quicker.
The rest of the established narrative didn't do so well, though.
You know, the narrative — the one that says Vick has the better arm and the better legs but the more deliberate style, the penchant for hanging onto the ball and looking endlessly for big plays and taking too many hits as a result. There are a lot of days when this is true — but not every day.
In this game, Vick did not hold the ball an inordinate amount — he had nice pockets throughout — and did not take hits. Given time, and a system that seems to insist on getting the ball out, Vick looked very good.
Again, there really is no debate on this. For the record, here were the numbers: Vick was 4-for-5 for 94 yards and a touchdown and Foles was 5-for-6 for 43 yards. Vick continued to cement his connection with Jackson, something he has done throughout training camp. Foles, meanwhile, continued to get the ball out quickly and accurately. It is what he does.
The difference? Some of this can be measured with a stopwatch but a lot of it is just a feel, an impression. And the sense you get is that when Vick is in the game, he supplies most of the offensive dynamism while, when Foles is in the game, he seems to be more of a facilitator and it is the offense itself that supplies the dynamism.
That is one night's take. Whether or not Chip Kelly shares it is unknown, as is what it all might mean over time. But in the here and now, this is Michael Vick's job to lose.