The Monday following a team’s elimination from the NFL season, whether it is during the regular season or playoffs, is usually reserved for the type of doom and gloom conversation topics that one would expect from a group of athletes and coaches who just had their dreams dashed. While that was the case for the Philadelphia Eagles in some respect, there were some housekeeping issues that the organization was able to address that immediately shifted the focus toward the 2014 season, and beyond. When Chip Kelly took over the Eagles coaching job around this time last year, one of the major issues in front of him was the selection of his first starting quarterback at the NFL ranks. What a difference a year makes, as Chip Kelly was able to squash the debate of arguably the most important issue facing any NFL team on a yearly basis.
Chip Kelly said that Nick Foles will be his starting quarterback moving forward. #Eagles
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) January 6, 2014
Nick Foles was arguably the team’s offensive MVP, which is staggering considering the performance of running back LeSean McCoy. Conventional wisdom would have made assuming Foles the starter for at least the 2014 a given. That said, Chip Kelly does not necessarily adhere to the conventional wisdom of the NFL and his insistence on competition might indicate that he bring in a viable opposition to Foles for his second season as the Eagles’ head coach. Kelly did note that Foles is not afraid of competition, shown by his performance in the quarterback race entering the 2013 season, but reinforced his desire for Foles to be ‘his guy’.
In a little over 10 starts, Nick Foles turned in one of the best statistical seasons ever by a Philadelphia quarterback. His 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio was by far an NFL record and his 119.2 passer rating was tops in the league and points shy of Aaron Rodgers’ league record. Despite not having his best game in the team’s loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs, he was able to lead two clutch touchdown drives in the second half and walked off the field with a lead before the Saints kicked a last-second field goal.
Foles is as refreshing a figure in Philadelphia sports as one can remember in the 21st century. Rather than patting himself on the back for doing what he did in just his 2nd NFL season, he focused more on where the team came up short and what he has to do to become the franchise quarterback the city deserves.
Entering his third NFL season and first offseason as an unquestioned starting quarterback, Foles has several areas he will need to address. Most notably, his tendency to hold on the ball too long and take sacks at an alarming pace. One of the great things about Foles was that he took care of the ball at a historic rate. However, as he progresses into a legitimate franchise option, he must be willing to put in the work to take a few risks and put more pressure on the defense. An offseason working with his receiving corps should help in develop the type of trust necessary to throw the ball up and have confidence that his guy will come down with it. Foles did everything Kelly could have asked for a backup quarterback in the team’s run to the playoffs. The main thing to watch going forward is if Foles, hopefully with more responsibilities given by Kelly, can take more control of the offense and not have to depend so much on hitting his first reads and bailing out if nothing is available.
The best quarterbacks in the league are able to improvise and create success in the bleakest situations. It would have been unfair to expect that under Foles in his first extended time as a starter. One just has to hope he has the confidence to do so in the future as he continues to infuse his style into Chip Kelly’s offensive philosophies.
Answering the quarterback question this early in the offseason helps the organization across the board. They can address other areas in the early rounds of the draft (though I expect they will still bring in a quarterback in the later rounds), their skill players can work with Foles to develop the sort of unconscious connection that the best offenses have, and they can continue to build around his skill set rather than mixing and matching like they had to do when it was uncertain whether Foles or Vick would start. It would have come as a huge surprise to me if Kelly had not named Foles the starter for 2014. The fact that he did so right away caught me off guard a bit, but I am glad he did and am excited to see what the team does knowing they have the most important position in the organization spoken for.