A reader emailed our mailbag with a question that piqued my interest too much to answer it in just 80-90 words. It was too relevant to my interests with this NFC East blog, and it's a question that's going to help determine who wins this division in 2014.
Does Nick Foles have staying power, or is he a one-hit wonder?
It's an interesting question, especially given the heated rivalries in this division. I have yet to meet a Cowboys fan who was impressed by Foles' Pro Bowl debut season, and I have yet to talk to an Eagles fan who doesn't think Foles is the future of the franchise.
It's easy to see why the topic inspires debate. Foles didn't even win the starting quarterback job in training camp, instead taking a backseat to Michael Vick – who was phenomenal in his first few starts in Chip Kelly's offense.
When Vick got hurt, as has been known to happen, Foles took off. He went 8-2 as the Eagles' starter, supplanting Vick and leading the team to the playoffs from a 3-5 start to the season. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, largely on the strength of his absurd ratio of 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He only threw for 2,842 yards, but that was in just 11 games with significant snaps.
If you adjust his 11-game average of 258 yards per game to a 16-game season, he'd be on pace for a 4,133-yard effort.
Of course, the debate rears its head again when you remember Foles chalked up one of the worst quarterbacking efforts of 2013 – and against the Cowboys, no less. Harassed by an underwhelming pass rush all day, Foles struggled to an 80-yard performance on a windy day in Philadelphia. He completed just 38 percent of his passes in what was his only start of the season without a touchdown.
So who will we see when the Eagles take the field in 2014? I'm guessing Foles has staying power, and for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, look to the coach. Yes, Chip Kelly is entering only his second year in the NFL, but his history of maximizing the potential of his quarterbacks goes back a long way. At Oregon, he turned Dennis Dixon into a Heisman contender. His trio of quarterbacks in Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota all saw remarkable success under Kelly's tutelage.
Masoli threw for a combined 28 touchdowns and 11 picks in 2009 and 2009. His successor, Darron Thomas, upped that number to 66 touchdowns to 16 picks in 2010 and 2011, completing 61.85 percent of his career passes. Kelly's final Oregon quarterback, Marcus Mariota, threw 32 touchdowns to six interceptions in 2012, completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards along the way.
For the most part, those players aren't all-world talents. Mariota is the only one of the group who has a shot at being drafted as highly as Foles was. But they thrived in the system. Kelly has proven the system can work in the NFL, and the system calls for [embedded_ad]
high-percentage passes and open space.
Aside from that, Foles' accomplishments go beyond a breakout season. With a whopping 27 touchdowns to two interceptions, the third-year quarterback now boasts the best single-season touchdown-to-interception ratio of all time.
That ratio of 13.50 is better than Aaron Rodgers' 2011 effort, which saw him toss 45 touchdowns to six picks and win the NFL MVP. It's also better than Tom Brady's 9.00 ratio in 2010 and his 6.25 ratio in 2007, when he threw 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
Obviously, Foles has not worked his way into the conversation with the likes of Brady, Rodgers, Drew Brees, either of the Manning brothers or Tony Romo. It takes sustained success to pull that off.
The law of averages dictates that Foles will come back down to Earth a bit – he hasn't even started a full season yet. But the signs seem to indicate he's got staying power as a quality quarterback in the league.