Is Foles a franchise QB? It might not be necessary

Posted: November 20, 2013

MY PROBLEM here is Craig Morton.

I'm trying to assess what's real about Nick Foles' stunning 3-week run to the top of the NFL passing stats, what this means for the long term. A lot of people now seem convinced that the Eagles will look no further for Chip Kelly's franchise quarterback, that Foles has settled the debate.

That would be fine with me. I like Nick. But maybe you saw that stat Sunday, about how Foles' 3-week passer rating of 152.8 is the second-best such stretch in the NFL since 1960. The best? Craig Morton, in 1969.

Morton was the Dallas QB who bridged the Don Meredith and Roger Staubach eras. Later, he started for the Giants and the Broncos, where he was the guy who wore No. 7 just before John Elway. Had a long career, started in the Super Bowl, twice. Threw 183 touchdown passes, 187 interceptions. Franchise QB? Not really.

So I tried to ask Kelly yesterday how much of what we're seeing from Foles right now is extraordinary quarterbacking, and how much is Kelly's offense. Not surprising, he didn't want to grab the credit, said "it's always about the individual." He lauded Foles' work ethic, his accuracy, his decision-making.

Kelly said his two most important criteria for QBs are winning and interceptions. Foles is 4-1 this season as a starter and he's thrown no interceptions, in 162 passes.

Later in his day-after media session, Kelly went through the whole thing again about how he has to adapt his offense to different-style QBs, how in Denver, John Fox didn't try to run the same plays with Peyton Manning that he ran with Tim Tebow.

We're pretty clear on that now. Kelly can run his offense effectively with Foles. The question is, does he really want to? Does he walk off the field after games like this last one and think that if he had "my quarterback," the offense would have been even better, and there would have been no need for a late Brandon Boykin interception to seal the deal?

We probably won't know that until the draft arrives, unless Foles wins the Super Bowl. Kelly won't even confirm that Foles is No. 1 now; he joked yesterday about naming Foles the starter for the bye week, and said if Michael Vick comes back from the bye healthy, as expected, Kelly plans to sit his QBs down for a talk, like the one he held in training camp before he anointed Vick.

I still think the Eagles and Kelly ultimately want a 100 percent, bona fide franchise QB more than anything, and I still think Foles has a ways to go to prove he is that guy.

But it's hard to know for sure you've drafted one of those. We saw a cautionary tale Sunday. Know who the struggling Redskins will take with their first-round pick next spring? Nobody, because they traded it to the Rams as part of the package to move up from sixth to second to draft RG3 in 2012. I still think Griffin III is the real thing, but his mechanics, particularly his release point, were all over the place against the Eagles. Foles was much the more accurate of the two.

* The hit that caused Nick Foles to keep flexing his throwing arm for a while seemed to happen with 7:41 left in the first half. Foles was crushed by Brian Orakpo as he released a pass to James Casey. The completion didn’t even count, as Jason Kelce was detected holding. Oh, and it was right around then that Fox unveiled its graphic on the Eagles’ home losing streak, titled “Losing at the Link.” Fail.

* Interested to see what the deal really is with LeSean McCo’'s hamstring when the team comes back from the bye. Good for McCoy, returning for the second half of Sunday’s game, but the pain he described afterward sounded like more than a cramp.

* Former Eagle Darryl Tapp “swam” past Jason Peters and dropped LeSean McCoy for a 6-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Next snap, Tapp met McCoy in the hole, but McCoy spun away for a 10-yard gain.

* Looked as if Vinny Curry was the Eagle who wasn’t on the field when the Birds had to call timeout just before the Redskins’ second two-point conversion. At least, after the timeout, Curry was the guy who eventually joined the original 10.

* Didn’t realize until I rewatched the game that Santana Moss had no catches before Washington’s final drive. He made two huge ones then, on a double move against Cary Williams and then the third-and-25 conversion over the middle vs. Roc Carmichael. It was also Moss whom Brandon Boykin grabbed, the penalty that was incorrectly attributed to Najee Goode, as Fletcher Cox hauled down Robert Griffin III well short of the first-down marker on third-and-10 from the Washington 45 with a little more than a minute left.

That the way to attack the Eagles’ defense was to throw a lot, especially with Bradley Fletcher and Mychal Kendricks out?

Just about everybody, of course, except the Redskins’ coaching staff, which spent the first three quarters running Alfred Morris into the line, as the deficit mounted. The ’Skins had extra time to prepare, hadn’t played since losing to the Vikings on Nov. 7. Not too sure they made good use of their time.

Eagles opponents have taken a league-high 85 penalties playing against the Birds, accounting for 712 yards, the second-highest such figure in the NFL.

Connor Barwin batted down a Robert Griffin III pass Sunday, Barwin’s sixth blocked pass of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Eagles coaches have him with nine. Regardless, the sight of Barwin with his arms extended, in the passer’s face, is becoming commonplace.

“I don’t know why more guys don’t do it; when I get to the quarterback, I just put my hands up,” Barwin said.

He referenced his basketball background, which included playing forward in college for Cincinnati.

“It was stressed in Houston, where I came from. Wade Phillips always taught us to rush and see the quarterback,” the 6-4 Barwin said. “I see the release point, I get my hands up, I have pretty lengthy arms.”

Email: bowenl@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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