BY PAUL MANCANO—Next to the NFL draft and Johnny Manziel’s sock color, quarterback controversy is perhaps the consistently hot item in football. It’s enticing, it’s polarizing, and it’s unhealthy. And for the first time since Donovan McNabb left office, Eagles fans thought they’d avoided it. Apparently not.
Through his first four games of the 2014 campaign, Nick Foles has been playing himself back into the realm of controversy. He opened the season with a couple statistically average but visually head-scratching performances against Jacksonville and Indianapolis. On Sunday, he played poorly enough to shake the confidence of even the most devout Folesite. Yet, sandwiched in between these slopfests was a gorgeous gem against a very good Washington secondary—behind a patchwork offensive line, no less. To say he’s been hard to figure would be an understatement.
Granted, the O-line has been abominable. In San Francisco, Foles was playing behind Jason Peters, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Dennis Kelly, and Todd Herrimans—yeah, I know. The injuries up front have led to a flabbergastingly embarrassing run game and quite a number of licks delivered on the signal caller. But on plays in which Foles was not pressured, he was still only 17 for 30 with a 56.7 rating. Add that to the fact that he missed wide-open receivers, had no touch on his long ball, held on to the ball for far too long, failed to see openings in the defense, and fired the ball into traffic, and you’ve got a laundry list of frustraters. Oh, and did I mention he’s got as many turnovers as he does touchdowns? (Just kidding. Of course I knew I didn’t mention it.)
So, what’s his deal?
Perhaps it’s mental. Maybe he feels pressure in his first season as a regular starter. Maybe he feels burdened by a lack of even a hint of a run game. Probably not, but maybe. Whatever it is, though, he has to get over it quickly.
As Joe Buck and his band of merry media men will tell you, this town has very short patience for poorly performing players. During the preseason, there were fans calling for Mark Sanchez. Mark Butt Fumble Sanchez. Three Foles duds in the last four outings is not enough to send Philly into a fury—mostly because of the three notches sitting in the Eagles’ win column—but if you think these fans are going to ride the Foles bandwagon into the ground, you haven’t been here for very long. A couple more games like these, and you’ll hear the alliterative name a certain Oregon quarterback mentioned quite a bit on WIP.
It’s not just the fans, either. Chip Kelly has always stopped short of calling Foles a franchise quarterback. That’s not to say he hasn’t expressed confidence in the kid—on the contrary, the fact that the front office didn’t draft a quarterback is proof that they believe in him (or are just waiting for an aforementioned Oregon QB to place his name in ring). But Chip’s a wild card. He could just be using Foles as a placeholder until his desired franchise starter arrives. (HINT: I’M TALKING ABOUT MARCUS MARIOTA)
There’s no question Foles has the job for now; and he’s certainly earned it. But he simply must be more consistent in the next few weeks if he wants to shut his critics up. I love the guy, for both his play on the field and his humble, “aw, shucks” attitude. So step it up, Nick, so I don’t have to question my love.