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Wentz or Foles: Just the facts

Eliot Shorr-Parks
December 19, 2018 - 5:30 am

The Eagles suddenly find themselves in a playoff race after Nick Foles helped lead them to an unexpected win over the Los Angeles Rams. 

Another result of the win? Their fans are in the middle of a quarterback debate. 

For those that think the idea of a quarterback controversy is real or media forced, think again. There is a series divide amongst fans when it comes to what the Eagles should do at quarterback once Carson Wentz is medically cleared, and the result has been some heated debate from both sides since the game ended.

With debate, however, almost always comes arguments that simply aren’t true — and that is definitely the case with Foles vs. Wentz. 

So with that in mind, here are some of the common arguments fans have made — for either side — that simply aren’t true. 

***Note: All of these stats are from the 2018 season, and are from various sites including Pro Football Reference and Pro Football Focus***

“The offense runs better under Foles”

It is hard to deny that the offense had it’s best game of the season against the Rams. They just looked smoother and it seemed like, for the first time, they would be able to score when they needed to. The 30 points not have been the most they scored all season — they scored 34 against the Giants earlier this season — but it was the most impressive showing of the season. 

Still, the reality is that Sunday wasn’t Foles’ first game, and that in the three games he has started this season the offense is averaging 23 points. That is less than one more point than the offense is averaging in the 10 games with Wentz at center (22.2). 

So while the offense did look better on Sunday, the numbers show the Eagles are on average going to score roughly the same amount of points with either Wentz or Foles under center. 

“Foles is more accurate”

Completion percentage doesn’t tell the complete story of how accurate a quarterback is, but it does come pretty close. On the season, Wentz and Foles are completing roughly the same around of passes. Wentz is at 69.6%, while Foles is at 69%. That isn’t overly surprising, as Wentz has never had elite accuracy as a passer, and Foles has always been slightly underrated as a passer. 

“Foles is willing to stretch the field”

In terms of a willingness to attempt shots down the field in general, Wentz and Foles are essentially even. Wentz is averaging 4.09 passing attempts over 20 yards per game, while Foles is averaging 4.6 attempts. 

Per Pro Football Reference, roughly 16% of the passes thrown this season by Wentz are considered “deep”, while Foles is right around 17%. Both have around 83-84% of their passes defined as “short.”

What is important to point out is that Wentz is actually completing a significantly higher percentage of passes down the field. On the season, Wentz is completing 44% of his passes beyond 20 yards, while Foles is completing 35%.

“Foles throws it to Jeffery, Wentz doesn’t” 

This is the biggest misconception out there, and the reason for it is obvious — receiver Alshon Jeffery is coming off of his best game of the season. Watching Jeffery have a huge game with Foles under center, and tight end Zach Ertz only catching three passes, led many to believe that Foles is willing to throw it to Jeffery more than Wentz is. 

On the season, however, Wentz is averaging 7.4 attempts to Jeffery per game. Foles threw it to Jeffery eight times in their only start together. 

The main difference is where Foles was targeting Jeffery. Wentz has attempted 16 “deep” passes to Jeffery, as defined by Pro Football Reference, this season in 10 starts together. He has completed only three of them. Foles, as noted above, completed all four of his “deep” attempts to Jeffery. 

Although it was just one game, that is a noticeable difference. 

“Foles gets ball out quicker” 

After the game, offensive tackle Lane Johnson noted that the ball was getting out quickly against the Rams. Head coach Doug Pederson also mentioned it. That was true — Foles did a good job getting the ball out quick. More than likely, however, that was the result of the game plan as opposed to Foles simply making decisions quicker than Wentz — because on the season, they are basically the same. 

This season, in 10 games, Wentz has averaged 2.49 seconds per attempt. That is quicker than Foles has averaged (2.6 seconds) in his three starts. 

So although Foles did a nice job getting the ball out quickly against the Rams, the idea that he gets the ball out quicker on average simply isn’t true. 

“Wentz targets Ertz too much”

Again, this misconception comes off of what happened on Sunday — Jeffery had a huge game, Ertz did not and the team won. An ESPN report earlier this season also added to the idea Wentz only throws the ball to Ertz. 

The numbers also don’t support this argument either.  

Targets by Wentz:

Ertz: 106…9.6 in 11 games

Jeffery: 74…7.4 average in 10 games (Jeffery didn’t play in Week 3)

Tate: 30…6 in 5 games 

Agholor: 60…5.4 in 11 games

Targets by Foles: 

Ertz: 30…10 in 3 games

Jeffery: 8…8 in 1 game

Agholor: 24…8 in 3 games

Tate: 5…5 in 1 game

As you can see, Foles actually averages more attempts towards Ertz per game than Wentz does. Wentz is also not targeting any more receiver considerably more than Foles is. The difference between the four receivers is essentially the same. 

“Foles gives the Eagles a better chance to win”: 

This one is the most important of all the arguments — and it favors Foles. 

Wentz is the better quarterback by almost every measure, but when it comes to the Eagles’ chances of winning the game, Foles gets the edge. In his 30 starts in an Eagles’ uniform, Foles has a 19-11 (63%) record. Wentz comes in slightly lower in his 40 starts (57%). Foles also has a better record this season (2-1) than Wentz does (5-6). 

There is also no denying that Foles does a better job playing better in bigger games. His Super Bowl MVP makes that pretty clear. 

This reality is what makes the Wentz vs. Foles debate such a great one. Despite almost everything leaning towards Wentz, the biggest point — simply winning the game — points to Foles. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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