Eagles coach Chip Kelly finally made official what everybody already knew unofficially – Nick Foles is his starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Kelly took that even a step further this week – actually, it was 1,000 steps further.
For weeks, Kelly has been asked about Foles and his future and Kelly always gave the same answer – Foles was the starter because Michael Vick was still hampered by a hamstring injury. But Vick is healthy now and Foles is still the starter and so Kelly was asked the question again – is Nick Foles your starting quarterback going forward?
“He’s the starting quarterback for the next 1,000 years.’’ Kelly said.
And that tongue-in-cheek answer gives Eagles fans two things to focus on the rest of the season – the Eagles’ unexpected contention for a playoff berth and Foles’ unexpected ascension to the starting job on a permanent basis.
Still, even though we all know now that Foles can be the Eagles quarterback of the future, that doesn’t mean that Foles will be that franchise quarterback that every NFL team must have to contend in this pass-happy era.
Certainly, Foles has already shown that he has the right stuff in terms of reading defenses, making good decisions and getting rid of the ball quickly and accurately. And despite the fact that he looks like Napoleon Dynamite, he’s also a good athlete who can move around in the pocket and buy time and even pick up a few yards with his legs if necessary.
But we still don’t know if he’s really Kelly’s kind of guy, despite the coach’s 1,000-year proclamation. When Kelly re-signed Michael Vick and then awarded him the starting job at the beginning of the season, he raved about Vick’s “skill set,’’ which means, of course, Vick’s mobility and the running threat he possessed, two things Kelly prizes in his quarterback.
Foles doesn’t have that same skill set, but his other attributes have made Kelly change his mind about what he wants in his ideal QB, at least for now. Foremost among those attributes is the way Foles protects the football and doesn’t turn it over. He’s thrown 19 touchdown passes this season without throwing a single interception and now he’s just one TD pass from tying the NFL record set by future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning earlier this season – Manning threw for 20 TDs before his first INT.
That’s impressive, especially for a young quarterback (24) like Foles who has just a handful of NFL starts under his belt (12). But Foles has been lucky as well as good in that category – his 55-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the Green Bay game should have been intercepted, but instead it bounced off the hands of two Packers defenders and into Jackson’s hands. And last week, against Arizona, Foles threw a terrible pass that was picked off, but that play was negated by a penalty against the Cardinals.
This is not to make light of all the wonderful things Foles has accomplished so far, including the Eagles’ 5-1 record this season in games in which he’s started. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that he’s been lucky as well as good.
That’s why the final four games will be so important to Foles and the Eagles, whether they make the playoffs or not. Eventually, luck runs out and some of the things that have gone his way will turn 180 degrees. So, if Foles plays poorly in the final month of the season, if he looks like he did in the Dallas game seven weeks ago, when he completed just 37.9 percent of his passes and had a QB rating of 46.2, the speculation about the QB of the future will start again.
Here’s something else to consider – we still don’t know how well Foles will perform in cold-weather games, which is when the most important games of the season are played, including the playoffs. He played high school football in Austin, Texas and college football in Tucson, Ariz., so he’s a lot more used to sweating than he is to shivering. Last year, Foles was 1-2 in December as the starting quarterback and the lone victory came at Tampa Bay while the two losses, to Cincinnati and Washington, both came at Lincoln Financial Field and he didn’t play well in either of those games.
That doesn’t mean Foles can’t play well in the cold, just that he hasn’t done it so far. That’s just one of the questions that still have to be answered about the young QB, and it won’t take 1,000 years to answer them.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.