I am perplexed why Ryan Pace decided to trade for Nick Foles over Cam Newton for one reason: Ryan Pace’s job depends on the success of this trade or Mitchell Trubisky. Since 2010 there have been 10 quarterbacks drafted in the first round who are undeniably busts. They are Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Brandon Weeden, EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles, and Paxton Lynch. There are other first round quarterbacks who could be argued as busts (see: Mariota, Marcus), but these 10 are undeniably busts. Of the GMs that drafted these quarterbacks, only 2 have their jobs: John Elway and Dave Caldwell. And they are only employed because they’re lizard people. It is important to note that the Vikings in 2011 when they picked Christian Ponder and thus could not be counted in this metric.
This means one thing, if Mitchell Trubisky ends up becoming a bust Ryan Pace is going to lose his job. Unless Pace is a lizard person, which has yet to be proven. He seems to be aware of this, given that he traded for Nick Foles at all. The thought being if Pace was confident in Mitchell Trubisky not busting, he would not have made this trade at all. Thus, this trade can be thought of for insurance for his job. If Trubisky replicates last year’s performance and gets the bust label, but Foles comes in and plays well Pace will be able to say “At least I got us a quarterback” to the Bears’ ownership and keep his job. This is sound, logical thinking on Pace’s part. Unfortunately, the execution did not align with the theory as it makes little sense, and I’m going to run through the arguments why Cam would have optimized his chance to keep his job:
Note: This will be rather long, so tl;drs will be left at the end of each argument
1 Cam Newton is More Consistent Option
As discussed in my last article, my favorite catch all statistic to judge quarterbacks is ANY/A+. It is how many yards a quarterback gains per dropback, excluding scrambling, and compares it to league average. 100 is exactly league average, and higher is better. It is also important to note, that how good a quarterback’s supporting cast is has a very low correlation with ANY/A+, so we’ll be ignoring that line of argument.
Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles are both incredibly erratic, although both have great peaks. The highest point on this chart is Foles’ 2013 season where he rode the wave of surprise from Chip Kelly’s high tempo spread offense. Thus it should be considered an extreme outlier along with his 2017 postseason, since he has never been able to replicate anything close to it. The rest of Foles career has been a rollercoaster, much like the one Bears fans have experienced with Trubisky.
Cam Newton may raise some eyebrows with his 2013-2017 stretch, excluding his MVP 2015, but it is important to keep in mind that over this time period his offensive coordinator was Mike Shula. Mike Shula, is very, very not good. Bad, even. The exact reasons why are outside of the scope of this article, but to summarize very quickly: Shula was a very predictable, conservative play caller who did not allow Cam to make adjustments at the line. Cam has shown he is able to do this (see 2018 with Norv and Scott Turner), and his statistics suffered because of it.
This graph may be a little unfair, however, as it includes many seasons by Nick Foles when he was primarily a backup, and Cam Newton’s 2019 when he only played two poor games before bowing out due to injury. So let’s just look at games where the quarterbacks in question were the primary starter for their team:
Only including seasons where they were the primary starter, the picture begins to clear up for these three players. Cam Newton is a very consistent quarterback, who when paired up with a competent offensive mind can produce at an above average level. Nick Foles has moments of absolute brilliance, but generally performs at an average or horrendous level. Mitchell Trubisky is chaos as a quarterback. From the perspective of Pace, what is the correct decision?
A) Trade for Cam Newton, a consistent reliable starter with proven ability to perform at a level much better than Trubisky when paired with a competent offensive mind.
B) Trade for Nick Foles, who is just as sporadic as Trubisky, and hope that he can replicate the magic he catches from time to time. Or at the very least be consistently average and more stable than Trubisky.
C) Ride or die with the Trubisky chaos train.
Pace bet his job on B, but given the evidence, I have much more confidence in A. But nothing in football happens in a vacuum, and I can imagine some other arguments for option B but they do not stand up to scrutiny.
tl;dr Nick Foles has been as volatile in his career as Mitchell Trubisky, while Cam Newton has been much more consistent and performed well with good offensive coordinators. Therefore, for Pace to keep his job it would make more sense to trade for Cam.
Nick Foles’s Experience with Matt Nagy Does not Matter.
Astute readers would have noticed that Nick Foles had a second spike in ANY/A+ in 2016, which was also the year he backed up Alex Smith in Kansas City while Matt Nagy was the offensive coordinator. He threw passes in two games and performed well in both cases, thus inflating his ANY/A+. While in Philadelphia he benefited from running a similar offense under Doug Pederson and had his magical playoff. So it is logical to conclude Nick Foles performed well under Matt Nagy, and he performed well under a similar system, so he would perform well under Nagy again. This may or may not be true, but it doesn’t matter. Nagy is an incredibly creative coach and knows how to get the most of the weapons at his disposal. The fact that the Bears had a 1000 yard receiver, a 600 yard receiver, and a rookie who ran for nearly 900 yards all while having below average quarterback and offensive line play. Therefore, I don’t think it would be the wisest investment to gamble on a volatile, athletically limited player who has only performed well in this type system instead of an athletically gifted player who has performed well in multiple systems. Especially those systems with as creative of play callers as Nagy.
tl;dr Foles has experience and success in Nagy’s and Nagy-type schemes. But he is very volatile, and Cam is a more stable player overall, and is likely to perform well given how he’s played when paired with a creative offensive mind.
Cam’s Injuries are not an Issue
Cam has had two surgeries since 2019. In January 2019 Cam underwent a shoulder surgery to repair some cartilage damage, and it has been speculated by credible medical professionals that this damage should have little immediate effect. His other surgery in November 2019 was Lisfranc surgery which, as discussed in a University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine paper, does not significantly impact performance after return. Therefore, his injuries are not a large concern in the first place. Additionally, in a callous way, Ryan Pace in the interest of keeping his job doesn’t necessarily need Cam to play all 16 games to keep his job. If he were to get 8-10 quality starts out of Cam, he would be able to convince ownership that he has found a starting quarterback and he thus accomplished his goal and should keep his job.
tl;dr Cam’s injuries are medically speculated to, or proven to, not significantly his performance upon return, and Pace wouldn’t need him to play all 16 games to keep his job. Therefore, the injuries are not a large issue
What I’ve established is that trading for Cam instead of Foles would garner a more consistent, higher performing player and that any injury concerns are not major in the short term. It would give the added benefit that Ryan Pace would not lose his job and allow him to continue building the team how he sees fit. The only concern I can imagine is that Cam would almost certainly cost more than a single 4th round pick and he would need a new contract at the end of the season. Even so, unless the picks are substantially more (say a future first rounder and current second rounder) and the new contract should be manageable with the project cap increase under the new CBA. So, to be frank, I don’t understand. I don’t see why Ryan Pace would trade for Nick Foles over Cam Newton if he wants to keep his job. I just don’t get it.
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