Nick Foles and his second chance with the Eagles | Bob Ford
Nick Foles left as a starter, returned as a backup, and now might be the quarterback in the playoffs.
LOS ANGELES – Nick Foles says he prefers not to look too far back or too far forward, which, given his career, has been a good philosophy for him.
"I've always tried to live in the moment," said Foles, who might be the new starting quarterback of the Eagles at this particular moment, pending further news regarding the left knee of Carson Wentz.
Even for someone who isn't all that reflective, however, it had to be ironic that Foles found himself on the field dueling against Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff, who was the reason Foles requested his release from the Rams organization following the 2016 draft.
That this strange turn of events was made necessary by an injury to Wentz, whom the Rams passed over in that draft to take Goff, added to the six degrees of Nick Foles that swirled across the floor of the ancient Coliseum and ended with Foles leading the team to a comeback win that clinched the NFC East championship.
"I'm absolutely ready," Foles said. "That's why I'm here."
The fact, of course, is that he's here because NFL teams need backup quarterbacks and he was not only available but reasonably priced, and had a relationship with Doug Pederson from his first term with the Eagles. Foles, drafted by Andy Reid in the third round of the 2012 draft, started 24 regular- season games for the Eagles and was the starter the last time the team went to the postseason, a brief stay at the close of Chip Kelly's first season, in 2013. If the indications from Sunday evening are correct, Nick Foles will be the starter the next time the Eagles take the field in the playoffs, too.
"We're trying to do big things," offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. "If Carson's in, great. If not, we have confidence in Nick. He's a pretty good quarterback. People forget about the year he had a couple years ago. Our confidence is that he's going to do fine."
It was more than a couple of years ago, but the 2013 season is worth remembering for Foles. The Eagles won eight of his 10 starts and that was the year he finished with a gaudy ratio of 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. In all, the Eagles won 16 regular-season game in which Foles played. On Sunday, he finished off a win for the Eagles for the first time since Oct. 12, 2014, when they shut out the Giants to improve to 5-1. A week later, the team loss at Arizona and a week after that Foles broke his collarbone in Houston, and that was his final start for the Eagles – at least until next Sunday against, naturally, the Giants.
Mark Sanchez finished that season at quarterback and they missed the postseason, losing four of their last seven. In the offseason, Kelly traded Foles to the Rams (then in St. Louis) for oft-injured Sam Bradford and Foles had a mostly disappointing season there before being supplanted by Case Keenum. And when the Rams drafted Goff the following spring, Foles requested his release and it was granted. He spent last season as the backup for Alex Smith in Kansas City before coming full circle with the Eagles and what was expected to be another season of watching football in a baseball cap. But things happen.
"There's no hard feelings. It's crazy [this] was with the Rams, but I'm just happy to celebrate with the Philadelphia Eagles and being NFC East champs," Foles said. "We've all worked so hard this season. I'm going to be me. I don't have to change."
Foles completed six of his 10 pass attempts against the Rams and managed pretty well the two last drives that produced field goals and put the Eagles back in front, 37-35, with less than four minutes to play. He got sacked once, scrambled for 9 yards once, and sort of look like he always did, like a quarterback who was taken in the third round for a reason, both positively and negatively.
His biggest play came on the Eagles final drive, however, when they were trying to milk the clock and didn't need to score. The Rams had the two-minute warning and three timeouts when the drive began, and they were down to a final timeout when the Eagles went to the line with a third-and-8 at their own 23 yard line and 1 minute, 45 seconds to play. It would have been easy for Pederson to call a run, make the Rams burn their final timeout, and punt to put the defense on the field. An interception or a strip sack would have been disastrous, but Pederson sent in a pass play to secure the first down and that's just what Foles did, putting a dart on Nelson Agholor's right shoulder as he broke away from the slot defender. That was the game.
"I want the ball in my hands, throwing the ball, making decisions. Coach showed a lot of confidence, but I have a long history with him. He knows I can go out and play," Foles said.
It was a weird scene after the game. The players wore their division championship commemorative hats, but it's not likely any of them will cherish the overall memory of the day. For Foles, who has been to the Rams and back, if not hell and back, in the NFL, it was a day to live in the moment, win a game, and wait for whatever comes next. If he's the starter again, the job is just a rental and he knows how quickly those leases can expire.