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A case could be made for keeping Nick Foles

It's about time somebody said something nice about Nick Foles, and, from what I can tell, there isn't a long line waiting for the chance. So, since he is the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles until he isn't, here goes:

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

It's about time somebody said something nice about Nick Foles, and, from what I can tell, there isn't a long line waiting for the chance. So, since he is the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles until he isn't, here goes:

You could do worse.

I know, I know. That isn't the faint praise fans look for in a quarterback, and now that the We-Want-Mariota pack is in full roar, anything less than the magical reunion of the Oregon quarterback and his genius coach will seem like a broken consolation prize.

Still, it is just as likely that some other team will want Marcus Mariota, too, and will be in position to want him first. Even if the Eagles do intend to make a serious run at Mariota - and there is little more than idle speculation to indicate that is the case - getting him will probably prove either too difficult or too costly or both.

And where will that leave the Eagles? Well, with Nick Foles.

Once again, you could do worse.

Things might feel different if Foles had played his two seasons under Chip Kelly in reverse order. Let's say he started eight games in 2013, and the team won six of them, but his numbers were just so-so and he missed half the season because of a broken collarbone. Then, in 2014, Foles started 10 games, the team won eight of them, his statistics were off the chart - the highest-rated quarterback in the NFL! - and the Eagles made the playoffs for the first time under Kelly.

If that had been the case, the groundswell to replace Foles wouldn't be quite as widespread. And there's no reason - at least not one pertaining to Foles - why it couldn't have just as easily happened that way.

Back to reality: We know that in 2013, Foles was able to play behind a talented offensive line that took virtually every snap together. Partially because of that, and partially because LeSean McCoy had a season for the ages, the Eagles were able to keep opposing defenses guessing with a balanced attack. Additionally, because of the presence of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defenses also had to respect the deep ball and couldn't clog the lanes near the line of scrimmage.

Foles took advantage and threw for 27 touchdowns, with just two interceptions, and had the third-highest single-season quarterback rating in league history, 119.2. Kelly called for passes on just 52 percent of the offensive plays in which Foles was the quarterback.

What was different a year later? Let's see. The offensive line was in tatters while Foles was the starter. The definition of tatters was probably found in the game at San Francisco when Foles had his worst rating of the season and was playing behind Jason Peters, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Dennis Kelly, and Todd Herremans.

McCoy didn't find the same holes behind that line, and he averaged 3.7 yards per carry in the games before Foles was injured and then 4.6 yards per carry the rest of the year as the offensive line improved. The lack of confidence Kelly had in the running game was never more evident than that day against the 49ers when he called pass plays on third and fourth down from the San Francisco 1-yard line with the outcome in the balance. Both fell incomplete.

Opponents weren't worried about the run. They weren't worried about getting beat on deep passes. They jammed the box to foil Kelly's arsenal of short crossing and slant routes, and they went after Foles.

As a result, his quarterback rating fell to 81.4 and he threw just 13 touchdowns to go with 10 interceptions. He had no one to throw to, and the defenses knew he probably wasn't going to hand off the ball. With Foles at quarterback in 2014, Kelly called for passes 62 percent of the time. In his final start before getting hurt, Foles tied a franchise record with 62 pass attempts against Arizona in a game the Eagles never trailed by more than seven points. (By comparison, in the final, flailing season under Andy Reid, the mad bomber of all-time, the Eagles called for passes on 59 percent of the plays.)

So, what part of all that was the fault of Nick Foles? He certainly made some bad throws and poor decisions, but all quarterbacks are capable of that under duress. What he has showed so far is that he's really good on a solid, balanced team and not as good on a team that has significant holes. Big surprise.

After three seasons in the league, Foles has played in 28 games, with a quarterback rating of 94.2, a completion percentage of 61.6, and has 46 touchdowns to go with 17 interceptions. After Tom Brady's first three seasons in the NFL, he had played in 32 games, with a quarterback rating of 85.8, a completion percentage of 62.6, and had 46 touchdowns to go with 26 interceptions.

Will Foles have a career like Brady? I don't know, but he has so far.

The ultimate irony, of course, would be if he had it somewhere else after the Eagles discarded him in favor of a very good college quarterback who didn't become much more. And, don't kid yourself, it could turn out that way.

Kelly knows what he wants, though, and he might have decided he can do better than Nick Foles. That's fine, but just remember: You can do worse, too.