Nick Foles just had an amazing season. He led the NFL in QB rating, posting one of the highest totals in NFL history. He threw 27 TDs and only 2 INTs. Foles did this as a 2nd-year player in a new offensive system. Just wait til he gets more experience and knows what he’s doing. The sky is the limit.
Foles will be the starter next season. He had a very good season and should – key word: should – improve with a full offseason as the No. 1 guy and another year with Chip Kelly.
But nothing is guaranteed. Some quarterbacks become exposed the more they play. Do the Eagles want to move forward beyond next season if Foles comes anywhere short of a title?
There are far too many variables involved to think that far ahead, but Lurie and Kelly don’t want to get caught financially committing to a close-but-no-cigar quarterback (Tony Romo, for example). The current Foles contract allows them an Andy Dalton-like out after next season.
Having questions about Foles and his future is absolutely fair. Heck, it’s smart.
McLane goes on to point out that Foles made some key mistakes in the last few games, pointing out some bad sacks and intentional grounding penalties. Are these a troubling trend? I think McLane is way off base here. You can’t point out Foles issues in a vacuum. You need to have a point of comparison.
* Peyton Manning lost his first 3 playoff games. He had a total of 1 TD pass and 2 INTs. The Jets shut him out 41-0 in 2002, Manning’s 5th year as a starter.
* Aaron Rodgers didn’t start a game until his 4th season. He threw a total of 59 passes in those years. Foles threw a total of 78 passes in his first 2 games as a rookie. Rodgers lost his first playoff game. ARZ beat him 51-45. Rodgers led a huge 4th Qtr comeback, but came up just short. Sound familiar?
* Drew Brees lost his first playoff game. San Diego fell to the Jets, 20-17. Brees put up good numbers, but a missed FG really hurt his team. The Chargers were at home and playing against a Wild Card team. Sound familiar. That game was in Brees 4th season and 3rd as a starter. He had 42 starts under his belt before that. Foles had 16 starts prior to Saturday.
* Andrew Luck lost his first playoff game, 24-9. He went up against the Ravens and they ate him alive. Luck was 28-54-288 with an INT.
I don’t dispute McLane’s point that Foles played sloppy late in the season. I don’t dispute that he made some mistakes. My point is that you have to compare his performance to something. Who/what are we judging him against? It is easy to look at Rodgers, Brees, and Manning now that they are Super Bowl champs and proven elite QBs, but they had to start somewhere as well. You don’t compare Foles to them now, you compare him to them from early in their careers when they had similar circumstances. I think Foles holds up very well in that comparison.
In 2 or 3 years we can compare Foles to those guys in their best years. He may hold up well or he may not be anywhere close. Time will tell on that.
Instead of focusing on the question of whether Foles is a franchise QB, we need to ask…what is a franchise QB?
The knee-jerk response is someone who has won a Super Bowl. But Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer kill that immediately. And then you bring up Dan Fouts, Dan Marino and guys that were elite players who never won a ring. The SB isn’t a fair way to judge a franchise QB.
You could use the Pro Bowl and say that someone who has been to 4 Pro Bowls is a franchise QB. That shows the guy had a dominant stretch of play. Making it to a couple of Pro Bowls cane be isolated success. Going to 4 seems to be a better indicator. But what if a QB got stuck in the same conference as Brady and Peyton for a decade? He might have missed the Pro Bowl despite being a very good player. Steve McNair went to 3 Pro Bowls. I consider him a franchise QB but others might disagree.
You could go with regular season wins or division titles, but that gets tricky because a game manager can have plenty of regular season success. You could go with stats, but they can be very tricky as well.
Ideally you’d come up with some combination of team success, personal success and postseason success that created a standard which would cover a variety of players and situations without leaving loopholes.
And being a franchise QB isn’t a permanent status. It can go very quickly. Daunte Culpepper looked great for a while, but once he got hurt, he faded quickly. Randall Cunningham looked like arguably the best player in the whole league in 1990, but was on the downside of his career by 1992. Randall was hurt by a knee injury, but also a lack of focus and terrible work habits.
I basically boil the question down to this…is this QB someone I want to build my franchise around and do I think he can lead us to the Super Bowl?
I’m saying yes to Foles on both questions.
Some people want to label him a system QB. That’s fine with me because he’s still playing in that system. Foles is a great fit for what Kelly wants to do. He’s smart, accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over. Foles isn’t afraid to run and is just good enough at it that defenses can’t completely ignore him.
Just as important, Foles and Kelly seem to share the same mental approach to things. They are both grinders. They will work their tails off. Kelly isn’t a butt-kisser and Foles isn’t a high maintenance QB. He can take criticism and tough coaching.
Foles will be the QB heading into next year, but he’s only going to keep the job as long as he plays well. Kelly will deal with a bad game or two. The 27 TD/2 INT thing isn’t going to last forever. Kelly is a smart coach who has had success with many QBs. He’s tough on them, but truly does put them in position to succeed. Kelly will adapt his offense to his personnel and what is working or not working. He’ll work through issues.
That said, Foles can’t go into a major tailspin and expect to keep his job. I don’t think Foles would expect that. He’s hard on himself. Once Foles has been the starter for a while and built up some equity he can afford to deal with a bad season (see Eli Manning), but for the next couple of years Foles is still in the “prove-it” stage.
As good as Foles stats are, numbers can be deceiving at times. Josh Freeman threw for 4,065 yards and 27 TDs in 2012. Andy Dalton threw for 4,293 yards and 33 TDs this year. Freeman’s future is really up in the air. Some team may give him a chance to start, but there will be plenty of teams who have no interest in him whatsoever. Dalton is now hated in Cincinnati. How did those guys put up such numbers?
The skill players around them made those QB look better than they are. There is a running joke on Twitter among football writers and analysts that the Bengals have the best “bad ball catchers” in the league. Those receivers can adjust to Dalton’s passes and haul them in, whether short, long, in, or out. Think about some of the spectacular catches made by AJ Green, Marvin Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham. Freeman also benefited from big WRs who could make wild grabs. He had Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson.
Freeman never led the Bucs to the playoffs. Dalton is 0-3. He has thrown 1 TD and 6 INTs in those games. Cincy has scored a total of 26 offensive points in those games. The playoffs have a way of exposing QBs with limitations.
Foles definitely benefits from having good skill players, but he doesn’t have huge WRs that make spectacular grabs up above the DBs. We’ve seen Eagles receivers make some tough, impressive catches, but very few where the catch was spectacular and required special talent. If Foles did get lucky with some plays this year, that will get exposed over time. I hope that doesn’t happen, but we do have to acknowledge it is possible.
We can analyze and speculate all we want, but really we have to wait and see. Time will tell us if Nick Foles is indeed a franchise QB.
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So what about Mike Vick and Matt Barkley?
Vick said a few weeks ago that he’s open to coming back as a backup. On Saturday night he said he sees himself as a starting QB and sounded less open to the idea. Now he’s back to saying he might return as a backup.
Vick is going up against 2 tough opponents here – pride and Father Time. Vick looks around the league and sees guys starting that he thinks he’s better than and a few he flat out knows he’s better than. That has to drive him nuts. Vick knows he’s getting older and he doesn’t want to waste what time he’s got left by sitting on the bench.
But Vick also likes Philly. He likes Chip Kelly and Nick Foles. Being the backup on a good team isn’t the worst thing in the world. What happens if Vick goes to say the Raiders and then ends up on the bench behind some punk rookie that is a pain to deal with? That would be torturous.
My guess is that Vick will look around to see if he can find a starting gig, but that he’ll stay open to returning. Whether the Eagles want him back…I have no idea. Kelly raves about Vick publicly. The players still love Vick to death.
I know many of you are down on Matt Barkley. I get that. The guy looked like an INT machine when he was on the field this year. He threw 49 passes. 4 of them were INTs. Foles has thrown 582 career passes and only 7 INTs.
I think you need to put Barkley into context. He came into the Dallas game trailing 17-3. He came into the Giants game down by double digits. Both times he had to throw and throw aggressively. There was no game-managing to be done. That doesn’t excuse the INTs, but it does help to understand them. Foles can take a sack and go on to the next play when the Eagles are in the lead or just a few points behind. Late in a game and losing by 10 or more, you have to take chances.
Barkley impressed me with his arm, which feels weird to say. He wasn’t impressive this summer, but threw the ball much better during the season. I also liked the aggressiveness that he played with. Barkley wasn’t scared to fail. I think that is a critical component to being a good QB.
Do the Eagles project Barkley to be the backup QB? That idea will make some fans crazy, but I think it is something Kelly and his staff will consider. They believe in this guy. They think he’ll get a lot better with being healthy and having a full offseason to focus on being an Eagle. Remember, the Eagles had a 2nd round grade on Barkley. They had him as a Top 50 player. No matter what you and I think, they liked him quite a bit. I doubt that’s changed.
Do the Eagles draft a QB? If so, how high?
I don’t think the team will spend a 1st round pick on a QB unless Chip Kelly is simply obsessed with some player and he’s somehow still on the board. After the 1st round, nothing would surprise me. It will really depend on what Kelly and the Eagles think of the players in the draft. I’d prefer the team to wait for the late rounds and then take a project with some raw talent, but I’ll never object to the team investing in a QB that they really like. That gives you insurance and competition.
Kelly won’t have an open competition at QB next year. Foles is the guy. He earned that right. But Kelly will want the QBs to push each other, whether Vick, another veteran, or a draft pick is joining Foles and Barkley. Kelly doesn’t want any player to think of himself as a backup. He wants his players always fighting for playing time by looking great in practice.
I’m still learning a lot from Kelly in regard to the QB position. Last year I thought he’d have no interest in bringing back Vick. Oops. Then I thought he’d have no interest in drafting Barkley. Oops. Stay tuned for this year’s bad prediction. I don’t have one yet, but I’m sure Chip will have me looking dumb at least once in the next few months.