Nick Foles is the NFL’s Mariano Rivera.
When you’re examining the Eagles quarterback situation, which admittedly got a lot stickier after the Birds’ 30-23, season-saving victory over the Rams in Los Angeles last night, pointing out the distinction between the two signal callers is important.
The Eagles went into last night’s game as 13 1⁄2 point underdogs and yet, just as in all three playoff games he started last year, Foles led his underdog team to a hard-fought win over an elite team.
And now, Philly has a full-blown QB “controversy” again.
But really, it shouldn’t. Foles is what he is, perhaps the very best back-up QB in the NFL. He is the guy who, if your starter went down, you want him taking over a playoff push at the end of a season and, if he has to, starting your postseason games for you. Last year proved that when he won two home playoff games and then upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
He is Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer who knew how to save big games. That’s what Foles did last year and what he did again last night - “save” the season.
Yes, at 7-7, the Eagles are still alive for the postseason. ESPN has their odds of making the playoffs at 29%. And some of that is due to Foles’ play last night, although if we’re being honest, it wasn’t outrageously good.
Under Wentz, the Eagles have struggled early in games this season. And while Foles got them on the board with an early field goal, and had the game tied 13-13 going into halftime, the passing game wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard.
The idea that the offense started out hot really doesn't jive with the numbers.— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 17, 2018
24% SR in the first 21 plays, 6 points off 3 drives with 3 trips inside the 50 & a RZ trip isn't efficient at all. 40% SR after that is solid but not great.
By the end of the game, Foles had gone 24-31 for 270 yards with no touchdowns and a bad interception, for a QB rating of 89.4. All in all, it was a good game, and he did find Alshon Jeffrey to be alive and well, targeting him a team-leading eight times. Alshon caught all eight balls for 160 yards and seemed to have good chemistry with Nick. They also hooked up on a couple deep balls (some of which was due to a mind-melting defensive miscue by the Rams’ secondary).
Foles also appeared to lead a calmer offense and has never tried to win the game by himself, something Wentz has been guilty of on multiple occasions. Last year, that mentality worked out most of the time for Wentz, but with his limited mobility it hasn’t been the case in 2018. It’s also fair to wonder if the offense, especially the O-line, picks up their game when Foles is on the field, knowing they need to do more to support their back-up QB.
There is a thought process out there that believes Foles is simply a better fit for Doug Pederson’s offense. And while it’s true that Pederson did a great job molding his offense around Foles last year, it’s important to note that Wentz was the MVP of the league in 2017 before he injured his knee.
Let’s not forget that, after a lackluster preseason, Foles was underwhelming in the first two games of the season. In a victory against the Falcons he was 19-34 for just 117 yards with an interception and a QB rating of 50.7. In their loss to the Bucs, he was 35-48 for 334 yards with 1 TD and no picks, with a 98.8 rating. One decent performance and one bad performance, coupled with last night “good” performance. That’s Nick Foles.
At his Monday news conference, Pederson said he and offensive coordinator Mike Groh tried to condense the offensive gameplan, to get “back to basics,” and noted that was the plan even before Wentz was ruled out. Pederson did note that they asked Foles what he was or was not comfortable with, just as they did last season when Wentz got hurt.
Make no mistake, Foles has done an AWESOME job as this team’s “closer” these last two years. When asked to win a handful of important games, he’s been outstanding. This is not an anti-Foles take. He won this franchise a Super Bowl and was the MVP in the damn game. He also played well last night and helped the Eagles to their biggest underdog victory since 1985 and the second-largest upset win in the NFL this season (the Bills were a 17 point underdog against the Vikings but won 27-6 in Week 3).
Nick Foles has been Mariano freaking Rivera, and that’s awesome. It’s great to have a closer like that on your team, but it does not mean he’s the franchise QB, nor does it mean he should be considered that moving forward.
When Wentz is healthy enough to play at 100%, he should be back in there. Never forget, Wentz has played with a broken back as he recovers from a major knee injury. We haven’t seen a truly healthy Wentz all season long and his performance must be viewed under that lens.
For now, as Pederson mentioned in his Monday news conference, Foles will be the guy against the Texans this Sunday. That’s the right call. But moving forward, Wentz is the franchise quarterback, the Aaron Nola-starter you build your team around. Foles is the incredible closer that wins huge games with his poise and steadiness, the type of QB every team would like to have as a back-up on their roster.
Both guys are valuable, but one is the starter.