Special Mutual Respect Shared Between Nick Foles and Frank Reich, Who Will Be AFC South Opponents Sunday

John Shipley

To say Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles and Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich share a special connection would be stating the obvious.

Just two seasons ago, the two helped lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a magical Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots, an epic victory that capped off one of the most memorable postseason runs in recent memory. Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator, while Foles was the backup quarterback who was placed in the starting role for the final stretch of the year after Carson Wentz was injured.

But on Sunday when Foles leads the Jaguars (4-5) against the Colts (5-4), he knows that Reich will be his AFC South enemy. But whenever the final second on the clock ticks and the final whistle blows, the veteran quarterback knows it will be a special moment sharing the field with his former coach.

“I think the big thing is it will be emotional seeing him because of what he means to me,” Foles said Wednesday. “He is one of the greatest people I ever met, so when he went there I was so excited for him. But I am going to go out there and play.”

Reich has famously been credited for helping Foles elevate his play during the 2017 season. As Peter King of NBC Sports wrote in 2017, Reich asked for Eagles’ video staff to put together film of all of Foles’ completions of 15 yards or longer during his Eagles tenure in 2013 and 2014. He wanted to remind Foles of the player he can be. Just a few weeks later, Foles was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

That lone season the two shared in Philadelphia is something that has since become a part of NFL lore. Foles said Wednesday the time the two spent together made a huge difference in his entire life, not just on the field.

“When I step on the field, I am going against a man in Frank Reich who is very similar,” Foles said. “He is a guy who I admire and more than anything is a guy who has impacted my life so much, and he is going to be on the opposing sideline so that is going to be fun.”

The special respect clearly goes both ways, as Reich gushed about Foles the player and Foles the person while on a conference call with Jacksonville media Wednesday.

"If you get me to start talking about Nick as a person this could be a very long phone call because there are few people like him in this world,” Reich said. “I mean, this guy is a unique human being.”

Reich continued, “I mean there's few people that I respect more, just as a person and as a friend you know than Nick. I mean he is -- he's just got unique qualities as a person. That's why he's a great leader -- he's not the bravado, 'pound my chest' leader, but yet he has demonstrated his whole career that his style of leadership -- of serving, of being humble and confident at the same time has served him well, and he's been a great example for all of us.”

Reich said while he was impressed by the “amazing job” Gardner Minshew II did when Foles went down with a clavicle injury in Week 1, he thinks having Foles under center will be a boost to Jacksonville because of his experience at the biggest stage.

While it is clear Reich thinks highly of Foles the leader and the human being, what is it about the Foles the quarterback that impresses him? Reich didn’t mince words when JaguarMaven asked Wednesday — he thinks Foles is one of the best in the business at stretching the field vertically.

"He's elite in throwing the ball down the field as a deep passer. He's at the top,” Reich said.

“Take all the guys that throw a great deep ball -- he's in there in that discussion. He can throw from every arm angle. He has a unique way -- it's the point guard in him -- he was a very good basketball player, point guard.”

Much like the world saw in some of the jaw-dropping passes Foles floated against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, Reich says Foles is a player who can turn unique circumstances into big plays. Whether there is pressure, a strange arm angle or anything else, Reich thinks Foles can get the job done.

“He's really good -- he's in the pocket, he's under pressure, he has to throw side-armed to the back who's out there, the tight end. He can make all those kinds of throws,” Reich said.

“He's got a lot of courage. He'll stand in the pocket, he's not afraid. He can work through his progressions, he's very smart, he does a very good job of keeping things simple in his mind.

He's a really smart guy but, he just has a great way of keeping things simple. The other thing -- it's why he's a great deep ball thrower --, but he trusts his players to make plays. That was my experience with him.”

Foles and Reich will be on opposite sides of the field on Sunday. Unlike in 2017, Reich will be tasked with tearing down Foles, not building him up. And unlike in 2017, Foles will have to find ways to outsmart his former coach, not pick his brain.

Make no mistake about it, the two will forever be intertwined in the NFL history books and in Eagles’ lore. After the game, the two will likely embrace and share that mutual respect. But before then, it will be all business between two AFC South rivals.

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