A little over nine weeks ago, when Peyton Manning had already put an early Christmas bow on the NFL MVP award, Nick Foles was holding a clipboard.
His Philadelphia Eagles were 2-3 and desperately needed a victory to continue treading water in the choppy NFC East. When Michael Vick went down with a hamstring injury, Chip Kelly turned to Foles. He was more necessity than a savior.
However, Nick Foles would lead the Eagles to a 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the shoulders of a 22-for-31 performance that netted 296 yards through the air and four total touchdowns. The following week, the re-energized city of Philadelphia hosted the Dallas Cowboys in a critical divisional matchup.
With Foles’ stellar performance against Tampa Bay, the Eagles were hopeful of maintaining momentum, but when he took a blow to the head and was forced to leave in the middle of the game they were relegated to Matt Barkley–the rookie fourth-rounder out of USC.
The Eagles would go on to lose the game, and when Nick Foles was unable to go in Week Eight, they’d lose again with Barkley at the helm. By the time he returned in Week Nine, the Philadelphia Eagles were 3-5.
At that point, not only was Nick Foles for MVP a pipe dream–a crack-pipe dream, at that–the Eagles were just trying to find a way to keep pace in the bad NFC East. Even with the loss, Philadelphia was only a game behind Dallas for the division.
However, Nick Foles’ return triggered something in the Philadelphia Eagles. By the time he threw his NFL record-tying seventh touchdown pass with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders, the Eagles were back in contention.
And while one game doesn’t make an MVP candidate, what’s transpired over the last five weeks most certainly has. The Eagles are in first place in the NFC East, and Nick Foles is the highest-rated passer in the National Football League.
The MVP award still likely belongs to Peyton Manning, but Nick Foles and a couple other select individuals have done enough to make sure the engraving process doesn’t start just yet.
In maniacal conditions this past weekend, Foles threw his first interception of the season on his 200th pass attempt. It came after 19 touchdown passes and four straight wins as a starter.
Despite the weather, Foles rebounded to put together the judicious sort of stat line abominable weather requires. The Eagles would go on to win 34-20.
Now, nine weeks and change (about 57 cents worth of change, if you’re counting) after being a clipboard hanger who helped call in the signals for Michael Vick, who hoped to mount his own MVP campaign in Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense, Nick Foles is a legitimate NFL MVP candidate.
He’s thrown 20 touchdowns to just one interception. His Philadelphia Eagles are 8-5 on the season. As a starter, Foles is actually 6-1, with that one loss coming in a game that he did not finish.
Those are the numbers that are most often discussed when it comes to quarterbacking, but there are a few other numbers that should catch your eye. Such as… 9.0.
That’s his league-leading yards per pass attempt total, meaning Nick Foles isn’t Alex Smith-ing himself and the Eagles to a winning record, playing “smart” football and letting the defense dictate the tempo of the game. He doesn’t have a defense.
Instead, he’s stretching the field, attacking single-high safety looks provided by a stellar season out of LeSean McCoy and routinely finding DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper for big plays.
Yet, for a quarterback who isn’t afraid to take shots down the field, he still has only one interception in 218 pass attempts. That means 0.5% of his passes have wound up in the enemy’s hands, and if that number were to hold it’d be the second-lowest interception rate of any quarterback in NFL history.
Peyton Manning’s numbers are gaudy. And while Nick Foles’ numbers are impressive in their own right, they probably don’t have the panache to dazzle MVP voters into taking the trophy from the age-defying national icon. Yet the fact that Nick Foles–a dopey-looking kid from Texas who, at times, makes Eeyore look like a spaz–is mounting an MVP case at all is something worth noting.
Nine weeks ago, Nick Foles was just your average backup. Today, at the very least, he’s a footnote in history. And with the Philadelphia Eagles set to win the NFC East and surge into the playoffs riding a Mavericks-sized wave of momentum (you know… because he looks like a surfer) into the playoffs, he’s got the chance to be more.
Much, much more.