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Nick Foles loves being with Eagles but deserves to have his own team | Bob Ford

Nick Foles might seem placid, but he's burning to be a starter.

Nick Foles loves being in the huddle and leading a team. The Eagles organization hopes Carson Wentz doesn't miss another play, and Foles never gets that chance again.
Nick Foles loves being in the huddle and leading a team. The Eagles organization hopes Carson Wentz doesn't miss another play, and Foles never gets that chance again.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

The tendency when considering Nick Foles from the outside is to underestimate him, and, heaven knows, I’ve done my share of that, almost always at the wrong times. If you judge the book of Nick just by its plain, unadorned cover, you miss a lot.

Foles doesn’t have the strongest arm, and his tall frame lends him a gawkiness that belies a sneaky athleticism. His public face is purposefully bland, and in a game given to brash outbursts, he delivers his thoughts in a steady monotone that can hide more undulating emotions.

When the Eagles got the ball back late in the fourth quarter against the Saints on Sunday, immediately after the missed field goal that gave them renewed life and a chance for one more drive to an incredible upset, Foles’ heartbeat remained at parade rest. He wasn’t thinking about the Super Bowl, or the enormity of the moment before the offense, or the opportunity to make the Philadelphia Eagles his team once and for all.

“What’s the play? What’s the next play? That’s all that matters,” Foles said.

There’s a gift to having that focus, and Foles isn’t kidding. He’s very good at keeping extraneous thoughts in their place at important moments. He really was just concentrating on the next play. If his final pass — likely his final pass with the Eagles — hadn’t gone through Alshon Jeffery’s hands, who knows? The Eagles still would have been facing something like a third-and-5 at the 22-yard line, but the odds had just about shifted back in their favor. Not quite, but close enough to send shudders through the Superdome.

“I wish we could have gotten it done,” Foles said, “but I feel good about everyone’s effort. I know everyone gave everything. This is tough because it’s the last time this team will be together. That’s the toughest part.”

Foles is able to widen his field of vision now. There is no play coming in from the sideline and no certainty when the next one will arrive. If everything goes as the Eagles organization would prefer, Foles will not take another serious snap for them. That’s true even if some arrangement to keep him is devised, because it would mean Carson Wentz never misses another play. That is Plan A for the Eagles, and any notion that Foles’ heroics over the past two seasons has altered it is sentimental twaddle. Both Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman made that clear Tuesday.

The reality is that Foles’ contract makes him unaffordable as a backup. The quarterback can also opt out of its terms and become a free agent by his own hand. All of that will play out in the next couple of months, but two things are very unlikely to happen: The Eagles will not suddenly decide they prefer Foles over Wentz, and the quarterback will not give the team a reworked sweetheart deal just because he loves the uniform. (Which he clearly does.)

“This team never stopped fighting, much like the city of Philadelphia. That’s who the people are," Foles said. "I just want to say how grateful I am … and [they] should continue to support the Eagles, and there’s a bright future with this team and everyone there.”

That sounded like a valediction as Foles delivered it flatly in a cramped interview area in New Orleans, a farewell to arms from a general anticipating a new posting. Like any good quarterback, he knows the game plan, and in his situation, it calls for a new team.

What people fail to understand fully about Foles — maybe because of his placid demeanor — is that he desperately wants to play and, turning 30 on Sunday, will go where there is a guarantee of that. It isn’t Philadelphia.

Players don’t reach the NFL without being alpha dogs, without being supremely competitive, and that goes for Nick Foles, too. When it was clear he wouldn’t be the starter at Michigan State (stuck behind Kirk Cousins), he transferred to Arizona. He wanted to play, not merely be a good teammate standing by in the event of emergency. That dynamic hasn’t really changed, even if fans don’t get it. The Eagles are still Carson Wentz’s team, for better or worse. Foles has to find his own.

“I’m not going to speculate on that, but I love leading a team,” Foles said. “I love being in the huddle, being part of a locker room. That’s why I play the game.”

If Foles had his druthers, there’s no doubt he would rather be the starting quarterback here than anywhere else. That’s not the case, however, and this time the decision on remaining is all his. Don’t blame the Eagles, and don’t blame the player. Foles isn’t leaving because he has to. He’s leaving because he wants to.