The Legacy of Nick Foles

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The Legacy of Nick Foles

Jason Chen, Editor-in-Chief

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The Eagles were red-hot in the 2017 season, cruising to a 10-2 record entering the Rams game. Optimism and excitement were contagious among Philadelphia Eagles fans. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

That was until Carson Wentz tore his ACL as he leaped into the end zone for a touchdown. It seemed as though time stood still as Wentz limped off the field in Los Angeles.

On that fateful December day, as Carson Wentz walked off the field, the critics came walking in.

‘You can’t win with a backup’ or ‘Nick Foles is no Carson Wentz’ echoed across the sports world.

Foles was never meant to be the backup quarterback, at least not six or seven years ago. In fact, he was the future.

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Foles with the Eagles in 2013. He threw seven touchdowns against the Raiders, tying the NFL record.

Something Special

Drafted in the third round by the Eagles in 2012, Foles entered onto a vastly different looking Eagles team than the one we know and love today. Under the tutelage of then-head coach Andy Reid, and backing up Eagle great Michael Vick, Foles was surrounded with raw football talent and knowledge.

He made his debut against the rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 10 of the 2012-13 NFL season, after Vick left the game with a concussion. Foles threw for 219 yards and a touchdown, completing 22 of 32 passes. Early on, Foles was displaying magic.

Foles played the rest of the year but broke his hand on December 23rd against the Redskins, ending his season.

Breakout Season

Early in the 2013-14 season,  with Chip Kelly now at the helm, Vick was named the starter with Foles as backup. However, Vick and Foles regularly rotated in and out as starter due to both suffering minor injuries. It wasn’t until week 10 when Foles cemented himself as the starter.

Throwing for seven touchdowns (amassing a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 in the process) against the Raiders, Foles continued playing at a Pro-Bowl level the rest of the season. He finished with 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions, beating Tom Brady’s record for best Touchdown-Interception ratio.

His performance led to the Eagles clinching the NFC East over the Cowboys, giving them a playoff game at the “Link” against the Saints. Although losing to the Saints, Foles still threw two touchdowns and netted a 105.0 passer rating in his playoff debut.

Amidst all of the magic, Foles was also selected to the Pro Bowl and proceeded to win Offensive MVP (and a new GMC truck).

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Foles played mediocrely in the 2014-15 season. Scoring wins over the Jaguars, Colts, and Redskins, Foles finished the season with 2,163 yards, 13 touchodowns, and 10 interceptions. A week 9 injury against the Houston Texans, in which he broke his collar bone, ended his season prematurely. But it was clear Foles had regressed from his Pro Bowl year.

St. Louis Rams and Retirement

In March 2015, Foles was traded to the St. Louis Rams along with two draft picks for Sam Bradford and a draft pick.

He found limited success on the Rams, with his biggest highlight defeating the Seattle Seahawks, who were in prime Super Bowl contenders at the time. However, increasing turnovers hurt his game and weeks later, Foles was benched in favor of Case Keenum.

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Although winning back the starting role, Foles continued to struggle the rest of the 2015-16 season. A loss to the Arizona Cardinals ended Foles’ tenure with the Rams, as Case Keenum returned to the starting role.

Frustrated with Jeff Fisher (the Rams’ coach at the time before Sean McVey) and the Rams’ decision to draft Jared Goff in the first round, Foles asked to be released.

It was during this time when Foles heavily considered retirement from football, citing his lost passion for the game as the reason. In his book, Believe It, Foles recalls his mindset at the time:

“When my identity was tied to football, I constantly felt the pressure to be perfect. I lost sight of the fact that I don’t have to be perfect-in fact, I can’t be perfect. No one can.”

Comeback

On August 3, 2016, Foles signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. With a clearer sense of his identity, on and off the field, and reunited with coach Andy Reid, Foles transitioned back to the field.

Foles played in only two games for the Chiefs: In weeks 8 and 9 while Alex Smith recovered from a concussion. Foles threw for nearly 200 yards and a touchdown in both games but once Smith returned, he never saw the field again, at least in a Chiefs uniform.Image result for nick foles chiefs

Despite playing only two games, Foles spoke fondly of his comeback year:

“An athlete’s comeback year is usually accompanied by big statistical performances, personal awards, and maybe even a championship. My bounce-back year happened while I remained mostly on the sidelines, yet I experienced more joy than I had in any other season.”

The Chiefs did not resign Foles after the 2016 season, making him a free agent.

Welcome Back

Foles signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on March 13, 2017 as the backup to Carson Wentz. The Eagles cruised to a 10-2 record to start the 2017 season as Wentz had an MVP-caliber season. It wasn’t until week 14 when Foles saw his first action.

Playing against a revitalized Rams team, who were 9-3, Wentz led the charge. Late in the game, Wentz dove into the end zone for a touchdown but tore his ACL as he was squished between defenders. Wentz left the game and wouldn’t return the rest of the year.

Enter Nick Foles.

Foles maintained the offense and recovered the lead, as the defense sealed the game. The Eagles won 43-35, going up 11-2 on the year and clinching the NFC East.

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Foles returned to Philadelphia in 2017.

Despite the crucial win, the Eagles lost Wentz for the rest of the year. Initially being billed as possible Super Bowl contenders, sports analysts didn’t give the Eagles a chance. Even as Foles led the Eagles to wins over the Giants and Raiders to give the Eagles home field advantage in the playoffs, the critics did not budge.

The Eagles’ chances of winning the Super Bowl dropped from 37.4 percent to 18.3 percent after the Wentz injury.

The New York Times knocked Foles’ ability compared to Wentz saying, “Foles lacks Wentz’s mobility and elusiveness, and his promotion will restrict the Eagles’ ability to call run-pass options, a staple for Wentz.”

Seemingly, the pressure was all on Nick Foles now.

Magical Run

The Eagles made the playoffs and their first opponent would be the Atlanta Falcons, who nearly became Super Bowl champions the year before. The Eagles were underdogs in the game, despite being the home team.

Foles played strongly, throwing for 246 yards. The defense held off the Falcons on their last drive of the game with only a minute left. Foles and the offense ran the ball to pick up a first down, before Foles kneeled for the win.

The Eagles were now in the NFC Championship game, which would also be played at the “Link.” Their opponent: The Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings had one of the top-tier defenses of the year and were favored by many to win the game and become the first home team to play in the Super Bowl. Carrying momentum from the “Minneapolis Miracle”, which helped the Vikings reach the NFC Championship game, the Vikings looked like clear victors.

The Eagles had something to say about that.

The Vikings scored first and the mood in the Link immediately changed from hopeful to dreadful. But once Nick Foles stepped on to the field, the Vikings had no chance after that.

The Eagles decimated the Vikings 38-7.

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Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, including two passes for 50 or more yards. The Vikings did not let any other quarterback complete two or more passes for 50 yards all season. As the dust settled, the Eagles stood as NFC Champions and heading to Super Bowl 52.

“You Want Philly, Philly?”

It was the improbable quarterback versus perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time, aided with perhaps the best head coach of all time. Nick Foles versus Tom Brady. Super Bowl 52.  

Once again, the Patriots were favored to win.

The entire game resembled a heavyweight fight as both offenses traded blows on offense. Foles’ first touchdown connected with Alshon Jeffery on a ridiculous 34-yard catch, putting the Eagles up 9-3. The next scoring drive was a touchdown run from the former Patriot LeGarrette Blount for 21 yards.  

The Patriots weren’t down for long, however, as running back James White ran into the end zone for a score. The final play before halftime went to Nick Foles that might go down as the “gutsiest play in Super Bowl history” and left the Patriots defense scratching the heads.  

On a fancy gadget play, Corey Clement received the ball and flipped it to Trey Burton who then lobbed it into the end zone to a wide-open Nick Foles. Thus the “Philly Special” was born.

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The “Philly Special.”

In doing so, Foles became the first quarterback to throw and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl. The Eagles went up 22-12 at halftime but the Patriots, as always came back to take the lead. In the third quarter, every throw from Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola, moving the chains. The Patriots took the lead 33-32.

But not for long.

Foles connected with Zach Ertz on a beautiful pass followed by an athletic grab as Ertz went to the ground. But there was still time on the clock for the Patriots.

Cue Brandon Graham.  

As Brady looked to deliver another long pass, Graham flew right into in Brady, forcing the fumble which was recovered by Derrick Barnett. The stadium ERUPTED.  

Brady sat stunned on the turf, the wheels turning in his head about what just unfolded. Bill Belichick looked on helplessly as Eagles fans preemptively began to celebrate.

Foles and the offense proceeded to take the ball down the field, kicking a field goal and securing an eight-point lead. Now, it was time to end the game on defense. 

Brady threw incomplete pass after incomplete pass on the final drive. On the final play, he heaved the ball down the field; a “Hail Mary” attempt. The ball was swatted away by an Eagle as the game clock expired.

The Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl champions for the first time ever.

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A large part of the victory is credited to Nick Foles. He finished the game with 373 yards and 3 touchdowns, earning him the title of Super Bowl MVP (the only Eagle player to ever win the honor).

Foles hoisted the Lombardi Trophy high in the air, the one accomplishment that every football player dreams of.

A Tough Good-Bye

Foles started the first two games of the 2018 season before Carson Wentz returned. While Wentz was under center, the Eagles went 5-6, and suffered a 48-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

But once again, Wentz went down with another injury and Foles returned with more magic.

Ironically, returning against the Rams in week 14, “St. Nick” delivered once again. Only throwing for 270 yards, it was enough for the win that brought the Eagles to 7-7 on the year, as they inched closer to playoffs.

Arguably, Foles’ biggest game since the Super Bowl came the next week against the Texans, a game in which the Eagles desperately needed to win. With a four-touchdown performance (and a game winning field goal), Foles once again showed his magic.

He followed up with a 24-0 win against the Redskins in the final week of the season, throwing for 221 yards and 2 TDs, while tying Phillip Rivers’ NFL record of 25 straight completions. However, Eagles fans received a scare when Foles left the game injured in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles’ playoff hopes came true after the Bears beat the Vikings, setting up an Eagles-Bears matchup in Chicago. Fans were unsure of the outcome but as long as Nick Roles was in, there was hope.

Foles played phenomenally once again, throwing for 266 yards and 2 TDS. A “double-doink” by Bears’ kicker Cody Parkey (a former Eagle) sealed the win for the Eagles, who would go on to play the Saints in the Divisional Round.

Foles and the Eagles nearly had the Saints beaten but a late interception by Foles stopped the comeback short. Alshon Jeffrey, the intended target, laid on the turf, emotional about the the missed catch.

Foles demonstrated his leadership as he comforted him on the sideline:

“We wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl if it wasn’t for you.”

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Eagles fans could say the same to Foles. Without Foles, there might not have been a Super Bowl win.

After the season ended, on February 27, 2019, nearly a year after the Super Bowl win, the Eagles announced that they would not franchise tag Nick Foles. In doing so, Foles became a free agent which means that he could decide which team to go to.

After everything he has done for the city, he will always be remembered as the first Eagles quarterback to bring Philadelphia a Super Bowl. He dazzled fans with magical performances of a lifetime and helped give the city one of its biggest and craziest parades.

Most importantly, Foles brought Eagles fans, their families and loved ones, closer together.

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