Aside from the joy of winning for the first time in months (that word does kind of put things in perspective, huh?), yesterday was good because we saw real hope in Nick Foles. He didn’t just look like an NFL QB. He looked like a good NFL QB.
We were down 11 points with 6 minutes to go. We won the game. That’s an impressive comeback. Donovan McNabb led the Eagles on a comeback in his first win as an Eagle. The team was down 21-13 at halftime and won 35-28. In November of 2000 McNabb and the Eagles were down 23-13 to the Steelers in the 4th quarter. He tied the game late and won it in OT. That was his 16th start. Foles did it in his 4th start. Wow.
Accomplishment aside, I think Foles did this with style points. There were no fluke plays. There wasn’t a pass to Maclin that went for a 50-yard TD. No defender fell down for him. Foles moved the team down the field methodically. The game-winning play was all about execution. Jason Avant said after the game that Tampa had the right defense for that play. It wasn’t favorable to us, but Maclin got open and made a terrific catch. Nick threw a perfect pass. Great execution.
Kevin Kolb has been in the league since 2007. He’s never had a game like Foles did. Kevin led a couple of comebacks, but they featured fluke plays. He beat Dallas with a short pass that a RB took 52 yards for a TD. Patrick Peterson had a long PR to win an OT game where the Cards came from behind. The only time Kolb threw for more yards than Foles 381 was the Saints game from 2009. Kevin threw for 391. He had 2 TDs, like Foles. The difference is that he also had 3 INTs. The Eagles lost that game 48-22.
Foles is unlike any rookie QB we’ve ever seen in Philadelphia. Part of that is him, part is the way that football has changed from little league on up and players are far more advanced now than ever before. A.J. Feeley did some good things in his 5 starts as a second year QB, but still nothing like Foles. Nick doesn’t have a stud OL, great defense, or impact STs unit. He’s on his own.
I don’t want to jump the gun and anoint Nick as “the guy” for the next 5 years. I got caught up in Hoyingmania back in 1997. That proved to be fool’s gold. I do think Nick has shown that he should be the guy in 2013.
Just for fun, here is Feeley’s gamelog for 2002.
Here is Hoying’s for 1997. That Cincy shootout was a ton of fun to watch.
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One of the things I like most about Nick is that he seems to be ready for this. He played high sch0ol football in Texas. That place can be insane for kids. Nick then went to a major school and played for a tough coach in Mike Stoops. On the first day of practice in the Stoops era, Mike was carrying a couple of trash cans to the field. A player asked him what those were for. “You’ll be puking in them.” Sure enough, players were hurling away after finding out what Stoops idea of conditioning was.
You need a QB to be smart, but also to have a good sense of things and to have thick skin. I don’t think this situation is too big for Nick. I wrote about how he handled a loaded question from SalPal a few weeks back. Being media savvy is important in a town like Philly. One of the vibes I get is that Nick isn’t afraid to fail. That’s important. You have to play to win, not to “not lose”.
I love the fact that Nick is handling the on-field pressure so well. Last week in Dallas he responded to each Dallas score with points of his own. That stopped with the Bryce Brown fumble and return TD. In Tampa he played really well down the stretch. Foles was good in the Red Zone in both games. He was very good on 3rd downs on Sunday.
QBs must thrive in key situations (3rd downs, Red Zone plays, the 4th quarter). Foles has shown he can do all three.
Nick seems to love football. He sat in his uniform for a long time after the win on Sunday. He wanted to soak in the moment. We’ve seen him on the sideline talking to the OL. We know he told Reid what play to run at the end. He had Avant adjust the 4th down play prior to that. Nick is into the football side of things. Being part of the team really seems to mean something to Nick.
Not all young QBs are like this. Cade McNown wanted to party (was dating a playmate back then). Randall Cunningham saw himself as a celebrity. Michael Vick was more into hanging out with his jeweler and buddies than prepping for games. Brett Favre was out of control as a rookie in Atlanta. He had to get out of that town to have any shot at success. JaMarcus Russell was too busy eating Whoppers and knocking back Purple Drank to study (QBs refer to this as the Lawlor diet).
Nick is just now getting his first taste of NFL success so we’ve got to see how he handles it. Human nature wants you to relax when life is good. That’s why guys like Tom Brady who have it all and stay self-motivated are such freaks.
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Nick has 3 more games to play this year. He doesn’t need to be perfect. He needs to show progress on certain parts of his game. He’s gotten better each week so I certainly anticipate him getting better.
Deep balls are still a major issue. This is all about timing. That can only come with practice and experience.
Nick still needs to work on decision-making. He’s gotten worlds better, but still has some head-scratching moments in each game.
There are still some plays where I think he forgets the speed of the game. There was a play on Sunday where a WR was open by the sideline. Nick was slow to get the ball to him and it was almost picked off. The WR was wide open. You must get the ball there quicker. Nick had some pressure on him so this wasn’t laziness or hesitance, but you still need to speed up the operation when a player is wide open.
In some ways the next test for Foles is playing well for a full game. He struggled in the 1st quarter on Sunday. It would be good to see him lead the team to a 21-3 lead or something like that and show that they can sustain success. Getting up 14-3 or 10-0 is nice, but won’t exactly scare the other team into changing their gameplan.
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Mr NFL Gimpy has the new MAQB column posted. Lots of good playoff talk in there. I didn’t realize Cleveland was still alive. That shocks me. Also Gimpy covers the rookie QBs quite a lot. Good read.