PAT SHURMUR has lived 48 of his 49 years in places with rough winter climates. He always has been an early riser, out the door and into a cold car. He's old enough to predate remote starts and fuel injection.

"When the car is warm and running, it's easy to take the wheel," Shurmur said. "Versus, you know, when it's . . . wruhh, wruhh, wruhh."

When Nick Foles took over as the full-time starting quarterback last season, Chip Kelly's fresh Machine Gun offense purred like a new Jaguar. The offensive line was 80 percent veteran and 100 percent healthy and functional. Lethal stars LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson were familiar enough with the scheme, and the coaches familiar enough with them, so they had defined, specific roles.

All Foles had to do was show up and not throw interceptions, which is what he did: 27 touchdowns, two interceptions, a Pro Bowl berth . . . and a mountain of outsized expectations for the rest of his career.

Expectations that he should become a "franchise quarterback," and he should be pretty close to that now.


"People are going to have expectations," Foles said. "I zone it out. I'm not worried about the stats. It's not about the stats."

Given the changing scene around him, and given his relative inexperience, those expectations are, at least, premature; at most, unrealistic. Foles is a third-round pick with a decent arm, poor footspeed and a slim, 6-6 frame.

He has made 15 starts in Kelly's offense, 21 overall in his three NFL seasons. He has won 12 of those starts for Kelly and Shurmur, his offensive coordinator.

That doesn't keep every throw Foles makes from being dissected; it doesn't keep every decision from being investigated; it doesn't keep every big moment from being magnified beyond its merit.

Foles is, to use Shurmur's analogy, a kid with a brand-new license . . . and he has been driving an ice-cold Chevy.

"He's playing on a team where we're less than perfect in a lot of ways," Shurmur acknowledged.

Foles has had the same offensive line in front of him for only 2 weeks in a row and the two young replacements were not even drafted. The line will change yet again when the veterans return. His receiving corps was reconfigured, and McCoy has become every team's focal point on every play.

Nevertheless, Foles is 4-1.

In a sports landscape overwhelmed by numbers, the least-appreciated statistics for pitchers, goalies and quarterbacks are wins.

Because they are the players who, if they play poorly, can lose games for you.

"I think what's happening is, everybody jumped the gun and said, 'Is this guy our franchise quarterback?' Those are after-the-fact evaluations," Shurmur said. "Nick's fighting through the year like a lot of our players. He's only, really, a second-year player. That's what you've got to think about. He's had limited number of starts in this offense. He's made some good throws that helped us win games."

He's made some terrible throws that affected games, too.

Four of his passes Sunday against the Rams were weak and poorly delivered. Three were unwise - even the one that gained 20 yards. After 4 weeks of getting hammered, Foles isn't always setting his feet, he isn't always sliding in the pocket and he isn't always throwing the ball away to avoid interceptions and hits.

Then again, he sometimes is.

This is called growth, and, at this point, it is normal. Foles realizes this. He is among the minority.

"I'm learning a lot," Foles said. "You don't want a couple of games where you feel like you don't play like you can get too big. Because I'm going to continue to grow. You can't teach that on a practice field: The adversity you face is in the game. You have to continue to grind through it."

The Eagles will tell you there is room for unlimited growth, but your eyes will tell you a man must know his limitations.

"I think he's got an unlimited ceiling," Shurmur insisted.

The team might believe that, but that's not fair to Foles.

Shurmur was Donovan McNabb's position coach from 2002-08, and McNabb - 6-2, 240 solid pounds, fast and quick and strong-armed - had an unlimited ceiling.

Andrew Luck, 6-3, 235, fast and strong - unlimited ceiling. Robert Griffin, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, ditto.

Foles might outperform each of those players, but he simply lacks their tools.

Foles also lacks their pedigree. Each was selected among the first two overall picks in their respective drafts.

Foles went 88th.

He's an 88th overall pick who is 12-3 as a starter the last two regular seasons. That is excellent value.

Last season was a mirage. Last season, he made bad reads, underthrew players, got lucky that passes were not intercepted, and had a deep threat in Jackson who not only was fast but who, thanks to otherworldly body control, also was superb at competing for big-play passes.

Foles compiled a league-best 119.2 passer rating driving a Jag he didn't even warm up.

"Everybody's still hung up on 27 and two," Shurmur said about the touchdown/interception ratio of 2013. "We're a different team. We have different players in there. We're playing different opponents, who are playing us differently."

They are forcing the Eagles and Foles to beat them with precise throws under pressure - pressure that sometimes materializes and sometimes does not. His coaches are not always happy with his play, but neither are they on the verge of abandoning him.

"We're 4-1, and he's been our starter throughout. That's our overriding judgment," Shurmur said. "We don't judge him so much as we coach him to get better."

Foles is fine with that: "I'm progressing. I'm continuing to learn. I might not go out there and have the stats that are perfect, but I'm going to keep on working to be the quarterback I know these [coaches] want me to be."

And, it seems, the quarterback everyone else expects him to be.

Given who he is, and what we've seen, those expectations should be tempered by realism and with patience.

It makes for a more comfortable ride.

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch