Blindsided by a trade to St. Louis, the former Eagles quarterback is already embracing his new team, his new coach and a new offensive system. Does he have what it takes to be a franchise QB without Chip Kelly’s innovation?
With one phone call last week, Nick Foles’s job title changed from Eagles quarterback to Rams quarterback. The trade that sent Foles to St. Louis for Sam Bradford (plus an exchange of draft picks) was part of a series of bold moves in Philadelphia and throughout the league that gave the NFL its own brand of March Madness. The transaction has been officially processed, but Foles is just beginning to process a new city, a new team and a new offense.
VRENTAS: When did you have an inkling that you wouldn’t be in Philadelphia next season?
FOLES: The second I got a phone call, and Chip Kelly told me I was traded. That was the first time.
VRENTAS: What was the 24-hour period like when you found out you were headed to St Louis?
FOLES: Shortly after I hung up that phone call, coach [Jeff] Fisher called me and had [Rams GM] Les [Snead] on the line, and [offensive coordinator Frank] Cignetti, and we all talked. They said they were excited to have me. The biggest thing you deal with in that time period is a lot of emotions. On one end, you’re cutting ties with the team you have been a part of since you were a rookie—and that’s all you knew, and your plan was to be back there. On the other end, there’s a great opportunity with a new team that wants you, a team that really wanted to get you. You deal with those emotions in the first 24 hours.
VRENTAS: Entering the offseason, did you think a trade was even a possibility?
FOLES: Anything is possible in the NFL, but in my mind, I wasn’t even thinking about it. In my mind, I was going to be in Philadelphia, and be the quarterback, and be leading the guys I have been leading for several years, because that’s how I think.
VRENTAS: Why do you believe you can be the Rams’ franchise QB?
FOLES: Because I believe in myself. And not only that, I know how to play this game. I’m not going to sit here and say, statistically or whatever, but I know I can be that quarterback. But it comes with the [expectation of], I’ve got to show it. I need to show it; I need to go out on the field, and we need to win games. That starts with training in the offseason, doing the right things, and developing those relationships. It’s not just something that happens. It happens over time, and you build it, and I want to be a part of that.
VRENTAS: What was the second half of last season like for you, after breaking your collarbone and having to watch from the sideline?
FOLES: It was emotional. When I got injured, we were winning some tough football games. We were atop the NFC East, and we were really fighting down to the wire and winning some late ones in the fourth quarter, and then I went down. You really want to be out there with your teammates helping them win, but you take on a different role. My job was, I want to be the best person that I can be, the best leader I can be from this position. That came from supporting Mark Sanchez any way I could, to being at all the meetings and practices, and doing whatever rehab I could. I would get there early in the morning, before everything, and train, and then work out during practice in the periods the offense wasn’t going. I wanted to get back, and I wanted to get healthy. My goal was to be back before the season ended last year, and to be able to play the last couple games of the season. But it didn’t turn out that way.
VRENTAS: Do you feel any pressure to prove that you can have success as a starting quarterback outside of Chip Kelly’s system?
FOLES: I don’t want to say “pressure.” I think it’s going to be different. It’s a different system. I just want to win games here in St. Louis, and that’s going to happen by being the best, smartest quarterback I can be within this system. You can’t have that pressure on you. You can’t think about that. We as players have to believe in ourselves that we can be great. So much of this game is played above the shoulders in the head, and it’s just keeping that mindset. You know who you are, you know how to play this game, and when adversity hits, you’ve got to stick to who you are.
VRENTAS: In 2013 you threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. Before you got hurt last season, you threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Which of those quarterbacks is the real Nick Foles?
FOLES: Both of them. Those are all me. I don’t want to turn the ball over. I want to throw touchdowns, and I want to help our offense move the ball and get the ball in the end zone. Every single rep I have ever taken, that’s always been the guy who I want to be. I am not going to sit here and tell you that 2013 is exactly [who I am as a quarterback]. I’ve grown since both of those years. I’m a better player, a better person, a better athlete. I know everybody is going to analyze [the different stat lines] until the cows come home. But I’m not worried about that. I just want to work here and be successful here.
VRENTAS: The year after your breakout season can sometimes be more challenging, because opponents know more about you and have more film on you. What lessons did you learn during the 2014 season?
FOLES: Just how important it is to stick together through adversity. We faced some adverse situations through the first eight games. There were three, four games when we were down 10 points, and we came back and won. That was just a testament to the culture we had built. Guys believed in each other, and they believed in me as a quarterback to be able to get the ball down the field and score some touchdowns. It’s easy when you are winning games and blowing teams out. It’s when you have to fight through the fourth quarter that you really build that character. I felt like we were growing. Me as a player, I grew a lot through adverse times—throwing interceptions, having to come back on the field and throw it again. You learn a lot through that.
VRENTAS: There was a sudden change in the Rams’ locker room at quarterback. That can be tricky to navigate. How will you build trust?
FOLES: There’s a lot of emotions that go with being the new guy. But I’m at a great franchise with great coaches and great people, just like I had in Philadelphia. I’ve reached out to some guys, and some guys are here at the facility rehabbing from injuries. Other guys have reached out to me as well. It’s something that’s built over time. You’re not going to do it all in one day. You’re not going to send a mass text message to 100 guys, and that’s it. It comes from working out together, training together, pushing together and going through meetings together. I’m just going to be me and show them who I am. I’m just thankful I have an opportunity to be here. Very, very thankful to be a part of it.
VRENTAS: An ESPN report characterized you as “overjoyed” to get out of Philadelphia. Did you have any uncertainty about your future there?
FOLES: I had been told about that quote. To clear that up, a reporter had texted my uncle, and what my uncle had said was, “Nick is really going to miss Philadelphia. He’s really going to miss his friends and family and the fanbase, but he is really excited about the opportunity he has in St. Louis.” That’s exactly what the text message says. Do you see anything in that text message that says I’m overjoyed? That’s not even a part of it. It got misconstrued. I never said that. I loved my time in Philadelphia. I loved the fanbase, the people, and they will tell you the same thing. I really enjoyed my three years there and am thankful for it. But I’m excited to be in St. Louis, and to be a part of this organization.
VRENTAS: It will be a new offense for the Rams as well, with new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. What will the offense look like?
FOLES: Coach Fisher really likes the run game, and we have talented running backs here. As a quarterback, you have to have a great run game because that opens up everything else. I’m sure some of the concepts will be very similar to what I ran with Chip and Andy Reid. I’m excited to learn everything and go out there and execute it.
VRENTAS: You were traded. LeSean McCoy was traded. And the Eagles have made a flurry of other moves. Was it surprising to see so many changes to a team you went to the playoffs with in the 2013 season?
FOLES: Yeah, it surprised me. But at the same time, Chip is trying to do everything he can to make the team the best team it can possibly be. That’s why he is making these decisions. He’s doing what he thinks is best for the Eagles organization. And I guess what he thought was best was releasing a lot of the guys who were there. But I believe all the guys who were released or let go or were traded have all landed on their feet and they’ll continue to have great careers. And hopefully he’s got guys in there who will bond with the guys in the locker room.
VRENTAS: What reason did Chip give you for the trade?
FOLES: Just that it was just best for both parties. It was a decision they had to make, and he thought it was best for the organization, and he was thankful for my time there. It was a tough thing. You play for a head coach for two years, and you have a relationship. But I understand this business, and you don’t hold any grudges. I’m thankful for Chip and the time he allowed me to be there. And moving on, I am thankful for the Rams organization for bringing me here.
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