Nick Foles

Next 3 Eagles opponents should ease Nick Foles' transition

Next 3 Eagles opponents should ease Nick Foles' transition

Nick Foles has stepped into a pretty good situation. The team he is now the starting quarterback for owns the best record in its conference and is tied for the best record in the NFL. The Eagles have already clinched their division and could have a bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up by Sunday night. His offense is scoring the most points per game in the league. The Eagles rank second in rushing and 11th in passing. His defense is allowing the fifth fewest points per contest.

Beyond that, the first opponent he’ll face is the cover-your-eyes-bad, 2-11 New York Giants. Following that are the disappointing, 6-7 Raiders and the 7-6 Cowboys, who could very well be eliminated from the playoff race by the season finale on Dec. 31. Dig a little deeper into the teams that Foles will face and you’ll find three clubs that could aid greatly in Foles' getting some serious confidence under his belt before a postseason run.    

Giants (2-11)
New York is a four-alarm dumpster fire. The Giants have already canned their head coach and general manager. They’re 0-4 in the NFC East and 0-9 in the NFC. You may have heard, Eli Manning was benched, then he wasn’t. Defensively, they are dead last in the league in yards per game, second to last in rushing and passing yards, and 27th in points allowed. This team doesn’t just have tee-times made, they’re on the 17th hole. Yes, the Eagles needed a Jake Elliott 61-yard field goal to beat them at home in Week 3 but that was forever ago for both teams. This is an ideal launching spot for Nicky Six 2.0.

Raiders (6-7)
Oakland went 12-4 and made the postseason last year. This year’s version has been a major disappointment. The Raiders rank 20th or below defensively in points allowed, total defense and passing yards per game. The only reason they still presently cling to any playoff hope is that the Chiefs have won just two of their last eight games and the Chargers started the season 0-4 only to dig out and sit at 7-6. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio called out his club for its lack of urgency in a loss to K.C. on Sunday. Oakland trailed 26-0 in a game with everything on the line. The silver and black are on the mat and don’t appear really interested in getting up. Yet another great spot for Foles and the Eagles to tune up for the playoff run.

Cowboys (7-6)
There are four teams ahead of the Cowboys for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. They need some divine intervention type of miracles to get back to the playoffs this year. Ezekiel Elliott has one more game to serve from his suspension so he would be back for the Eagles … if it matters. The heavy odds are it won’t. The more realistic question is, how will Doug Pederson and the Eagles approach this one if the Birds have everything sewed up and a bye the next week? Will he sit Foles and the bulk of the starters? Will he take a preseason game No. 3 approach and give him a half? A cameo for a series perhaps? Andy Reid would sit his guys in these spots in years past but Pederson may want to get Foles some additional work since he became the starter so late in the season.

Any way you slice the three games, they give Foles an opportunity to get reacclimated to being an NFL starter and getting some game-time chemistry down with the ones against some not-so-great teams. 

Eagles OC Frank Reich very familiar with situation facing Nick Foles

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Eagles OC Frank Reich very familiar with situation facing Nick Foles

As of Tuesday afternoon, Frank Reich hadn't yet shared any stories with Nick Foles about the 1992 NFL season, but maybe he will in the coming days. 

After all, if there's anyone who might have some idea of what Foles is going through, it's Reich. 

And this week, as Foles is getting set to take over for Carson Wentz, the Eagles' offensive coordinator can't help but think of his own experience as a backup quarterback, coming in for a transcendent talent and leading his team into the playoffs. 

"Absolutely. I can't not think of that," Reich said. "And (Jeff) Hostetler, when he stepped in and led the Giants to the Super Bowl right around that same time period, I was on the other side of that one. So Kurt Warner when he stepped in for Trent (Green), so on and so forth. There's other examples around, not just my example and Nick knows that. He's a smart guy."

Things worked out pretty well for Reich that year.  

Back in 1992, Reich was in his seventh NFL season and was cemented behind Jim Kelly as the Bills' backup quarterback. But after Kelly started all 16 games for the Bills, he hurt his knee in the season finale against the Oilers. 

The Bills needed Reich to start the next two games and he led them to wins in both, including the biggest comeback in NFL history. Against those same Oilers in the wild-card game, Reich orchestrated a comeback after the Bills were down 35-3. The next week, he led the Bills to a win over the Steelers before Kelly returned for the AFC Championship Game. Eventually, Kelly came out of the Super Bowl and Reich took over, but he couldn't pull off another comeback. 

Anyway … one thing still stands out about that season: People thought there was no way Reich could replace Kelly and things could keep on rolling. 

"I remember when in that year, everybody thought, well, hey, Jim Kelly, no-huddle offense and it was like, now the offense is going to have to change because the franchise quarterback was out and this backup was coming in who didn't have the same skill set," Reich said. "I remember as the backup going in and talking to our coaches and saying, ‘Don't change anything. This is the offense that I know. This is the offense that I want to run. This is the offense that our players are used to. Let's just keep this thing rolling. We'll get it done. We've got the guys in this room to get it done.’ This is our DNA. This is what we've built this upon, so let's just go in there and play ball. So that's what I expect from Nick."

Reich brought up that example to show the reasoning behind the Eagles' saying they're not going to change their offense just because they lost Wentz. The team is confident in Foles, even though they know he's not Carson Wentz. 

Back in 1992, Reich wasn't Jim Kelly either. 

A big difference between Reich in early 1993 and Foles right now is experience. Reich had started just six NFL games before starting in those playoffs. Foles has 36 career starts already under his belt and one start in the 2013 playoffs. 

At some point this week, Reich might tell Foles a story about the 1992 playoffs. It could be valuable. 

"But what Nick is going to draw on is his own experience," Reich said. "The guy went to the Pro Bowl. I mean, we have a backup quarterback who was the MVP of the Pro Bowl. Just credit Howie (Roseman) for having the foresight to get someone like Nick here for something like this."

Even without Carson Wentz, Eagles have enough to reach Super Bowl

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Even without Carson Wentz, Eagles have enough to reach Super Bowl

It's been a couple days now since Carson Wentz got hurt, and it's taken a couple days to kind of sort out exactly where I feel the Eagles are right now.

I asked myself two questions:

1) Could Carson Wentz have won a Super Bowl? The answer was an unequivocal yes.

2) Can Nick Foles win a Super Bowl? The answer I honestly came up with was no.

Then I added another question:

3) Can the Eagles win a Super Bowl with Nick Foles at quarterback?

This is a different question and a more relevant question, and you know what? I think the answer might be yes.

I think back to a conversation I had with John Harbaugh in the parking lot at the NovaCare Complex the morning after Donovan McNabb broke his ankle against the Cardinals in 2002. McNabb had thrown four touchdowns and led a 38-14 win at the Vet hobbling around on what was believed to be a sprained ankle but turned out to sideline McNabb for six weeks.

The Eagles were 7-3 but were faced with a stretch run with Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley as the quarterbacks.

Harbaugh was as passionate then as an unknown special teams coach as he is now as a Super Bowl-winning head coach, and I can hear his voice clear as day 15 years later.

"You know what? This is not a knock on Donovan because he's a great quarterback. A great quarterback," Harbaugh said Nov. 18, 2002. "But we're going to go 6-0 the rest of the way. Do you know why? Because the strength of this team isn't Donovan McNabb. The strength of this team is the team. It's the team."

I never forgot those words.

And you know what? He was very nearly right. The Eagles won their next five games, the first in San Francisco on a Monday night with Detmer at quarterback and then the next four with the unheralded former fifth-round pick Feeley at the helm. They would have won 'em all if David Akers hadn't missed a 35-yard field goal against the Giants at the Meadowlands with a minute left on the final day of the season.

McNabb came back for the playoffs, and the Eagles wound up losing to the Bucs in the NFC Championship Game.

But Harbaugh's point was spot on, and I think it's just as relevant today as it was back in 2002.

This is a team, and it's a terrific team, and Wentz was a huge part of it. He had a magical season. He was dazzling. He may have been at his best Sunday afternoon in L.A. before he got hurt.

But they are 11-2 for a lot of other reasons, and there are 52 other guys in that locker room who have been working incredibly hard since the spring building a team with a tremendous amount of spirit and determination and togetherness, and that's not going to just go away because Wentz got hurt.

Fletcher Cox isn't going to stop being a monster at defensive tackle. Jay Ajayi isn't going to stop trampling people when he gets the football. Jalen Mills isn't going to stop covering wide receivers with confidence and swagger. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson aren't going to stop burying opposing defensive linemen that try to get through the wall on the right side of the offensive line.

If there's one thing we've learned these last few months, it's that this is a true team, with guys who believe in each other and more than anything, believe in their coach.

When you have that — and good players — anything is possible.

So when I consider the question … Can the Eagles win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles … I look at it differently.

First of all, can this football team beat the Giants? Sure. Can they beat the Raiders? Definitely. Can they beat the Cowboys at home (if they even need the game)? Why not?

And then can they win two playoff games at home? Can they beat, say, the Falcons and Vikings with a former Pro Bowl quarterback who's won his last eight starts at the Linc and played pretty well in the playoffs a few years ago when he had the chance?

Yeah. They can.

Then what? Can they beat the Steelers or Patriots in Super Bowl LII?

You know what? If they're good enough to get to Minneapolis, they're good enough to win.

Am I overrating what the Eagles have with Wentz out of the lineup? Who knows. Maybe. 

But being around this team every day since the summer, I know one thing: It's a mistake to doubt them. It's a mistake to say they can't accomplish something.

They can do this.