Bears Experience Nick Foles' Reputation for Leadership
Nick Foles showed what he could do coming off the bench against Atlanta.
History suggests Foles can do as well or even better when he becomes the starter after being the backup, and has a week of prepation.
"He's been there, done that," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "That's probably where I think you'll see growth and, again, we can't predict anything that is going to happen on Sunday other than do everything we can to be as prepared as we can be."
Foles seems to have an inate ability to rally players around him.
"I think it's just when you step in the huddle guys can feel your, I guess, energy or your composure or whatever it may be," Foles said. "And the thing is if you step in the huddle just instilling confidence in the guys with how you say the play, what you do on the field, and obviously the throws you make ... you can do those things in the locker room but going on the field of battle in tough situations and being able to overcome them, gaining confidence from your teammates, that's happened throughout my career."
Foles has a 6-2 record in his first start each year, but one loss came against Washington as a rookie and was a 31-6 loss with two interceptions. The other loss was last year with Jacksonville when he was on the field 11 plays and broke his collarbone, leaving it to rookie Gardner Minshew to play in his first NFL game.
Beyond being a neophyte and walking around with a sling on by the second quarter, Foles' teams have gone 6-0 when he starts for the first time in a season. Even in St. Louis with the Rams when he struggled with a bad team, he won his first start 34-31 over Seattle in 2015.
In 2017, of course, he came in to start Week 14 after relieving injured Carson Wentz in Philadelphia for a win over the Rams and defeated the New York Giants 34-29 in his first start. The next year he started the opener because Wentz wasn't quite ready yet and won 18-12 over Atlanta, a playoff team from the previous year.
In 2013 under Chip Kelly, Foles replaced Michael Vick as starter and won his first start over Tampa Bay 31-22.
Foles has an 87.18 passer rating in his first start of each year, with 12 touchdown passes and four interceptions.
Nagy described it as an ability to be level headed and a leader.
"I would say that any calming presence that any player has in those moments definitely helps you out as a coach," Nagy said. "I've always known that Nick has had that. I didn’t know it right away, but I've seen him in another uniform, and I've felt it, and I've talked to other coaches that have told me about it.
"Obviously you see the Super Bowl. And then you talk to him in the offseason and you listen to his experiences that he went through, and little tricks that help him in those types of situations."
Foles won't claim to have some sort of mystical power.
"It's not one player," Foles said. "That's where we get it so wrong is we think it's one player. No, it's a team. It's an organization. We have a great locker room here. We've had a crazy start to the season but I've been around several locker rooms and this is a really special locker room. And I think we forget that.
"We look too much at statistics and wins and losses. You think too big. It's actually really simple. It's the guys that are tightest and believe in each other and don't waver and go out there and do their job because they care about the guy next to them."
Having the ability to work as starter and have input in a game plan more suited to his skills can't hurt this week. Nor can taking reps with the first team.
Last week, it was like a fire drill for him when he came on and threw three touchdown passes in a span of 4:27 of the fourth quarter without taking first-team snaps during the week.
"The big thing is the conversations you get to have with coaches as it pertains to the game plan and going through walk-throughs, going through practice, getting to rep the plays and fine-tune the plays, talking with the guys in between periods, all of that stuff is valuable knowledge," Foles said. "So I think that's stuff you look forward to when you have the opportunity to start in a game is you get that priceless time with the players just to grow and get better."
Foles had such great success last week, in winning a Super Bowl and at other times, it seems remarkable he hasn't stuck with a team for any length of time.
Nagy said it's not too late for him even age 31.
"You see it now, the age of these quarterbacks that are taking such great care of their bodies in the offseason and Nick is one of those guys," Nagy said. "The nutrition that he takes, he trains in the offseason, it allows these guys to play longer.
"I definitely think he is one of those guys that falls into that category."
First start each season
2012 Week 10: Washington 46, Philadelphia 21, Loss, 21-of-46, 204 yards, 2 INTs
2013 Week 6: Philadelphia 31, Tampa Bay 20, Win, 22-of-34 296 yards, 3 TDs
2014 Week 1: Philadelphia 34, Jacksonville 17, Win, 27-of-45, 322 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
2015 Week 1: St. Louis 34, Seattle 31, Win, 18-of-27, 297 yards, 1 TD
2016 Week 9: Kansas City 19, Jacksonville 14, Win, 20-of-33, 187, 1 TD
2017 Week 14: Philadelphia 34, New York Giants 29, Win, 24-of-38, 237 yards, 4 TDs
2018 Week 1: Philadelphia 18, Atlanta 12, Win, 19-of-34, 114 yards, 1 INT
2019 Week 1: Kansas City 40, Jacksonville 26, Loss* 5-of-8, 75 yards, 1 TD
Totals 6 W, 2 L 156-of-265, 1732 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs, Passer Rating 87.18
* Left after 11 plays with injury.