On the night of perhaps the most impressive performance of his NFL career, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles found coach Doug Pederson and reminded him about six years ago.
It was then, when Foles was a raw prospect who just finished his college career at Arizona, that Pederson put Foles through a private pre-draft workout. Pederson coached the Eagles quarterbacks at the time and showed more interest in Foles' potential than anyone else in the league.
"I was only worked out by one team, and that was by Coach Pederson," Foles said after the Eagles won the NFC championship game. "To win this game for him and this organization is something very special."
Foles and Pederson were split up after 2012 before reuniting in March. The Eagles made it a priority to bring Foles back to Philadelphia as Carson Wentz's backup in case they encountered the kind of situation they're in now. The Eagles signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million contract with $7 million guaranteed, and absorbed a $7 million salary cap hit by releasing Chase Daniel to make room for Foles, essentially committing $14 million to the backup quarterback spot.
They didn't plan on Foles' leading them to the Super Bowl this year, but the Eagles valued the No. 2 quarterback more than others and believed in Foles more than most. When Foles endured criticism and the Eagles encountered skepticism during the last month, the confidence of the team's brain trust remained.
"We made such a concerted effort to make sure we could get Nick back on the team," owner Jeffrey Lurie said. "Who knew it would come to this? We prioritized more money for the second quarterback position than most any other team in football. We even were willing to eat a lot of the contract we had so we could go out and get Nick. We've always had so much confidence in Nick. His Rams experience, we thought, was an outlier."
The Eagles stayed committed to Foles even when an elbow injury sidelined him for most of training camp and all of the preseason. The Eagles still cut No. 3 quarterback Matt McGloin and didn't carry a third quarterback early this year, confident that Foles would be ready if and when needed.
The relationship with Pederson and the understanding of how Foles would function within the offense were factors that made the quarterback appealing to the Eagles. They also thought that his personality would mesh well with Wentz's, and the two became friends.
Spend enough time around Foles, and you'll hear the value he places on relationships. When he decided against retiring and became a backup quarterback in 2016, part of the draw was playing for Andy Reid. When he was a free agent again in 2017, he wanted to return to Philadelphia. He maintained relationships in the locker room and he trusted Pederson from the loyalty exhibited six years earlier.
"It goes a long way in his confidence and my confidence in him and understanding that dynamic," Pederson said. "Even though we sort of separated and went a couple different ways. But to be able to come back together now and do the things that we've been able to do and he's been able to do is not only a credit to him, but I think just the overall study that we did back in 2012."
As a former backup quarterback himself, Pederson has a unique appreciation for what Foles is doing. He also understood that the way Foles played in late December wasn't representative of the Foles he knew. Never mind that Foles didn't have a full summer with the team. Once the season came, Foles wasn't getting work with the first-team offense. The Eagles' practices late in the season didn't provide enough time for Foles to develop a rapport with the starters.
During the last two weeks, Foles benefited from more intense practices. Pederson said Monday that the big plays and the aggressive style against the Minnesota Vikings were byproducts of the practice time accumulated as the No. 1 quarterback.
Throughout last week, Pederson noticed Foles was calm and confident. Pederson added tjat Foles appeared to be "everything we knew he was."
"Trusting in his ability, trusting in me as the head coach, and putting him in ideal situations and situations to be successful on the field," Pederson said. "Just so happy for him and what he's been through and everything now to finally put not only himself but help this football team get to where we want to go and hopefully finish the year right."
Foles emphasized that "everything is a process." He knew there were doubts from the media and fans during the last two weeks of the season, but he believed that "no one in the locker room doubted me." He thought he just needed the practice reps to find his rhythm.
Sunday was a special game, and it's unrealistic to believe that's close to the standard. If so, he would have been starting somewhere else this season. But in the NovaCare Complex, there has long been confidence in Foles. It started six years ago when Pederson scouted him, and continued when the Eagles showed how much they valued him by the resources they invested in the spring and the patience they maintained in the winter.
"I'm honestly not surprised how terrific he played once he got some time with our players in terms of training," Lurie said. "It was like going through a training camp the last three, four weeks. He hadn't played with the first team the entire year. He's been doing it and there's nobody I'm happier for."