You will find few who will deny that Nick Foles' recent playoff success with the Philadelphia Eagles has been anything short of magical. However, some are speculating that the hefty contract, which pays him $88 million over 4 years with $50 million guaranteed, is a little exaggerated. In this article, I’ll break down my opinion on Foles as a player, comparison to Bortles, his contract and what it all means for the Colts.
Foles was drafted 88th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2012 Draft after he played three years at Arizona and one at Michigan State. His first year in the league consisted mostly of backing up Michael Vick. 2013 started much the same until Vick got injured and Foles was thrust into the starting role. He vastly over-performed that season, accumulating a stat line of 64.0%-2,891-27-2, which was (and still is) an NFL record TD to interception ratio. His season ended on a high note as he was the Eagles new unquestioned starter and made his first and only Pro-Bowl appearance.
However, 2014 was much worse as Chip Kelly tried to implement a revolutionary up-tempo offensive scheme. This, along with the release of Foles' number one receiver, DeSean Jackson, created the perfect storm for Foles to struggle. In the 8 games he was healthy, Foles had accumulated a stat line of 59.8-2163-13-10. Mediocre, to say the least.
For the next couple of years, Foles bounced around the league, sometimes heavily considering retirement. He eventually found his way to the Kansas City Chiefs where he linked up with former coach Andy Reid. Following that season, Reid vouched for Foles, who signed a 2-year deal with Reid disciple Doug Pederson.
Eagles Era Foles:
After a devastating injury to MVP hopeful Carson Wentz, Foles found himself back on the field, and playing at a high level.
Thanks to Wentz’s Herculean effort during most of the regular season the Eagles were sitting atop the NFC. Many expected a first round exit, though, as they were underdogs for every single game in the 2017 playoffs.
And rightfully so.
Before the beginning of the playoffs, Foles was playing respectably for a backup, averaging a QB rating of 66.025 in every game he started, which was inflated by a 115.8 QB rating against the lowly Giants. Nonetheless, Pederson and his staff had found a playcalling style that Foles was exceptionally adept with: the RPO. That was very apparent in what will go down as one of the most legendary playoffs runs ever, with Foles averaging an astounding 115.825 QB rating over 4 games. The run ended with some hardware for Eagles players, a Super Bowl MVP for Foles and a Lombardi for the city of brotherly love. In 4 games, Foles had gone from an unknown journeyman backup to a starting quarterback on a Super Bowl team and an award-winning author.
As the next season began, Wentz still wasn’t fully healthy, so Foles got the starting nod. However, the clamoring for Philly’s Savior to supplant Wentz as the long term starter was quickly quieted after Foles averaged just a 74.75 QB rating in the first two games of the season. Wentz came back in for most of the season and played at a decent level (102.2 QB rating).
Then, the inevitable struck.
Wentz suffered a back injury that was significant enough that the Eagles shut him down for the rest of the season as a precaution. Back came the city’s prodigal son. In this case, however, the tables seemed to have turned completely. The Eagles were no longer the sure-fire playoff contender who was fighting for a first-round bye, but instead, a team in the hunt who had 2 out of the 3 games left in the season against playoff teams.
How did Foles respond?
A 103.87 QB rating to go along with 3 wins and a much-needed loss by the Vikings to secure the 6th seed for the Eagles. After a last-second win in Chicago, everyone in the football world, at least for a second, at least considered the idea that God must be an Eagles fan. Every single thing was breaking their way until the Saints broke their hearts the next week (only to experience heartbreak of their own a few weeks later).
Nick Foles, in the span of 11 games, earned himself a Super Bowl ring and a reputation as a player who steps up his game when the lights shine the brightest.
This reputation is what earned him a monster contract which many Jaguars fans applauded as a franchise-saving move. 2 years removed from their AFC Championship loss, the return of Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson, along with awful play from their quarterback, Blake Bortles, had returned the Jags to being the floormat of the division. However, with an elite defense still intact, Foles' signing seemed to be a showing that great times lay ahead.
If we take a closer look at the numbers, though, it seems it’s possible that the Jaguars threw out the old to buy the exact same thing at an elevated price.
*note that a lot of Foles' stats are mathematical predictions since he was a back-up for most of his career, so he never played a complete season. I also took out 2015 for Luck because the math got really ugly with predicted stats.
Nick Foles is clearly safer with the football than Bortles, who is a turnover machine with a TD:INT ratio of 1.37 and a lower QB rating. I have included Andrew Luck in this comparison as well, due to his similar contract. Luck earns around $23.3 million a year (largest contract in NFL history at the time of signing), and Foles is estimated to earn around $22 million a year. Even if the Jaguars hypothetically tap into Foles’ RPO potential and he plays at playoff form for a full season, they are still not getting they money's worth.
Foles also doesn’t have to carry his team in the way Luck has had to in the past. Foles will benefit from his team's premier defense. The Jaguars defense was tied for 3rd in the league in points allowed, with 19.8 per game.
While it should be expected that Foles and Co. should score more that Bortles did, there is a legitimate concern about the lack of offensiveweapons that Foles will have at his disposal. When he succeeded in 2013 he had DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. In 2017 it was Alshon Jeffrey and Zach Ertz. However, in Duval, he seems to have Dede Westbrook and little more. Leonard Fournette is a talented back, but his career average of 3.7 yards per carrying doesn’t live up to his Number 4 overall draft billing.
That leads me to the next concern that the Jaguars should have, which is how the locker room will treat Foles. We’ve seen a rift created between the defense and the offense during the Bortles era, with Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Fournette jokingly calling him names like “Draco Malfoy” and saying he looks like “a substitute teacher”. We all know that there is a possibility that if Foles doesn’t produce, things could turn toxic. The Jaguars lockers locker room is no way comparable to the Eagles in terms of culture and respectability.
Impact on the Colts
Finally, let's discuss how Foles' signing affects the Colts. The direct impact is that the Jaguars are in the same division as the Colts, thus we will have to play them twice a year and any improvement they make is harmful to the Colts.
The more interesting point, though, is that the Jaguars have spent around $130 million dollars on 2 mediocre quarterbacks, making it harder for them to resign the plethora of young studs they have on the defensive side of the ball (Ngakoue, Ramsey, Bouye, Jack, etc.)
Finally, Blake Bortles has actually been quite decent when playing against the Colts. Here are his stats over the last 3 years versus the Colts compared to his average game stats.
It isn’t like Bortles was a check down king, as by my calculations, his average yards per attempt is 8.78. For comparison’s sake, last season's average was 7.43. The sample size is too small to calculate for Foles (his stat line in his one start versus the Colts was 72.7%-223-2-0, this was in 2016), but he probably won’t be as good as Bortles was against the Colts.
Unless they meet in the playoffs.
Overall, I think this is a terrible move for the Jaguars. They could have easily drafted up to get one of the 2 stud QBs in this class or gone for next years loaded one (like the Dolphins). However, they paid the 7th highest annual salary for an average to below-average quarterback who plays well in the playoffs.
Bad move for Jaguars fans, a good move for Colts fans.