Has Nick Foles Surpassed Andrew Luck?

image via Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr

image via Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr

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.

QB G21 AgeCmp%TD:INTAY/ARush Y/AWins

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.

QB G21 AgeCmp%TD:INTAY/ARush Y/A

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.

Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a coach at RotoAcademy.  Continue this conversation with him on Twitter or Google+.

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By Jon Moore | @TheCFX | Archive


  1. deputylefty
    April 10, 2014 at 11:20 pm —

    RC Fisher from fantasyfootballmetrics.com and collegefootballmetrics.com loves you for this article. He was one of the very first to claim that Foles may end up being the top QB from the 2012 class.

  2. Intercept
    April 11, 2014 at 12:18 am —

    ” If you want to blame http://rotoviz.com/index.php/2013/06/what-will-pep-hamiltons-2013-indianapolis-offense-look-like/ 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.”

    This is the only part I fundamentally disagree with. By that logic, isn’t that another thing that’s in Foles’ favor? After all, Foles was playing with LeSean McCoy while Luck was playing with Trent Richardson and what’s left of Ahmad Bradshaw. Ok, and Donald Brown too.

    Personally, I think Luck’s the better real life QB. I think the system really is in full effect in Philly. Which is not to say that I think Foles is simply a system QB. But as an example, there were tons of loooooooong plays where Foles had all the time in the world and still took a sack. We at least know Luck could have done something with his feet in those situations, if not avoided some of them all together.

  3. FootballFanatic1
    April 11, 2014 at 5:30 am —

    This article is completely cherry picking information to form at best a biased opinion & at worst an ignorant one.  You are comparing stats that do not take into account:

    1.  Who the QB is throwing to (guys who weren’t even on the roster for the first half of the season). 5/11 of the offensive starters were injured for the entire season. That’s about half of the offense. 
    2. The garbage work the GM did last season (the only season Foles was a starter & under Chip Kelly) – look that was one of the worst draft & FA signing ever. If Grigson didn’t have Andrew Luck & Bruce Arians to make him look good year 1 – that guy would be toast for what he did last year. 
    3. A defense that was ranked in the bottom 7 of the league
    4. Has an OC who thinks he has a better offensive line than he does & thinks he has a good RB so he comes up with plays that only magnifies their team’s weaknesses & ties Luck’s hands until at the end of games when they finally let him play and rescue them.  Luck has 11 4th quarter comebacks & the highest these past two years in the entire league for a reason. 
    5. A head coach who would rather punt than compete who is bad on defense and worse on offense and if he hadn’t gotten sick & wasn’t so likable he’d be toast. 
    6. The interior offensive line was awful & still is – the center was fired this season & replaced w/ one just as bad
    7. Trent Richardson was so bad, he didn’t even deserve to be a backup RB & Colts lost a first round for that garbage performance.  Donald Brown wasn’t much better when he was the featured back & did help to save them somewhat toward the end of the season.  

    The Eagles had the least amount of injuries. Chip Kelly is an offensive genius. The weapons on that offense was unreal & they had great solid protection. Foles has won 9 games and Andrew Luck has won 22. Adrew Luck has won a playoff game and Foles has not.  

    If you were to ask all 32 GM or 32 coaches who they’d want to build their team around or WRs who’d they want to play with? At least 99% if not 100% would say Luck.  If Foles had the Colts’ GM, HC, & lack of talent – he’d be at 2-4Ws. or injured several times more than he was & fired by now.  And if not for Luck that GM & HC would be on the hot seat by now. Haslam would have fired them already if they had Foles & did the crap job last season.  Remember that first season, Bruce Arians was in charge & he’s building a superbowl juggernaut in the NFC W.

  4. mikeyC02
    April 11, 2014 at 12:26 pm —

    Obviously we’ll never know but a useful exercise might be thought experiment into what would happen if the teams remained the exact same but switched quarterbacks.

    To me it seems clear that:
    Foles in Indy <<<<< Luck in Indy
    Foles in Philly = Luck in Philly

    We saw the rushing yards Vick was putting up in that offense.  Let’s not forget that Luck ran the exact same 40 time as Superman Cam.

  5. srandhawa1250
    April 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm —

    This is a great example of how people who use stats give a bad name to the rest if their community and why they get so much scorn from certain segments. Crunching arbitrary numbers devoid of even the slightest context or watching of film couldnt possibly be a more worthless exercise. Ask 100 scouts and other personnel around the league who spend 80 hours a week analyzing the game and know things like who a prospects girlfriend was in high school or what play their qb called at the line in a game 4 years ago—–no one would take foles over luck. No one. Beck the colts could offer luck to the packers for a first rounder and aaron Rodgers and the packers would throw a celebration.
    We could go on and on with this but this is all we need to know: the difference in whaat was asked of luck vs foles on a given week was astronomical. Things like pre snap adjustments making far more advanced reads and asked to make far more difficult throws and compensate for a flawed supporting cast and o line——luck absolutely dwarfs foles in this regard this regard. There not even in the same stratosphere. These are the type of things that matter in evaluating a player’s value and what those around the league notice not td:int ratio or completion percentage of a guy specifically told not to take any risks downfield throw lots of short safe passes have a deep threat like desean Jackson vs someone literally carrying a team who’s roster is that of a 5 win team like luck
    Look nick foles is a smart efficient player who could be the eagles sought answer at qb. Luck is already a premiere qb for all he’s done and could one day be remembered in the same breathe of john elway or Peyton manning. That’s the difference

  6. April 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm —

    srandhawa1250  i don’t fine “league consensus” to be any more valid a way to arrive at an opinion than cherry picking stats. the league consensus will change. before the super bowl Peyton Manning seemed unbeatable and then after it he seemed an exposed aging QB. So I tend not to care what the league consensus is, or what all of the tape grinders are coming up with. the league consensus/tape grinders are also the same people responsible for continuing to route targets to undersized receivers in the red zone.

  7. TheCFX
    April 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm —

    srandhawa1250  Thanks for stopping by to read.  Appreciate your feedback.  If you have a link to any of your findings on the career trajectories of Luck vs. Foles based on your breakdown of film or any other methods I would embrace the opportunity to see the other side of the coin.

  8. TheCFX
    April 11, 2014 at 5:02 pm —

    mikeyC02  Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.  I would challenge you to think about it like this:  let’s suppose the roles were reversed and Luck was in Philly and Foles in Indy.  Now let’s suppose Luck set the world ablaze and Foles was average to above-average… how wold the world respond?  Everyone wold think Luck was a God and nobody would have an ounce of empathy for Foles being in a “terrible situation” as other commenters want to call it.  There’s no way of knowing how much to attribute to skill or system or whatever, so all (I think) we can do is evaluate the results they have produced.

  9. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
    April 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm —

    rotoviz srandhawa1250 The “league consensus” crowd is also dangerously group-thinkish, as evidenced by the visceral reaction the headline received on twitter yesterday. I don’t necessarily agree that Foles is better than Luck, but it’s not a ridiculous question to ask. Foles had an incredible season.

  10. mikeyC02
    April 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm —

    TheCFX mikeyC02  Yeah, I agree and think that all makes sense.  I also don’t think it’s fair to Foles, to your point.  That doesn’t change who is a better quarterback though, does it?  I think that while we can’t know how much to attribute to skill or system, we can’t just ignore situation. 

    Perhaps my point would be better conveyed when transposing this situation to college football.  I don’t think anyone would ever say that Graham Harrell was a better QB than say, Matt Stafford (in college).  Harrell dwarfs Stafford in pretty much ever statistical category (including the efficiency stats), but the context of those stats are paramount.

    It seems like subjective framing to leave context out of the discussion for Harrell versus Stafford or Luck versus Foles.

  11. TheCFX
    April 11, 2014 at 5:19 pm —

    FootballFanatic1  Thanks so much for your comment.  Appreciate the time you took to read this and provide this extensive feedback.  With the hopes that you might actually read this and haven’t written this space off as totally worthless, here are my responses:

    1)  Andrew Luck’s 21 game sample includes 17 from 2012 and 4 from 2013.  Reggie Wayne was healthy for all four of those 2013 games.  

    2)  There is no way to isolate how much the GMs decisions factored into these two players’ performance.  FWIW, both teams have had top five picks in the last two drafts so obviously both have dealt with roster issues.

    3)  If you’re trying to suggest that a bad defense led to inflated stats or whatever, I’ll remind you that I used efficiency metrics which just account for how they performed when they were asked to pass– not how often they passed.  Both teams had similar records to their relative “game situations” probably even out in the long run.

    4)  To account for scheme I used efficiency metrics rather than raw stats.  If you have any good suggestions for adjusting stats based on offensive coordinators and play calling, I would really enjoy reading your work on the topic.

    5)  I’m not sure what you’re getting at

    6)  I agree that it’s unfortunate that Luck’s center is/was subpar.

    7)  Aren’t the same people who sold “Trent Richardson as the most amazing thing ever” the same as those who promised Luck would be invincible?  Presumably Richardson’s production is your reason for now viewing him in a less-favorable light.  Why is Luck’s production not subject to the same criticism and change of opinion?  Is he not the victim of all the same schematic and environmental shortcomings which have troubled Luck?

    Since when (before 2013) was Riley Cooper an “unreal weapon”?  As a reminder, Andrew Luck was throwing to Fleener (RD 1 stanford TE) Reggie Wayne (for the games included in this sample) and TY Hilton.  Nick Foles was throwing to Desean Jackson, Zach Ertz (RD 2 stanford TE) and Riley Cooper.  Cry me a river about Luck having worse weapons.  It’s pretty much a push.

    Please, conduct that poll and write an article about your findings.  I would enjoy reading that…. Not sure how you can predict Nick Foles’ injuries, but I would love to read more about that.  I’m sure there would be a lot of demand for injury predictive fantasy football advice.  Jimm Haslam has no affiliation with either of these two teams.  Bruce Arians has won zero super bowls as a HC or in the NFC west.  Have a nice weekend, sir.

  12. TheCFX
    April 11, 2014 at 5:20 pm —

    Intercept  Really great point about the Eagle’s run game too.  I definitely could have worded it better.  I guess I was coming at that from the perspective that people want to say Luck is the victim of a run heavy offense and Foles just chucks all the time.  Definitely should have worded that better.

  13. TheCFX
    April 11, 2014 at 5:25 pm —

    mikeyC02 TheCFX  Good points.  FWIW, I think age-weighting Stafford and Harrell would shed a lot of light on the situation.  I’m still working on it, but should have some publishable-findings soon.

  14. srandhawa1250
    April 11, 2014 at 5:32 pm —

    Not sure what your getting at here, league consensus does NOT in anyway mean twitter, it’s what people who spend 80 hours a week and do this for a living to know every single thing about the game and its players think. We don’t have much access directly into their thoughts unless your a journalist and can get them off the record, but we can judge them by their actions to see what they think and there’s no question based on what the Eagles coaches ask of Nick Foles each week vs what the Colts ask of Andrew Luck every week in terms of play calls, the throws they make, number of reads etc. whom is considered a far superior player.

  15. mikeyC02
    April 11, 2014 at 5:32 pm —

    TheCFX mikeyC02  Thanks.  I look forward to it.  Keep up the great work too – I really appreciate the depth and insights you bring to the table.

    Ballsy stance on A. Robinson on the 2 Mugs podcast too.  Rummy doesn’t seem like the type to pull a punch if he thinks you’re way off base.  Kudos for sticking to your guns.

  16. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
    April 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm —

    srandhawa1250 I’m not sure how you’re drawing a league consensus conclusion when one team asks Foles to do one thing, one team asks Luck to do another thing, and the other 30 teams have nothing to do with either.

  17. ScottSmith610
    April 11, 2014 at 6:22 pm —

    Personally I think this article has a lot of validity…I dont understand how you can gig somebody for performing in a certain system…should Foles not perform well? Also stats are a result of performanceand what you grade people on. Stats are the basis fantasy football is played on. I dont think anyone said Luck sucks…but Foles was the most efficient QB in the league per QBR last season. I will say that Jon Moore is one of the more in depth evaluators you will find out there. To think that Mr. Moore or any of the other writers on this site dont watch film would be a mistake. The main problem with only watching film as evaluation and scouting is that it is completely subjective. 2 people can see the same thing and process it differently based upon preference. Stats are objective and certainly an important part of the evaluation process when put into the correct context. To be fair I think stats and film need each other as a form of checks and balances. I think this article is well thought out, objective and fair. Even if you dont agree at least you know what the flip side of the coin holds and can say you are informed.

  18. spidr2ybanana
    April 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm —

    srandhawa1250  this is laughably off target and ill informed. reggie wayne did play with luck in this sample. luck also has a higher draft pedigree and college resume, a good wr in ty hilton across from wayne, and a 1st rd rb. meanwhile foles had 2 good offensive players (djax, shady), an averagish defense, and a rookie head coach for most of his first 21 games. 

    luck is “supposed to be” good based on all that film eval and high draft slot. and yet he’s been outproduced on an efficiency basis by later picks foles and wilson. 

    as far as “ask 100 scouts go”, try this thought exercise: think of every highly drafted draft pick that didn’t pan out. 100 scouts watched lots of film and loved them too.

  19. spidr2ybanana
    April 11, 2014 at 6:32 pm —

    FootballFanatic1  thanks for the laugh.

  20. LordReebs
    April 11, 2014 at 8:13 pm —

    League wide play calling splits in 2013 were: 61/39 pass/run altogether, 52/48 while ahead, 68/32 while trailing and 58/42 tied.  Indy was 65/35 altogether, 51/49 ahead, 76/24 trailing and 59/41 tied. That is with designed QB runs counted as rushing attempts and scrambles counted as pass plays. Pep was still in line with league averages and even threw more often when trailing. Luck was tied for the league lead in TD passes down two scores with 10 (Big Ben), so they did face severe deficits frequently. I do believe Chip Kelly is a savant, but the Pep Hamilton thing is overblown to me in regards to all things Luck. Seems more like an easy narrative to run with rather than having true merit.

  21. Trevor25
    April 12, 2014 at 1:48 am —

    Can we see a comparison of Luck & Foles first 21 games to some players like Aaron Rodgers, TOM BRADY, and Peyton Manning?

    Brady in caps b/c he was a good QB as a youngin’ but became really elite once he really incorporated all the cerebral aspects of the game (pre-snap, film study, etc.)

  22. TheCFX
    April 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm —

    That’s a really great idea and one that I was turning over yesterday. Definitely think that’s doable, just not for a another few days. Thanks, Trevor.

  23. TheCFX
    April 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm —

    Thanks, Mikey, for both listening and leaving this comment. Yea, it’s one of those things where I just feel like it’s stupid to ignore the results of all the work I put in, which basically say that ARob is in the same class as Watkins/Evans, but I like ARob more. Definitely made me nervous to needlessly go out on that limb, but I’m excited to see how it plays out.

  24. ScottSmith610
    April 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm —

    I am firmly on the ARob bandwagon and have he and Evans 1A AND 1B…difference between Jon Moore and me is that I didnt have the balls to needlessly go out on the limb…lol

  25. Trevor25
    April 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm —

    TheCFX  Awesome! I definitely look forward to that.

    Thanks for all the thought provoking and (sometimes) contrarian ideas you put out on a daily basis!  Your hard work is very appreciated at least by me. :)

  26. Trevor25
    April 13, 2014 at 12:19 am —

    LordReebs  This response needs to be added to the article above, holy sh!t.

  27. lifesyourcup
    April 14, 2014 at 3:59 am —

    Just to add onto that.
    Any system is only as good as the QB, no matter how innovative the
    coaching staff is.  Brees, Brady, Rodgers, Rivers, Stafford, etc. they
    all play in their own “systems”.  How would Rodgers look in the Patriots
    system?  How would Brady look in the Saints system?
    Look at how good Rivers was in Norv Turner’s system (vertical/deep passing).  Then everyone thought he was washed up before Mike McCoy got there.  He’s in a way different system now (west coast/short+intermediate passing) and has literally having a resurgence.

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