Eagles' Nick Foles now grounded after short-lived time at dizzying heights | Les Bowen
Quarterback will always be remembered for 27 TDs, two picks in 2013, but knows he must be steady and consistent
TWENTY-SEVEN and two.
Those numbers will follow Nick Foles wherever he goes, forever.
Sometimes in sports, greatness swirls in and picks up a player. It flings him into the clouds for a while, then drops him in some faraway cornfield, unable to explain how he got there or why he can no longer fly.
The NBA in 2012 had Jeremy Lin and Linsanity. Baseball had Joe Charboneau, American League rookie of the year in 1980 and out of the majors a couple of years later. Hockey, Bobby Carpenter, whose 53 goals in 1984-85 stand out in a workmanlike 19-year career in which he otherwise averaged 14.85 a season. Their career arcs were not identical, but each man was marked by a sudden burst of blazing, searing stardom he could not sustain.
In 2013, Foles' second NFL season, he was backing up Eagles quarterback Michael Vick when Vick suffered a hamstring injury on Oct. 6 at the Giants. Foles took over and went 8-2 in 10 starts. Twenty-seven touchdown passes. Two interceptions. A playoff berth, something the franchise hasn't seen since. The cover of Sports Illustrated, Foles pictured amid the feathery snowflakes, that enchanted December afternoon at the Linc against the Lions. Seven touchdown passes with no interceptions in a game at Oakland, actually a little more than three unbelievable quarters, something that only Foles, Peyton Manning and Y.A. Tittle have in NFL history.
Which of those names is not like the others?
"When I look back at that, I don't think of the actual stat, as most people do, because I was actually involved in it. I think about the team, what we accomplished that year," Foles said this week, after the first full-team workout of his second Eagles stint. "How it didn't start out great, but how guys sort of stuck together. We sort of turned it on in that Oakland game. It was an amazing game. It's happened very few times in NFL history, won't happen much more, probably, just because it's that crazy of a game. And just, the rest of the year.
"So I never think of the stat, I think of the team and the players, and from that point on, that's something that everyone will think back at. And that's not a bad thing - that was a great feat that our team did.
"That'll always be a really special year, and something that will always be brought up, and I'm not afraid to give my team the credit for that."
In the buildup to the 2014 season, the narrative was that Foles would increase his understanding of coach Chip Kelly's offense, gain more comfort with the players around him, build on the season that ended with his being named offensive MVP of the Pro Bowl.
That didn't happen. The Eagles scratched out wins - they were 7-2 nine games into the season - but Foles left the lineup in the eighth game, sidelined by a cracked collarbone that ended his season. Thirteen touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and three lost fumbles in half a season didn't provide the proof Kelly was looking for that Foles was a franchise QB. Kelly traded him to the Rams for Sam Bradford in March 2015.
Did those 10 starts in 2013 raise expectations unfairly?
"No, not really," Foles said. "I've always held myself to high standards. Did I live up to it the next year? No. But at the same time, I felt like, as a team, in the first six or eight games, we had four comeback wins. It was a different DNA to that year, but we were figuring out ways to win. I had thrown more interceptions, but at the same time, I was fighting back, fighting through adversity, and I learned a lot."
The call from Kelly informing him of the trade to St. Louis "blindsided me," Foles said.
"I knew I had to go in that next year and really prove who I am and stay durable, but I was excited about that opportunity. I was excited about another year in the system. I think just the whole situation at that moment was unexpected, but at the same time, that's part of the business of the game and you can't account for it. You just have to adapt to it. "
The Rams made Foles their starter and signed him to a two-year, $24.5 million contract extension, but Foles fell even harder than he had in 2014, seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 11 starts. Twice, he was benched in favor of Case Keenum. The Rams then used the first overall pick last year to draft QB Jared Goff. Foles was granted his release and spent 2016 as a backup in Kansas City for Andy Reid, who had drafted him when Reid coached the Eagles.
The Foles narrative now seems set. Decent arm, bad feet. Doesn't get through progressions quickly. Can win you a game here and there, but not a title. Give him DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, an excellent offensive line and an offense nobody has seen before, he can look pretty good. But not a guy you build a team around.
If this bothers Foles, he sure doesn't show it. If anything, he seems more at ease with himself than when he was the focal point.
"I learned a lot going to St. Louis, to K.C. and back here. It'll be valuable throughout the rest of my life, on and off the field," Foles said. "It's a good story. It's been crazy, but it's really special every time I get to walk back in this facility, realizing that there's not many players that get an opportunity to go back to a place (where) they loved playing."
He said he hasn't given up on being a starter, but for a while, he'll be happy taking over for Chase Daniel as the veteran voice advising up-and-coming star Carson Wentz.
"I'm 28 now . . . I know what it's like. I wasn't the No. 2 (overall) pick, but I was the quarterback here. So I know what it's like to walk through the city and be recognized wherever you go," Foles said. "At that age, it's so much going on. You really have to take some deep breaths. Through the years, I've learned how to handle it, just go out and be myself. (Wentz) does a really good job with that, and I'm excited to help him with it . . . He's doing a great job at his age, handling this platform of being the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.
"He's a really intelligent player. He's obviously a big quarterback, strong arm, can move his feet real well, can do things on the run. He's an awesome teammate. It's been fun being here, getting to know him as a person. He's an even better person than he is a player."
Foles is married now and is set to become the father of a daughter next month. He already has made more money than he'll ever be able to spend. He seems willing to take his life as it comes now, unconcerned with the legacy of 27 and two.
"I know I have the ability to start and I have the ability to play. That time will be determined," Foles said. "Right now, I'm excited about being here. I'm excited about working with Carson and Matt (McGloin, the No. 3 QB). I want to give Carson as much wisdom as I can, and help him."