When the Eagles walk out onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, they’ll be led by born-again quarterback Nick Foles, who nearly retired in 2015 and might have become a high school pastor before giving the NFL a second chance.
Foles, who is starting for the Eagles in place of the injured Carson Wentz, isn’t the first backup quarterback to start in the Super Bowl. But he may just be the most inconsistent, which will either end in excitement or heartbreak for a city desperate for their team to bring home their first Lombardi Trophy.
Just look at the 2016 season. After stepping in for the injured Wentz in Week 14, he casually tossed four touchdown passes in a 32-39 win over the Giants. But the following week, he threw for just 163 yards and a terrible 59.4 passer rating in a 19-10 win against a soft Oakland Raiders team that was 26th in the league against the pass.
In the final game of the season, a meaningless 6-0 loss to the Cowboys, Wentz was terrible in his limited playing time, completing four of 11 passes in four lackluster drives for only 39 yards, and one interception. His quarterback rating? 9.3.
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Foles said the two poor outings didn’t hurt his confidence, and it certainly appears he was right. Embracing the run-pass option, Foles had a solid (if unsparing) game against the Falcons, where he completed over 76 percent of his passes in a close 15-10 win. But against the Vikings, Foles found a version of himself that wasn’t afraid to throw a deep ball or two down the field. The result? A 38-7 romp behind Foles’ three touchdown passes, leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl since 2005.
This has always been the way of Foles. He famously threw 27 touchdown passes (seven in just one game) and just two interceptions in 2013 during a spectacular first season starting in place of the injured Michael Vick. But in 2014, the Eagles went 6-2 to start the season, but it was largely in spite of Foles, where his three just 13 touchdown passes and posted a 81.4 passer rating before being shut down with a collarbone injury.
In 2015, he went 4-7 as a starter for the Rams, posting a less-than-stellar 69.0 passer rating. and throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7). In 2016, he only made it into two games as a backup quarterback for the Jaguars, and true to form, he played well. He posted a 105.9 passer rating (on just 55 pass attempts).
So yeah, Foles is inconsistent. He’s also not Wentz. For instance, Foles is no where near as good under pressure as Wentz was. Foles’s passer rating under pressure was 23.8, compared to Wentz’s 81.7 passer rating. And when Foles is under center and his team is trailing with four minutes or less to go, his completion rate plummets to 46 percent with a 64.8 passer rating, according to the Washington Post.
So what does that tell us? Well, for starters it means the Patriots probably had to game plan for two different Nick Foles, which could work to the advantage of the Eagles. Plus, if the Eagles defense puts pressure on Brady, Foles won’t have to come close to winning the game on his own. Instead, he could easily Trent Dilfer his way to a Super Bow ring.
On top of that, the Philadelphia Inquirer crunched some numbers and concluded that Foles vs. Brady is the second-worst quarterback matchup in the history of the Super Bowl. The first? Vince Ferragamo vs. Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl XIV.
Let’s not forget that a deal means the Eagles have to deal with whichever Nick Foles shows up to play. Frankly, I’m shocked there’s no prop bet about it. — Rob Tornoe.