By Mike Levey
A key position to address this offseason for the Eagles is the quarterback position. Since Donovan McNabb’s departure after the 2009 season, the Eagles have started six different QBs.
Having stability at QB gives any team a chance to compete year in and out. But with almost no quality QBs available through this year’s free agency, or a superstar “NFL-ready” QB anticipated in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Eagles have some big decisions to make.
This is also magnified by their pending decision on whether to franchise Sam Bradford for one year at $20 million, or possibly lock him into a longer-term deal.
Enter Nick Foles…
Foles is coming off a poor season with the St. Louis Rams that eventually led to his benching. Les Bowen of the Daily News also refuted ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s February 7 tweet of the Eagles interest to bring back Foles.
But with previous ties to the Eagles and a strong winning record in Philly not too long ago, a case should be made to bring back Foles, who was 15-9 as a starter with the Eagles in the regular season. This record included playing with a sub par defense and Andy Reid’s last season, when the team already took a dive. Foles’ interception total more than doubled his last year with the Eagles, but he found a way to win games, and the team was still 6-2 before his collarbone injury in 2014.
Side note: Foles was 4-7 as a starter in games started last year in St. Louis, but 8 out of the 11 games he faced were against playoff teams. The Rams have had a losing team their last nine seasons regardless of their QB.
Still not convinced? Check out several more reasons why Foles possibly returning to Philly isn’t such a stretch.
2016 QB Draft Class Not Strong- Bringing back Foles gives the Eagles flexibility to take and develop a QB in the 2nd or 3rd round this year. With the number 13 pick, and with limited (if any) “NFL ready” QB prospects this year, taking a QB in the 1st round would be stretching, vs. drafting a potential superstar offensive or defensive lineman to pair with Lane Johnson or Fletcher Cox. Starting Mark Sanchez or Chase Daniel (who has only started 2 career NFL games) would be throwing in the towel to the season and similar to Pederson starting in 1999. But bringing back Foles would give the Eagles an opportunity to compete in 2016, while having flexibility to draft a QB in the later rounds this year, and potentially earlier next year when there are stronger QB options. In the process, maybe Foles will prove he can be the long-term guy in a stable offense.
Connection to Pederson- During Foles’ rookie season, Doug Pederson was his quarterback coach. Pederson helped scout Foles for Andy Reid. Foles can help provide some depth to the position, getting to compete for the starting role, while working with Pederson to help mold a young QB over the next two years. Foles also has experience running Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense, which will help Pederson in critical 4th quarter time situations (and press conferences).
He’s As Good as Bradford- Sam Bradford progressed last year, but I think Foles is just as good—if not better in certain areas. Foles throws a good deep ball, which is critical to gaining momentum in a game, keeping the defensive backs off the line, drawing penalties, and coming from behind. Even as Bradford progressed, he still appeared so often like a check down passer, throwing short so many times on third and long. According to Pro Football Reference, when ranking the average pass yards per attempt for active NFL quarterbacks over their career, Bradford ranks last. Foles posts nearly the same career completion percentage (60.2%) than Bradford (60.1%) and has a higher TD to INT ratio (1.96, 53/27) than Bradford (1.50, 78/52). In addition, Foles is a more mobile QB, less injury prone, and a much cheaper option than Bradford.
4th Quarter Comebacks- According to Pro Football Reference, in 8 of his games in 2014, Foles had three 4th quarter comebacks/game winning drives and posted a 6-2 record. Take two of those away and the Eagles would have been at 4-4. Throw out the statistics for a moment. Foles struggled with more interceptions in 2014, but he kept the Eagles in games, and finds intangibles to come back and win time and time again. Even when trailing 20-7 in the 2013 playoff game against the Saints, Foles brought the Eagles right back, giving them a 24-23 lead late in the 4th quarter, which the special teams and defense unfortunately could not hold.
Fits Philly Culture- Fitting into the culture and mindset of the Eagles and its fan base is not a given. One of the challenges with bringing in so many new players in 2015 and with the 2012 “Dream Team” is that it takes time to fully understand this mindset. Foles “bleeded green” when in Philly. In an early 2014 game against the Redskins, despite playing with a beat up offensive line, Foles stayed in the pocket and delivered throw after throw while taking a beating. There is no better way to demand respect from your team than when Jason Peters stood up for Foles after getting a blind sight hit by Chris Baker. Without question, Foles wants to win, wants to get better, and did I mention even cried during the postgame press conference after the playoff loss to the Saints?
Of course, the possibility of Foles returning to the Eagles is not without its challenges. According to ESPN's Nick Wagoner, it’s highly unlikely the Rams will get rid of Foles due to a net hit of $8 million to their salary cap before June 1st or $7 million after. But with Ram’s head coach Jeff Fisher planning to bring back both Case Keenum and 3rd round QB pick Sean Mannion, the Eagles should at least explore discussions with the Rams to eat part of his salary cap.
Could a trade be possible for DeMarco Murray (also putting the Eagles in a financial bind) and Nick Foles? Who knows? Maybe the Eagles might just get lucky with the Rams releasing Foles, or willing to eat most of his salary cap.
Mike Levey is an avid Philadelphia-sports fan living with his wife in the Greater Philadelphia area. Originally from Northern New Jersey, he grew up watching Eagles games with his grandfather by pointing their antenna rotator towards Philadelphia to watch games on a static screen—before DirecTV. Some of the most memorable games he’s attended include Vai Sikahema's goal post punching against the New York Giants , 4th and 26, NFC Championship ’05, and the ‘Snow Bowl.'
Nick Foles photo: washingtonpost.com