Eagles' Foles making people take notice with stellar surge
Nov 26, 2013 at 8:00p ET
Maybe you realize how silly Nick Foles' season has been so far. Maybe you don't. In case you don't, let's make it clear: Nick Foles' season has been incredibly silly.
Exhibit A: Foles relieves Mike Vick against the Giants in Week 5, goes 16-of-25, throws two touchdowns. Eagles win after losing three weeks in a row. Foles starts the next week and is even better: three touchdown passes, a rushing TD, 296 yards through the air. Eagles win again.
Exhibit B: Foles starts his third game in a row in Week 7 and is a disaster, completing 11-of-29 passes for 80 (!) yards before leaving the game with a concussion. He misses Week 8 with that concussion, forcing an almost comically unready Matt Barkley to make the start; he adds one INT to the three (!) he threw in one quarter (!) after Foles got hurt.
Exhibit C: Foles returns in Week 9 and goes on a two-game tear, throwing 10 combined touchdowns, including seven in one game -- a game in which he has a perfect passer rating -- then wins again in a less spectacular but still serviceable performance two weeks ago against the Redskins. Now, on the back side of the Eagles' bye, Foles has started five games, won four of them, and thrown 16 touchdowns with zero interceptions.
What's going on here, exactly? Is Nick Foles, a third-round pick out of Arizona in 2012 who projected to be a Chad Henne/Drew Bledsoe-type strong-armed blunderer, actually the next Tom Brady? Is he possibly this accurate? Is he never going to throw an interception again?
Maybe! That's the great thing about sports: there is the possibility in any player of some unprecedented, tremendous explosion of talent and skill. No one is knowable. Nick Foles will likely throw an interception at some point this season. He will probably not end the year leading the league in yards per attempt, which he is doing at the moment, because despite his stupidly gaudy numbers, he is probably not, at this point in his career, better than the guys trailing him, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, who are all playing spectacular football in 2013.
But it's not impossible. Instead, the vague possibility of it pays us to think about another quarterback who serves as Foles most immediate point of comparison. In 2012, second-year QB Colin Kaepernick, a massively talented second-round pick out of Nevada, took over for Alex Smith with the 49ers and led the team to the Super Bowl. Kaepernick was spectacular last season, at times unbelievably so, culminating in a playoff game against the Packers in which he ran for 181 yards.
Quarterbacks just don't do what Kaepernick was doing last year. He appeared to have no precedent, and nothing sets people off on tangents of potential more than a player who has no precedent; because we have nothing to compare him to in the past, we think his future can only be limitless.
Based on the amount of heat and criticism Kaepernick has taken this year, you'd think he had regressed into the basement. Instead, he's having a strong year: 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, top 10 in yards per attempt, 11th in touchdown percentage. Spectators confuse Kaepernick's lack of gaudy total numbers as ineffectiveness, but in fact it more means he's been efficient in his passing strategies.
The problem isn't that Kaepernick hasn't been as good as he was last year: it's that he hasn't improved into one of the five best quarterbacks in the league, an honor that was basically being forced on the 26-year-old before he'd even had an opportunity to do enough that it made sense.
Watching him last year, there's no question why this happened: Kaepernick's rate of improvement had been so fast that it seemed unstoppable. That's not realistic.
And in Kaepernick's dilemma of anticipation, we have a precedent for Foles. They're different players, but Foles has made a similar explosion onto the scene that, if it continues, could result in an Eagles playoff run and then the offseason thrust of Great Expectations. It's not so much that we should use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale for what Foles can become, since Colin Kaepernick's career has zero practical bearing on Foles'.
It's that we should use Kaepernick as a reminder that the great thing about sports is we don't know what's going to happen. Even if Foles never throws another interception.