As I watched the predictably catastrophic conclusion to the Eagles' showdown with the Redskins, I could already see how the game was going to be remembered. Nick Foles, the rookie quarterback who took the reigns of a crumbling, injury-ridden team right in the middle of the season, couldn't come through when he had to. His underthrown ball to Jeremy Maclin that could have tied the game was inexcusable. The lost fumble in the first quarter highlighted his lack of foot speed. In short, Foles proved he was not ready to lead a football team.
What I took away from the game was completely different. Yes, Foles has struggled at times. But there have been other throws that you can't help but be impressed by. His touchdown pass to Maclin in the first quarter stands out in particular. Foles has also shown great pocket presence that he's used to extend plays until a receiver can find an open space.
It's true that QBs are defined by wins and losses. Eli Manning would never be considered a HOF player were it not for his two Super Bowl wins. But in Foles' situation, wins are entirely irrelevant. The team that Foles has had to work with is, needless to say, undermanned. Four-fifths of the starting offensive line is missing. The team's best receiver, DeSean Jackson, is on the IR. Shady McCoy has been injured for most of Foles' run as a starter. Clay Harbor got hurt, forcing Evan Moore into action. Moore would proceed to drop the potentially game-tying touchdown (and we all know that if Moore catches that pass, no one would care about the underthrown ball to Maclin). And that's before getting to the defense, which has been, in a word, horrific.
In addition, Foles is a rookie quarterback. It's ridiculous to think that Foles is a finished product. The success of so many other rookie QBs, I think, has distorted our impressions of Foles. We look at Luck and RGIII, then back at Foles, and feel slightly disappointed. But we forget that Foles will continue to improve. We know he has all the tools; it's just a matter of putting it all together. In a few years, maybe those deep balls will be right on target. Maybe that throw to Maclin will be three feet higher.
I decided to take a closer look at the statistics to make sure I wasn't crazy. For the sake of comparison, I prorated the stats over a full season:
Foles: 3891 yds, 14 TDs, 12 INTs, 369/607 att, 60.8% completed, 6.41 yds/att, 46 sacks
and now for the comparisons (player's rookie year unless otherwise noted, stats prorated). Some players I chose because of their similarities to Foles, and others just because I thought they would be interesting:
Eli Manning: 2086 yds, 12 TDs, 18 INTs, 190/394 att, 48.2% completed, 5.3 yds/att, 26 sacks
Peyton Manning: 3739 yds, 26 TDs, 28 INTs, 326/575 att, 56.7% completed, 6.5 yds/att, 22 sacks
Donovan McNabb (2nd season): 3365 yds, 21 TDs, 13 INTs, 330/569 att, 58.0% completed, 5.91 yds/att, 45 sacks
Tom Brady (2nd season,15 games): 2843 yds, 18 TDs, 12 INTs, 264/413 att, 63.9% completed, 6.9 yds/att, 41 sacks
Foles' statistics definitely look like they belong with the others. I don't mean to say that Foles is going to be the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but just based on their stats, there aren't a whole lot of differences. If Foles' TD totals were a little higher, and I think they would be if Foles was playing at the beginning of the season, he certainly would compare favorably to Peyton. I also thought Brady would be an interesting comparison since Brady posted a 5.28 sec 40-yd dash at the Combine, making him even slower than Foles' 5.14.
IN CONCLUSION, I truly believe Foles has all the tools to be a good, if not great, starting quarterback in the NFL. His poise in the pocket and strong arm all work in his favor. The timing and accuracy on his deep balls needs work, obviously, but there isn't any reason to think those won't improve with time. There are a lot of things that you could call Foles based on his performance this season, but you can't call him Foles Gold.*
*Apologies for the terrible pun.