Nick Foles has started 16 games for the Eagles. He is 9-7 in those games. He's played in 20 games and has thrown for 4,590 yards and 33 touchdowns. Those are very impressive numbers and yet you can still have a reasonable discussion about whether he is the future at quarterback.
By the time Donovan McNabb had started 16 games, he was the entire Eagles franchise.
Foles hands the ball off to LeSean McCoy, the most dynamic runner in the NFL. Foles throws the ball to DeSean Jackson, the fastest receiver in the NFL. No offense to Duce Staley or Charles Johnson, but McNabb had no dynamic weapons. Staley never scored more than five rushing touchdowns in a season. Johnson only had one reception of more than 40 yards in his two seasons as an Eagle. McNabb carried the Eagles offense on his back.
Foles succeeded Michael Vick as the Eagles quarterback. And Vick succeeded McNabb. The Eagles have had pretty good to excellent quarterback play for the past 14 years. Compare that to McNabb's situation. He sat behind Doug Pederson as a rookie. The Eagles had mediocre quarterback play in the years just prior to McNabb's. The Detmer brothers, Bobby Hoying and Rodney Peete were all great guys. They just weren't great quarterbacks.
McNabb stood out like a sore thumb. He was bigger, stronger and faster than his predecessors. He could make great throws. He could make plays with his legs. McNabb looked special. Foles is succeeding McNabb and Vick, two of the most talented quarterbacks of all time. Foles is bigger, but sure doesn't run or throw like them. If anything, Foles lack of physical gifts makes you wonder if he is in fact a franchise quarterback.
McNabb was a huge star from the get-go. He was the face of the franchise. Andy Reid wasn't a star coach. There were no star players. Brian Dawkins was a young guy on the rise. McNabb got a ton of credit when things went right and he became a lightning rod for criticism when things went wrong. McNabb was the guy everyone wanted to interview. He was the one doing the Chunky Soup commercials. He was being pulled in 50 different directions.
Foles got some national exposure late in the year, but is still sharing the spotlight with his star coach Chip Kelly, as well as the star runner and receiver. And Foles is just fine with that. It really benefits him.
Just ask Robert Griffin III if offseason attention can be a bad distraction. Last year he was trying to rehab a torn ACL. He was also doing Subway commercials. He was enjoying the benefits of being a star quarterback by going to some big events. He was doing ad campaigns for a variety of causes. The thing that seemed to get the least attention was him improving as a quarterback.
Young quarterbacks can get distracted by everything that comes with being a star player. Cam Newton did some amazing things in 2011. It felt like he took a step backward in 2012. Colin Kaepernick wasn't as dynamic in 2013 as he was in 2012. Josh Freeman was a roller coaster from year to year.
Foles is healthy and flying under the radar. He will spend the offseason studying tape and working out rather than selling products and pushing ad campaigns. Foles did the same thing last offseason and made a huge leap forward.
It helps that Foles is self-motivated and a grinder. He's not going to rest on his laurels. Remember, Foles has never been the starting quarterback in the season opener. He took over the job mid-season in both 2012 and 2013. Kelly always wants his players to compete as if their job is on the line. Foles fought for the backup job as a rookie and the starting job this year. He's not afraid of competition. If anything, it seems to bring out the best in him.
Foles knows he is penciled in as the starter in 2014, but nothing will be given to him. It is up to him to work hard this offseason, get better and then out-play everyone in the summer. It won't be fans, the media or teammates putting the most pressure on Foles. It will be Nick Foles doing that.
Foles is lucky to be in a situation where there are going to be limited distractions. He's with the right team at the right time. That will help his focus stay on the field, which is where the Eagles need it if Foles is going to become a great player and get them back to being a Super Bowl contender.
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