Eagles QB Nick Foles had quite a year in 2013. He had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history, his jersey and cleats were sent to the Hall of Fame in Canton after his NFL record-tying seven TD performance against Oakland, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Foles went 8-1 as a starter and led his team to the playoffs. He also put the Eagles in a position to win by driving the offense 77 yards for a touchdown to take the lead late in the playoff game against New Orleans.
Earlier this offseason, he married his longtime girlfriend (she’s a hottie, too) and was even said to have a certain part of his body that’s big enough to make Ron Jeremy jealous. Hell, the man has it all!
Well, almost has it all, that is.
One thing Foles doesn’t have is the contract of a bonafide star-caliber NFL Quarterback. Though, that’s through no fault of his own at this time since he’s not eligible for such a contract until after the 2014 season.
And that leads me to the point of this article: Foles will have to prove himself all over again this year. His 2013 season will be nothing but a fond memory if he doesn’t perform well in 2014.
Foles is currently entrenched as the Eagles’ starting QB. The focus and pressure are squarely on his shoulders for the upcoming season. He’ll have had a full offseason, training camp and preseason to prepare himself knowing he’s “the man.”
Before we go any further, in no way am I saying he has to duplicate what he did last season. Having that TD-to-INT ratio again is completely unrealistic and we don’t face Oakland every year.
What Foles has to do is prove that he can be consistent, reliable and an effective Quarterback. He has to play at a high level and give his team a chance to win every week. He has to make plays on a regular basis and keep the mistakes to a respectable level.
Opinions on Foles seem to be all over the map. LeSean McCoy recently commented that “this is the year he blows ’em out like, ‘Yeah, I’m Nick Foles, I’m Philadelphia’s quarterback. I’m the guy.’ And this is the year he blows it away.”
Then I saw this snippet from Marc Sessler of NFL.com (linked to above) regarding ESPN Insider’s “tier list” of NFL QBs as ranked by 26 “league insiders”. Here was a comment on Foles: :
ESPN.com’s Mike Sando released a QB list of his own, a docket channeled from talks with 26 league insiders who collectively placed Foles in the second (best) of five tiers.
Those personnel men were divided, with one general manager calling the third-year passer “a four (tier) who played like a two” during last year’s breakout campaign. A second GM “boldly placed Foles in the first tier based on what he saw last season.”
Foles came in at 15th of 32 starting QBs in ESPN’s list, at the bottom of their “Tier 2” (out of five total tiers). Foles was amongst other QBs in Tier 2 such as Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo, although they have Foles as the lowest ranked in this tier.
Then Chris Wesseling of NFL.com listed Foles as a “Borderline Franchise Quarterback” and said his “numbers are more impressive than his game tape.” Other QBs in Foles’ company on Wesseling’s list are Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith and Josh McCown.
Finally, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports posted an article about the most underrated and overrated players on every NFL team. For the Eagles, he listed Foles as the most overrated player on the team. Here’s what he said:
Overrated: QB Nick Foles — Let’s slow the train down some, OK. He did some good things last season, but you’d think he was a star already. It takes time. Let’s see him do it again. Not saying he can’t, but let’s see it again.
That ruffled some feathers of Eagles fans, but mostly because they don’t perceive Foles as being “overrated.” However, I can understand both sides of that argument.
With the stats he put up last year and the accolades he received, there has been a certain amount of “hype” about him. At the same time, I think the general consensus amongst those in the know around here in Philly is that we’re taking a “wait and see” approach with him.
Can you blame us?
Philadelphia has been excited about young Quarterbacks before: Bobby Hoying and Kevin Kolb come to mind and even Koy Detmer for a brief period of time.
The NFL in general has had its share of young, promising QBs who ended up being “one hit wonders”. Guys like Derek Anderson, Scott Mitchell and Don Majkowski are examples of young players who had their fanbases excited only to fall off a cliff the next year.
This is not to say that’s what will happen with Foles, I’m just saying to keep things in perspective as far as what could happen.
I’m high on Foles and I’m excited to see what he will do in 2014. However, the best way I can describe how I feel about him is “cautiously optimistic.” Before I crown him King of Philly, I need to see him do it again this year.
Going by the eye test from what I remember in watching last year, my main concern with him was that he appeared hesitant and unsure at times. Obviously, that can be expected of young QBs and it’s something that can or will be corrected with experience and confidence.
However, it’s not a given and regression is certainly possible.
I remember thinking to myself that Chip Kelly must have really drilled it into his head to take care of the football and not make mistakes. I wondered at times if his hesitancy was simply because he was “scared” to make a mistake.
A few stats that may equate to this are that he was fourth in the NFL in percentage of passes that had a time-to-throw of greater than 3.6 seconds (26.6%, and the only three above him were Pryor, Kaepernick and Wilson) as well as being tied for second in the league in Intentional Grounding penalties with three (only Eli Manning had more with five).
Time-to-throw can indicate a few different things. It could be the play call or receivers not getting open, but it can also be that the QB was hesitant in making a quicker decision for various reasons.
There were times I could plainly see that Foles wasn’t sure what to do with the ball. He would hold and hold and seemed to not be able to decide if he should throw it away or attempt to squeeze it in somewhere.
Being hesitant in the pocket and holding the ball will also lead to sacks. Chip Kelly will tell you that a sack is just as much of the Quarterback’s fault as it is the offensive line’s fault. That’s why he wants a QB with quick decision-making skills.
Per Football Outsiders, Foles ranked 30th in “true sack rate” by being sacked on 8.26% per pass attempt. At the same time, the Eagles’ OL is rated as one of the best, if not the best in the league.
So, was Foles’ hesitancy the reason for his high sack rate? I’m sure that was at least some of it, but if you believe this breakdown of every sack on Eagles QBs in 2013 by Jimmy Kempski, Foles was only responsible for 5.5 of the 28 total times he was sacked (I’d love to know if Chip Kelly would agree).
There is also the question about ball security. He did a great job of limiting his interceptions to two last year, but he did have four fumbles. He has also been somewhat “lucky” that his career interception rate hasn’t been higher.
As per Birds 24/7 and Football Outsiders, there has been a total of 12 occasions where “luck” was a factor in that he wasn’t picked off. There is an element of luck for every QB when it comes to interceptions that were simply dropped by the defender, so it’s hard to say where Foles would rank in this category.
I need to see another season of Foles limiting the turnovers before I’m completely convinced that his propensity for ball security isn’t just fluke-ish. Plus, it’s easier to have a low INT rate when you throw more than double the league average of screen passes.
The average NFL QB will be intercepted on 2.9% of his attempted passes. The Eagles as a team last year attempted 508 passes. If Foles attempts that many in 2014, we can reasonably expect he’ll throw around ~14 interceptions, based on that average.
However, we obviously want him to be better than “average” in this department. And if he throws more than that, then we’ll have a big problem.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to paint a bad picture of Nick Foles. I’m merely laying out a few reasons why I’m reserving full judgment until after this season.
Foles has much to prove this year. As stated earlier, he has to prove to be consistent with his accuracy, decision-making and ability to perform under pressure.
And that’s really all I’m trying to say here is that, before we anoint Foles as the savior, we need to do what? Wait and see.