COMMENTARY | In the last two months, Nick Foles has risen from Michael Vick's backup to the apparent franchise quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's been a major factor in the team's winning six of its last eight games. He's thrown 19 touchdown passes this season and hasn't recorded even one interception. His name comes up in Pro Bowl discussions. His name even comes up in Most Valuable Player discussions.
So the obvious question has to follow: Has Nick Foles become an elite quarterback in the National Football League?
It's a nice thought and Foles has certainly put up some impressive numbers to date. But he's not an elite quarterback at this point, regardless of your definition of elite. And when I say elite, that could mean:
The elite of the elite - The Manning brothers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers. They have all won the big prize and performed consistently well for several years. They exude a special presence on the field and they're all likely to go to the Hall of Fame someday.
The near-elite - Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan. They've become the focal points on their teams and have been outstanding for more than one season. They each have a more to do before they can join the very best.
A tier below the near-elite - Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III. They've shown many flashes of brilliance but have been inconsistent thus far in their brief careers. All three are so gifted they could easily jump the near-elite as well with time.
The should-be elite - Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler. These are quality veterans who for whatever reason haven't been able to deliver in the key moments. When they're good, they're great. When they're not, they take a lot of heat.
Here are five reasons while Foles isn't in this discussion:
Short sample size - Foles did a credible job during a bad 2012 Eagles season. He's flourished in six games this season (he missed a loss to the New York Giants in this 6-2 stretch with a concussion and performed poorly in the other loss to the Dallas Cowboys). Let's see him play in the money games down the stretch and possibly some playoff games, then come back at a high level next season. It's just too soon to attach elite status.
Chip Kelly offense - Most Eagles fans expected to see some version of the Chip Kelly high-velocity attack he made famous at the University of Oregon. It has been widely assumed a mobile, running quarterback like a younger Vick is needed to really make such an offense go. Foles isn't a running quarterback and wouldn't be a likely candidate for that popular read-option approach. But he has done very well in what appears to be a modified version of it. Going forward, will Kelly look to build his attack around Foles' strengths or will he look for a more mobile quarterback?
When he's been bad … - Foles has been solid and in some cases absolutely spectacular, such as his seven-touchdown pass performance against the Oakland Raiders. But it's hard to forget the image of his helplessness against the Cowboys in that Week 7 loss. Also, he threw a brutal interception late in last week's win over the Arizona Cardinals that could easily have turned that game around had it not been nullified by an Arizona penalty.
Too much too soon - Foles became something of a media darling after that great performance against Oakland. But he ranks only 26th overall among NFL passers. He leads in quarterback rating, primarily because he's thrown no picks. No one seems to pay much attention to that statistic, as Brady ranks only 17th. At this point, Foles can't really be looked at as much more than a flavor of the month. If the Eagles win out and make a run in the playoffs, then he'll be worthy of the attention he's received.
Would you trade Foles for … - You don't trade elite quarterbacks. When you look at the aforementioned list of the elite and near-elite, how many would you take in a swap for Foles? Some are getting a bit long in the tooth and others have struggled with injuries, but it would be hard to say no at this point for most of them. That's not a knock on Foles. It's more about the track record of the other guys. He really doesn't have one yet.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.
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