It’s been five years since the Eagles last reached the playoffs. A week 17 win over Dallas secured the NFC East, with Nick Foles throwing two touchdown passes to make that dream a reality under Chip Kelly. The New Orleans Saints awaited…as did a heartbreaking 26-24 loss. Silence fell on the City. Four long years of culture changes, roster rebuilds, quarterback conundrums and rollercoaster regular seasons later and the Birds pack in the playoffs again. A lot can change in that time…and while the quarterback leading them into the playoffs is the same, he is a very different person.
The Philadelphia Eagles went one way after that tough playoff loss and Nick Foles went the other. An injury in 2014 left the Eagles at a crossroads and again waging war with a backup quarterback. His play prior to that injury seemed different. Without speedy number one wide receivers, it seemed as if it took Foles a while to adjust to the new rhythm of the offense, with turnovers and mistakes becoming more prominent than ever.
Then came the trade. Chip Kelly pulled the trigger on a move that sent Foles to St. Louis in exchange for Sam Bradford and the legacy of Foles began to diminish. All of a sudden, the Arizona product wasn’t throwing multiple touchdowns in every game and seeing his jerseys in the stands. Instead, he threw 10 interceptions during his time with the Rams, making some terrible decisions as he struggled to read defenses and forced the ball into danger zones. Jeff Fisher then benched Foles for Case Keenum. A move that would see the journey of Foles as a starter in this league come to an end.
Foles handed in a request to depart from the Rams and the quarterback himself thought that might be the end of the road. He spoke exclusively to You Version about his experience, emotions and something that very nearly ended his career.
“A lot of people don’t know this — I’m going to share this right now, because I think it’s important. After my time with a certain NFL team, I wanted to retire,” Foles said. “This was a year ago. I wanted to retire from the NFL, and I really struggled. I couldn’t pick up a football for about eight months. I had no love for the game, and it was tough.”
Through connecting with God, Foles decided to return to Football and reunite with the Man who rallied to get him to Philadelphia to begin with, Doug Pederson. Back in 2012, Pederson was the Eagles QB coach and made a heavy push for the Birds to draft Foles. It was only fitting that the two would reunite in Kansas City and again in Philadelphia.
“I kept reading scripture, I kept praying, I kept asking God — and so many of us ask God for signs, we ask God, ‘Hey, please just put it on the wall, like, I want to know,’ but that’s not how it works,” Foles said. “He’s not always going to do that. He was shaping me. He was bringing me down to my knees … At that moment, through that prayer, He said, ‘Hey, just take a step of faith. You’re either going to stop playing the game of football and you’re going to go onto a different area of your life and I’m going to be with you, I’m going to be the most important thing in your life, or you’re going to step back into football and you’re going to continue to play and I’m going to be with you every step of the way and you’re going to play to glorify me.”
Foles turned down other offers. He didn’t care about the extra money, he wanted to come home. The now-six year veteran decided to aid the development of Carson Wentz and join a winning culture and that decision to return to Football has given him a chance to finish what he started.
Missing Training Camp hurts. Missing OTA’s hurts. Missing preseason hurts. But for a quarterback, backup or not, it can be incredibly detrimental. With a lack of chemistry and rapport with his receivers, Foles has been dropped into the deep end after missing the entire offseason due to elbow soreness and the birth of his child. Rocky at best, the quarterback again finds himself with his back to the wall.
Foles returns to the playoffs with the most unique of opportunities. A chance to pick up a team that has more talent and potential than any he has previously been on, right on the verge of a playoff run. The team host Atlanta tomorrow afternoon in the NFL Divisional round and while many are downplaying the talent of Foles, his confidence has not left him.
“I think there’s two reason why his confidence wasn’t wavered.” Offensive coordinator Frank Reich explained. “First because of the length and breadth of his career. There’s enough substance behind his career that merits having confidence and knowing — I’ve seen the best quarterbacks in the world, the best quarterbacks in the world have a bad game or two in a row. I mean, the best. It happens.
So all the reason to have confidence. But I think secondly, and equally as important, is the confidence that he has in the other guys surrounding him, mainly the guys up front, his receivers, the defense that is on the other side of the ball, special teams. This is a team. Coach [Pederson] said at the beginning of the year, we were going to set out to do something special and that’s what we believe. That’s what we believe we’re in the process of doing.”
Nick Foles is not the same quarterback he was five years ago…or four years ago…or three years ago. A quarterback who has rekindled his love for the game and the culture that was nurtured inside of him by his current Head Coach, Doug Pederson, this is a rare opportunity that could only be described as a blessing for Nick Foles. A second chance. A shot at redemption. Perhaps the timing was wrong, perhaps it was all leading to this moment.
“My message to Nick is: Listen, we have a great opportunity.” Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson told the media on Monday. “Let’s go be Nick. Let’s go play. Let’s go execute the offense.
[My message] to the team is the same thing: We [have] a great opportunity. Back’s against the wall. Let’s come out swinging and see what happens.”
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports