Philadelphia Eagles: Dear Nick (Part Two); Big Red and St. Louis Blues

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

In the second of a four-part letter to Nick Foles, we look back at the paths of the Philadelphia Eagles and Nick traveled following his sudden trade with the Rams.

Dear Nick Foles,

We went our own separate ways. Some would forget you, some would follow you to see how you were doing. But you were now a St. Louis Ram and we had to focus on learning the names and the faces of another “new era” for the Philadelphia Eagles.

As Philadelphians, we are well aware of the way Lil’ Napoleon ran our franchise into the ground, disrespecting fans and the media, refusing to make adjustments as teams foiled and stifled his “unstoppable” offense, obliterating Billy Davis’ swiss cheese defense.

But in case you missed anything, Nick, let me briefly catch you up on the year following your departure.

We were embarrassed as a franchise with multiple blowout losses, big-name players coming up small, and the head-scratching decision to trade you, a young quarterback with terrific upside, for an older, less mobile, injury prone, question mark in Sam Bradford.

Chip Kelly used the excuse that you “didn’t put the ball on open guys in certain situations” and that Bradford was an upgrade in the accuracy department.

"Kelly didn’t directly say Foles’ accuracy was an issue, but he said enough.“Just looking at where we are and what we need to do, we’ve got guys open and we didn’t put the ball on them in certain situations,” Kelly said."

But it’s more likely to have been the first step in a convoluted plan to reunite with his one true love, his borderline obsessive man crush, Marcus Mariota.

A plan in which he demanded complete control of player personnel, stripping future-NFL Executive of the Year Howie Roseman of that duty, belittling Roseman to the oversight of medical and equipment staff.

A plan in which he was willing to give up two first-round picks, a third-round pick, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin and “any quarterback”. Yes, that means Sam Bradford, the very person we traded you away for, was trade bait.

Whether or not Mariota was the valuable treasure Chip sought after in taking the reins, we may never know. But it didn’t happen, and we were left with what we had.

Most of his moves didn’t make sense to be quite frank. If we needed a multi-threat quarterback, Bradford wasn’t the answer. If we needed a running back to create space with moves on the outside, DeMarco Murray’s north-south up the gut running style was the antithesis. If lightning quick receivers were in need, Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor would be a stretch.

We had exactly what we needed in DeSean, LeSean, JMac, and You. But Chip got rid of you, and his overbearing hubris cost him the job, but not before he defaced the franchise and shattered the core.

Meanwhile, you were starting a new life, briefly, in St. Louis. After finally settling down in Philadelphia, you were uprooted. Both literally and figuratively.

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St. Louis was a different town and far from the “live and die by the team” fan base you’d grown so fond of in Philadelphia, especially with the franchise taking its talents to LA (a la LeBron James) the following season. And the Ram locker room culture was far from the Eagles winning mentality. The team wasn’t good, the offense wasn’t good and they simply weren’t accustomed to winning.

Internally, you were dealing with the shock of the entire situation surrounding your trade. When you go from franchise quarterback to a distant memory in one minute, all you could possibly be left with are questions. Doubting your own abilities and facing the realization that your new offense and coach, the third in four seasons, maybe the worst fit yet.

But you were determined to overcome the odds as you always did. You were ready to show your new organization your work ethic, your heart and your commitment to forming a winning atmosphere.

Your first game as a Ram ended with a fourth-quarter comeback against the reigning NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, sending the game into overtime. In the extra period, you led the team down for what would be the game-winning field goal. “Clutch gene”.

You were here and there for the next few weeks. You put up three 100-plus QBR performances, but a tough loss and three picks against the Packers in Green Bay are what stuck out the most. Nonetheless, the team was 4-3, still with a chance to compete on the season.

A tough loss in overtime to Minnesota and a bad game at home against Chicago placed the blame on you. Coach Fisher interrupted a quarterbacks meeting to announce he was “handing over the keys” to Case Keenum, sending you back to the bench. Way to read a room Coach.

Two earth-shattering decisions served to you in what can only be described as a lack of respect, consideration and emotional intelligence by two relatively unsuccessful head coaches within the same calendar year.

Fisher showcased his complete and unspeakable lack of judgment when he left Keenum in the following game after viciously slamming his head against the turf, swaying and stumbling to regain his footing. He was clearly concussed and by default you were given a second chance.

Unfortunately, you struggled mightily in those last two contests, throwing four interceptions, no touchdowns and failing to achieve a QBR over 50.

Your season was over for all intents and purposes upon his return, and so was your time as a Ram. Keenum finished the season with a few wins, and though not overly impressive, was named the starting quarterback for 2016 just one day after season ended.

Fisher said you could “compete for the starting spot”, but it was clear you were no longer in their long-term future. Once again, you were the scapegoat for horrific coaching, poor management and a team’s failure to succeed.

You were assailed with labels of one-dimensional infancy as a passer, with the sole ability to throw the deep ball. You were deemed “oblivious to your surroundings” and unable to beat teams with mental processing. Your dedication to preparation was questioned, you were accused of not studying film and most insulting, your understanding and awareness for the game was disparaged and scoffed at.

Yes, you struggled against the blitz and at times looked shaky. But what were you working with?

Fisher’s old school West Coast offense was a terrible scheme for you. He took away your greatest strength, your awareness. Your ability to read and react.

To boot, both starting guards were injured early and often, and the young former second-overall pick at left tackle wasn’t living up to his draft hype. So there were band-aids placed on either side of your center and your blind side was an open door for defenders.

On top of that, you went from Shady and D-Jack to Kenny Britt and Jared Cook, a tight end despised by all of St. Louis for his inability to block nor catch, as your top offensive weapons. Todd Gurley was young, up and coming, but he wasn’t enough to mask stale play calling and a battered offensive line. So yes, you’re going to struggle when you’re constantly under pressure. For crying out loud, you were sacked 14 times that season. At the very least, the Rams simply weren’t a good fit.

You were traded from the crumbling ruins of Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia into Jeff Fisher’s last-ditch effort to save face. Two duds in a row. One with the burning desire to be seen as a god. One willing to do anything legitimize and extend his free-falling, mediocre career.

When you look at it, the reason Fisher was a “household name” wasn’t stellar schematics, brilliance in coaching or the ability to motivate his players. He rode the dynamic duo of Steve McNair and Eddie George, two should-be future Hall of Famers, in four of his six playoff appearances. The other two: a 10-6 sneak-in season where Vince Young sported a 9-17 touchdown-interception ratio, and his last taste of postseason football on the dual-headed rushing attack of Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

Realistically, Fisher’s false-legacy was formulated off a blanket of security in Tennessee, thanks to four postseason births and five playoff victories in his first seven seasons following the franchise move from Houston. All with McNair and George. Every other season ended after 16 games. 22 years as an NFL head coach, 16 .500 or worse records and ten losing seasons.

The team sold the farm and traded up to select Jared Goff first overall. Clearly, the Rams were headed in a new direction and you weren’t included in that picture. Sure, Fisher claimed you could have a shot at winning back the starting job, but with Keenum penned in as the starter and a number one pick next in line to take the reins, what reason did you have to stay?

Fisher and GM Les Snead displayed character to the likes of Chipper, prematurely naming Keenum the starter, only to be flipped into trade bait as they began fielding offers once Goff was selected. In reality, they couldn’t receive anything of value for you, so they’d trade Keenum instead and hold you in quarterback purgatory as the backup to the face of the franchise. If I were Keenum, I’d be pissed. If I were you, I’d be outraged.

The organization gave you the cold shoulder. By the fans, you were insulted, mistreated and abandoned. Excessively overblown criticism of that proportion would be more than enough to discourage even the strongest individuals. After the team drafted Goff, you began a respectfully quiet and non-attention seeking holdout.

You weren’t looking for cameras and reporters to whine and complain about your situation. You weren’t bashing the organization. Hell, during your holdout, you and your wife selflessly donated $250,000 towards a new Academic Center for student-athletes at your alma mater, the University of Arizona.

You were referred to as “disgruntled”, but you were simply unhappy. Your one request was to be released, set free of the misery, able to select your next destination on your own. Finally, on July 27th, the Rams complied with your request. You took a cut in guaranteed money for your own freedom, but you were finally granted just that.

It’s worth noting that, in footage of your release, despite all of the bad press and defamation of your reputation, Fisher recounted your intangible leadership qualities. He stated that he would always be a fan of “the teammate that you were” and that “if anyone had any questions” he’d “certainly answer them truthfully and tell them what a pleasure you were to be around”.

You were free to choose your next destination. You knew exactly where you wanted to go and you wouldn’t need Fisher as a reference. But you were determining if you wanted to go. You were assessing your life as a whole and contemplating hanging up the cleats for good. Nobody can blame you.

In Philly, all you did was win, and you received no credit. You were dealt a poor hand, sent to a city in St. Louis and an organization in the Rams that was destined for failure. You were exposed to the harsh reality of the league: it’s a business, and anyone is an expendable commodity. And it sucked your love of the game straight from your heart.

You took the following days to let the emotions flow. You went on a fly-fishing trip with your brother-in-law, talked with your wife, your family. You were set in stone on retirement. You were at ease, but your family felt otherwise.

They saw things differently, where the Rams’ environment dictated your outlook on the game you once loved, and that retiring without giving one last shot would leave you eternally wondering “What If?”. After a conversation with your wife and deep prayer, you came to the conclusion that your heart wanted to continue playing.

Instantly, you made a call to an old friend who you were in contact with throughout those weeks of contemplation. Andy Reid, the man who drafted you and gave you a shot in this league when no one else did. Now, when you were at your lowest, he was there to pick you up and give you a second life.

He was the coach who so many former Eagles still loved, and he would push you to be the best you could be, even if he knew you wouldn’t touch the field. You had a good relationship with Alex Smith in the past and you were just ready to get back into football on a team that made you enjoy the game.

In team sports, half of the enjoyment and love of the game comes from the people who surround you. The coaches, the players, the staff and the fans. In St. Louis, none of that was present. That year in Kansas City gave you new life, an opportunity to hone your skills as the backup and, in your two appearances, you looked more comfortable and more confident.

It was a quick year in your career, and you spent most of it as a backup does, not playing. But it was the year you needed, the place you needed to be.

It’s crazy how those two years went, how the tides changed and, in an alternate universe, you may never have left Philadelphia. But everything happens for a reason and after the 2016 season, the stars were aligning for a reunion.

Despite two career starts in his first seven seasons, backup Chase Daniel felt he should be a starter and the Birds were working with him to make that happen. While searching for a trade, they were also thinking about Daniel’s replacement. A veteran with experience to help mentor Carson Wentz. A reliable backup familiar with the city and an understanding of the situation. Someone with the right state of mind to swallow their pride and accept their role in the situation.

The Chiefs didn’t pick up your option, and on March 13, 2017, you came home.

Next. Dear Nick Foles (Part One); First Flight Around. dark

In the next installment of “Dear Nick”,  I recount the remarkable accomplishments of the past two seasons with the Birds; the magical 2018 Super Bowl run and an attempted sequel to repeat the magic.