Posts Tagged ‘Nick Foles’

Below is Skood Sports’ take on the major sports stories of the day for 12/2/2014:

1. Kevin Durant returns to the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight vs. New Orleans

At 5-12, it’s been a tumultuous start to 2014-15 for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The loss of Durant and PG Russell Westbrook for a significant chunk of the season’s first month put them on ice early. But, both superstars are back. Just in time for their visit to Philadelphia to take on the 0-17 Sixers on Friday.

Despite their early woes, OKC is only 4.5 games out of a playoff spot. So, the return of KD tonight should be enough to see this team rise from the ashes and eventually reach the playoffs yet again.

durantOh, and tonight’s game is being played at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. Is there a worse name for a stadium/arena than that? Besides, I thought Chip Kelly was the smoothie king.

2. New College Football Playoff rankings come out tonight

I’m not huge on the new College Football Playoff. Mostly because four teams is just not enough to truly find the best team in the country. When teams like Ohio State can beat up on Tuskegee University while playing only 1 or 2 ranked teams during their entire schedule, how can they truly be considered an elite program?

If I had to make my choices, the top four would be Alabama, Oregon, FSU, and TCU. But, you know two SEC teams will get into the dance, even though one of them (Mississippi State) won’t even be playing for their conference’s championship.

In other CFB news, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze signed a new 4 year contract worth $4.5 million per season. Is there anything more pathetic than the amount that D-1 coaches are being paid these days? Freeze not only got a $1.5 million raise with this extension. But, it also rips up a previously agreed upon contract just after the first year it took affect.

3. Phillies’ Papelbon puts $6.9 million condo up for sale

papelbonerThere’s no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies want to get younger and shed salary. One way of doing that would be to unload their $13 million closer. But, despite his success on the mound, interest in Jonathan Papelbon has remained dim. Whether it’s his antics off the field; or his declining peripherals on the diamond; Ruben Amaro has found it difficult to find a taker for the veteran right hander.

Despite the fact that Papelbon is in the process of selling his home, I would be surprised if Philadelphia unloaded him this offseason. A more apropos tactic would be to hang onto “Pap” until the trade deadline, when desperate contenders would be more willing to take on the remainder of his salary.

4. Can the Flyers’ ship be righted?

Everyone knew that the Philadelphia 76ers were going to be monumentally bad this season. However, there remained a sliver of hope that the city’s hockey team, the Flyers, would be able to lift the fanbase’s morale out of the doldrums of winter blues.

With the team mired in a four game losing skid, that fairy tale appears to be dwindling fast. At 8-12-3, Philadelphia sits in 5th place in the Metro Division. As predicted, they can’t play a lick of defense. Also on the forecast was the continued decline of former star Vincent Lecavalier. Tonight, Philadelphia has decided to bench the defensively (and now offensively) challenged forward against San Jose.

Philadelphia hasn’t won in 8 consecutive road affairs. Meanwhile, San Jose is one of the worst home teams this season at 3-4-2. Something tells me tonight is the night that Philadelphia gets things turned around (at least for a day).

5. When Nick Foles returns, who starts for Philadelphia Eagles?

Mark Sanchez has been astounding since his emergence as starting quarterback of the Eagles following Nick Foles’ broken collarbone. But, has the “Sanchize’s” performance been good enough to warrant continued playing time after Foles is cleared to play?

Doctors have said that Foles could return within 2-4 weeks. Of course, that’s a flaky timeline. Two weeks would put the 3rd year pro in line to start in Washington in week 16. Four would mean he couldn’t be ready to go until the playoffs. Would Chip Kelly feel comfortable throwing Foles to the wolves in a potential make-or-break playoff game, having not played a down since week 9? Or, would the offensive guru stick with the gunslinger who got him there?

In my opinion, it all depends on when Foles is ready to go. If he can come back against Washington, Kelly should consider going back to the former Arizona Wildcat. It would give Nick at least two weeks to prepare (barring a potential bye week) for a playoff run and would eliminate the controversy of someone losing their job to injury. Granted, Foles wasn’t exactly mimicking his masterful 2013 campaign. But, he’s still this team’s starting quarterback and was, up until a month ago, believed to be their best bet for the future.

Of course, if Sanchez plays like he did on Thanksgiving and is able to beat Seattle and Dallas, all bets are off. Having two quarterbacks you’re comfortable with is a good problem to have, and Chip Kelly will do everything in his power to make sure that the right man for the job is under center when the playoffs begin next month.

Weekly NFL Playoff Predictions

(These playoff seeding predictions are based upon projections for all remaining games. Top six teams make the playoffs. Tiebreakers determined by ESPN Playoff Machine)

AFC

1. New England Patriots  – 12-4
2. Denver Broncos – 12-4
3. Indianapolis Colts – 12-4
4. Cincinnati Bengals – 10-5-1
5. Kansas City Chiefs – 10-6
6. Baltimore Ravens – 10-6
7. San Diego Chargers – 9-7
8. Pittsburgh Steelers – 9-7
9. Miami Dolphins – 9-7
10. Buffalo Bills – 9-7
11. Houston Texans – 9-7
12. Cleveland Browns – 8-8

NFC

1. Green Bay Packers – 13-3
2. Philadelphia Eagles – 12-4
3. Arizona Cardinals – 11-5
4. Atlanta Falcons – 7-9
5. Seattle Seahawks – 11-5
6. Detroit Lions – 10-6
7. Dallas Cowboys – 10-6
8. San Francisco 49ers – 10-6

The City of Brotherly Love has never been a very loving environment for Philadelphia Eagles starting signal callers. In fact, it’s often said that the most popular man in the city is the backup quarterback in midnight-green. In 2014, that mantra still holds true, and young QB Nick Foles continues to fight through growing pains and growing animosity from the fanbase and the often convoluted Philadelphia media.

foleskellyRandall Cunningham dealt with it. After all, the 1990 MVP award winner “could never read a defense.” Donovan McNabb, the team’s all time wins leader at the position, was booed from the moment he was drafted and considered a “choker” who couldn’t get the job done at the most crucial of times. Ron Jaworski, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb; the list of gunslingers whose psyches were dented by the vociferous venom of the Philadelphia faithful reaches deep into the franchise’s futile history.

Now, in the midst of the franchise’s most successful season in 10-years, the skeptical nature of Philadelphia’s fans has once against reared it’s ugly head.

Foles, who shattered team records with 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2013, has undoubtedly seen regression in his stats. Anyone who expected similar numbers would be kidding themselves. After all, defenses learn tendencies of young quarterbacks and it’s up to the player to overcome those adjustments. So far, Foles leads the league in turnovers. Yes, some folessnowof them have been worse than others. But, at 25-years old, these are the mistakes Foles should be expected to make. It’s also no mistake that the team keeps winning despite these flaws. “Culture beats scheme any day,” says Foles’ coach Chip Kelly. It’s that same culture that Foles is apart of that will keep his teammates fighting for him, and vice versa. Now, if only we could convince the fans and media to understand that perfection has its price.

Regression from one-season to another is no surprise for a young QB. One of the best of all time, Saints QB Drew Brees, saw similar regression when he was Foles’ age:

Drew Brees 2002: 320-526 (60.8%), 17 TD, 16 INT
Drew Brees 2003: 205-356 (57.6%), 11 TD, 15 INT
Drew Brees 2004: 262-400 (65.5%), 27 TD, 7 INT

Now, I am by no means comparing Foles to Brees. After all, the former’s numbers in his first season as a starter far dwarfs the future hall of fame’rs statistics. But, it goes to further illustrate that those looking for prolonged perfection from their quarterback are looking for something that just doesn’t happen when the signal caller in question is still enduring his first 25 career starts.

Even the statistical benchmark for quarterbacks, Dan Marino, endured regression from his first full season as a starter to the next:

Dan Marino 1984: 362-564 (64.2%), 48 TD, 17 INT
Dan Marino 1985: 336-567 (59.3%), 30 TD, 21 INT
Dan Marino 1986: 378-623 (60.7%), 44 TD, 23 INT

My, oh my, look at all those Marino turnovers. I don’t think too many people were calling the future hall-of-fame QB a bust or a liability at the time. That’s the type of language reserved for Foles on the Philadelphia airwaves. It begs the question of whether or not Philadelphians are as wise as they claim to be when it comes to their football team. After all, there’s no way that a player like Brett Favre went through these same slumps, right?

Brett Favre 1992: 302-471 (64.1%), 18 TD, 13 INT
Brett Favre 1993: 318-522 (60.9%), 19 TD, 24 INT
Brett Favre 1994: 363-582 (62.4%), 33 TD, 14 INT

All three of the quarterbacks previously listed were entering their second years in the NFL when they became full time starters, just like Foles. Don’t like history? What about a more recent example? Here, we have Brees’ replacement in San Diego and current MVP front-runner Philip Rivers:

Philip Rivers 2006: 284-460 (61.7%), 22 TD, 9 INT
Philip Rivers 2007: 277-460 (60.2%), 21 TD, 15 INT
Philip Rivers 2008: 312-478 (65.3%), 34 TD, 11 INT

Like Foles, Rivers got a chance to sit on the bench and learn. When he finally got his chance to start, the former NC State star brees riversled the Chargers to the postseason. After a statistical slump in 2007, he was right back to his old, aerial assaulting ways in his third year as a starter.

Foles and Rivers each led their teams to the playoffs their first season as starters. Meanwhile, the former has the 2014 Eagles atop the NFC at 5-1. It begs the question, “why so serious,” Philadelphia fans? You have the best record in the conference and a young quarterback who is clearly not afraid to make and learn from his mistakes. The only other thing you could ask for is a Lombardi Trophy. With Foles and Kelly at the helm, that wish might finally come true.

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In 1997, Bobby Hoying took The City of Brotherly Love by storm. The second year pro out of Ohio State was a decorated collegiate phenom as a Buckeye in the mid-1990s. In 1996, the Philadelphia Eagles made Hoying their third round pick. Ray Rhodes, still toiling with the stopgap duo of Rodney Peete and Ty Detmer at quarterback, tabbed the 24-year old as the quarterback of the future. A year after he was drafted, Hoying was thrust into the spotlight. During garbage time of a brutal 24-12 Monday Night Football loss to the San Francisco 49ers; the second year pro tossed his first touchdown pass. The six yard strike to future Pro Bowler Chad Lewis was believed, for a short time, to be the dawn of a new era at the quarterback position in Philadelphia.

Over the next four games, Hoying would show glimpses of greatness. With arresting arm strength and profound poise, the youngster would begin his career 2-0-1 in his first three starts, including a remarkable 26-42, 313 yards, 4 touchdown performance in a memorable victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Merrill Reese, the longtime voice of the Eagles, was awestruck by what he was witnessing. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have a quarterback,” raved the bemused broadcaster. At the time, it appeared as though Bobby Hoying would be the quarterback to lead the Eagles into the new millennium.

As we all know, this fairytale remained just that. Hoying, who began his career by throwing seven touchdowns and one interception, would throw just four more in the final four games of the 1997 season. Named the starter to begin 1998, Hoying’s career collapsed. With the offensive line in front of him resembling deli-fresh swiss cheese (except not nearly as appealing), Hoying was sacked 35 times in 8 games. When he wasn’t on his back, Hoying was running for his life. This, coupled with the third-year pro’s penchant for holding onto the ball for too long, contributed to a disastrous 1-6 record that season. Hoying, who finished 1997 as one of the league’s brightest young signal-callers, never threw another touchdown in the NFL. A year later, Donovan McNabb was drafted, Hoying was dealt to Oakland, and the rest was history.

In the words of Doc Brown; let’s “go back to the future!”

A third round pick in 2012, Nick Foles was considered by many to be one of the more promising mid-round sleepers in the draft. A talented player, Foles would find himself stuck in the shadows of collegiate superstars Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden, and Russell Wilson. Still, most analysts viewed him as a solid prospect with the potential to be a bonafide NFL starter. Few would have predicted this miraculous a beginning to the “kid’s” NFL career. The second year pro continues to have his doubters. But, when the numbers are looked into further, it becomes quite clear that Foles is more than just another flash-in-the-pan like Hoying was 15 years ago.

Foles has now played in 14 games in midnight green; which makes him the equivalent to a rookie in the NFL. So, how does he compare to other quarterbacks in their first 14 games? Below is a grouping of stat lines from the first fourteen games in the careers of five quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL. One is Nick Foles, one is a perennial Pro Bowler, and three are superstar former MVP winners.

QB #1: 247-384 (64%), 2645 yards, 17 TD – 10 INT
QB #2: 269-440 (60%), 2783 yards, 13 TD – 15 INT
QB #3: 249-390 (63%), 2748 yards, 17 TD – 8 INT
QB #4: 247-301 (62%), 2955 yards, 22 TD – 5 INT
QB #5: 286-502 (56%), 3179 yards, 24 TD – 25 INT

Go ahead, take a guess at who they are. The answer key, you ask?

QB #1: Tom Brady (2001)
QB #2: Drew Brees (2000-’01)
QB #3: Philip Rivers (2004-’05)
QB #4: Nick Foles (2012-’13)
QB #5: Peyton Manning (1998)

Were your guesses correct? Something tells me that, unless you’re Peter King, they probably weren’t. That’s right, Nick Foles has better numbers through his first 14 career appearances than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning. Of course, this does nothing to guarantee that his success will continue. However, Foles has shown a propensity to learn on the job and is clearly the better option in the short and long term than Michael Vick. Will Nick Foles end up better than Rivers? Maybe not. Will he usurp Brees, Brady, and Manning in the history books? Incredibly doubtful. Will he fizzle out like Hoying did so many years ago? That might, in fact, be the most unlikely scenario.

This Austin, Texas native has succeeded at a young age where others have failed. He is the franchise. He is the future. He is our quarterback. With Foles, the city finally has a hope, a glimmer in their eye, and a belief that one day, this surfer haired gunslinger will finally bring the Lombardi Trophy home to Philadelphia.