Maybe this is blasphemous, but has Nick Foles surpassed Andrew Luck?
A year ago I compared the two through their first seven games and concluded that “Nick Foles might not be Andrew Luck, but he might still be pretty good after all. Personally, I think he’s much closer than anyone wants to admit.” At the time I think everyone kinda shrugged that off, which was understandable since Luck supposedly is/was the best prospect since John Elway. That said, we now have another season to consider and after running the numbers, I am excited to share these shocking results with you.
Considering that Foles and Luck both entered the NFL through the 2012 NFL Draft, it might be tempting to just look at their career stats, make a comparison and call it a day; I’m not sure that would be the best idea though. While Andrew Luck has played in all 35 of the Colts’ regular- and post-season games since the 2012 Draft, Foles has played in only 21. Maybe it’s just me, but I think those 14 extra games of reps is a big deal, especially considering that Luck has been in the same system during that time, whereas Foles has played under two head coaches. So, for the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to compare the two over the first 21 games of their career.
Can you honestly look at that and tell me that Foles doesn’t win by a landslide? I mean, I guess that makes sense considering Foles posted the most ruthlessly efficient 24 year old season in NFL history in 2013. Through my eyes, he absolutely crushes Luck in the three main passing categories. Heck, even in the rushing category, where everyone thinks Foles is a total statue, he still covers nearly four yards per carry. As far as the win totals go, I think it’s important to remember that the Eagles were a sinking ship when Foles took over in late 2012. Nick’s nine wins in 2013 are certainly no laughing matter. In hindsight, it’s almost laughable that teams didn’t try harder to trade for Foles rather than draft a 2013 quarterback.
Should We Be Concerned About Andrew Luck?
It’s one thing to say “Nick Foles has surpassed Andrew Luck,” but it’s another to understand where Luck’s early career performance ranks relative to his peers. To provide additional perspective I created the following table which shows other early round quarterbacks who have seen extensive playing time. Note that Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and RG3 have been omitted from this list because I think their dual-threat style of play is different enough than everyone else that it might skew the results.
If we are looking for two passers whose first 21 games look most similar to Luck, I think Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford are the guys. For Fantasy Football purposes, those two are certainly strong options, but in real NFL world haven’t Dalton and Stafford both earned the label of “guy you’re not going to win the big one with”? Despite being on a similar career path, if you questioned Andrew Luck’s future as an elite quarterback you would get a lot of push back. So what gives?
If you want to blame Pep Hamilton’s offense for being run heavy and limiting to Luck, that might make some sense. However, I would probably counter by pointing out that a better run game should lead to a more efficient passing game. Luck’s efficiency metrics are all pretty average for this cohort. Maybe you could blame the loss of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen (UPDATE: Andrew Luck’s 21 game sample includes 17 from 2012 and the first four of 2013, so the loss of Reggie Wayne isn’t relevant here, since he was injured in week six of 2013). For what it’s worth, Nick Foles spent last year throwing to DeSean Jackson and a fourth year player who was previously best known for his off-field slurs rather than his on-field play. I recognize that there’s still more to see with Luck, but it might be time to reevaluate our collective stance on his, supposedly, can’t-miss career.