On January 20th, 2019, just ten days away from the writing of this article, Nick Foles will turn 30 years old. The Eagles quarterback has had one of the most remarkable, unpredictable careers in NFL history. He’s been traded, released, signed into backup roles; he’s posted the best touchdown to interception ratio in a single season, tied the record for most touchdown passes in a single game, tied the record for most completions in a row; and he’s hoisted the Pro Bowl MVP and Super Bowl MVP trophies. Yet, he remains a backup.
Foles’ wild ride began with the Eagles selecting him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Andy Reid liked Foles’ skillset but ultimately started Michael Vick during Foles’ rookie year. However, when Vick left near midseason due to an injury, the kid from Arizona was pushed into action. He played well for a rookie, but there was no guarantee he would keep the starting job once the Eagles decided to hire Chip Kelly for the head coaching job the following season.
When Kelly brought his high powered, fast-paced, up-tempo offense to Philadelphia, every fan and their grandma figured Vick would be the uncontested starting quarterback come training camp 2013. Kelly hadn’t made a solid decision on the starter until preseason that year and instead held a competition between Foles and Vick throughout training camp. As we know, Vick eventually won the job but was overcome by injuries after starting just a few games under Philadelphia’s new coach.
The Eagles found themselves in a situation that they would continue to end up in again and again and again: asking Nick Foles to step in and save the season.
His first start that year came against a bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, and he looked great. The next week, however? Not so much. The Dallas Cowboys walked into Philadelphia and held Foles to just 11 completions on 29 attempts for only 80 yards and no scores, and he left early with an injury. It was easily the worst game of Nick Foles’ career. The humbled quarterback returned after another loss to play in Oakland against the Raiders.
He threw for 7 touchdowns that game and posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 — the first time in NFL history that has ever happened, and he did it before the fourth quarter even started.
And so began the tale of St. Nick delivering wins in key spots, throwing 27 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions — enough to transform a dismal team into divisional champs and propel them in the playoffs where they would eventually lose to the New Orleans Saints by two points; a game in which Foles left the field at the end with a lead.
The offseason felt long and full of heartbreak, but an entire city felt hopeful. After some years of searching for a worthy replacement of Donovan McNabb, a perennial winner who just couldn’t seem to get over the hump and win a Super Bowl but was still considered by many as the greatest Eagles quarterback ever, Philly fans thought they finally found “the guy” this time.
The Eagles held a 6-2 record in 2014 under Foles’ command before he broke his collarbone against the Houston Texans. Though his stats weren’t nearly as impressive as they were in 2013, the team was thriving. They were left to rely on Mark Sanchez, who went 1-3 in the final four games — enough losses to narrowly miss playoffs and ruin a promising beginning.
In the following offseason, Chip Kelly shocked everyone by trading Foles, a fourth-round pick, and the following year’s second round pick to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford and a fifth-round pick.
For many analysts, this was considered a pretty lateral move in terms of quarterback play, with Philadelphia basically just shipping off a younger, healthier quarterback along with a pair of valuable picks.
Fans simply felt robbed — and rightfully so after Sam Bradford played poorly in Kelly’s system. Bradford eventually panned out for the Eagles as they traded him for Minnesota’s first-round pick, but it left Foles in St. Louis where he played poorly in 2015, and eventually without a job after the Rams released him.
Foles had previously mentioned in interviews that once he was let go from the Rams, he considered giving up on football. And then Andy Reid called. Foles signed with Kansas City as a backup and filled that role nicely for a year before signing with Philadelphia in 2017 for the same purpose: backing up a guy who is more talented, this time in the form of Carson Wentz.
We all know Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in 2017 — leaving Foles in charge of the offense for the remainder of what was supposed to finally be the year the Eagles won it all. Foles played inconsistent football until the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, where he out-dueled the most decorated quarterback of all time, Tom Brady.
His career is defined by analysts and experts counting him out. Once again, the Eagles are rallying around Foles while everyone else is already writing the Birds off. But what if the Eagles traded him like so many people thought would happen after Super Bowl 52?
Would Nate Sudfeld have beaten the Chicago Bears? Would the coaching staff once again force Wentz to start earlier than he should? It’s all very intriguing, but it’s also important to note that those quarterbacks might not drive down the field in the final minutes and score a touchdown on fourth and goal.
Nick Foles has “it.” What I mean is he has that clutch bone in his body that elevates his play even when his actual ability tries to limit him. There are some guys that just have “it,” and you see them win Super Bowls and championships even though they might not be the most talented. Brady in his first few years was not a stellar quarterback — he wouldn’t blow you away on the stats sheet, but he played well when it counted. The same can maybe even be said of Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger.
Foles plays with a certain chip on his shoulder — always told he wasn’t good enough, couldn’t keep a steady starting NFL job, couldn’t start a game off on the right foot. He continues to play at a high level and doesn’t let any of the pressure get to him.
Now, he’ll go into New Orleans against Drew Brees and the Saints. The Eagles will need a near perfect game from Foles with no more than one turnover by the offense in order to win this game. You aren’t granted a long leash when it comes to mistakes against legendary quarterbacks like Brees, so the Birds need to hold onto the ball. Literally and figuratively — they’ll also need to up their time of possession to keep the ball away from Brees.
I’m predicting this matchup will be one of the best this year, and while the odds are clearly stacked against Philadelphia, Nick Foles can always find a way.