Dad: Eagles' Foles 'no flash in the pan'

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nick Foles faces a test Sunday against Arizona's stingy defense.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nick Foles faces a test Sunday against Arizona's stingy defense.
Posted: November 27, 2013

LARRY FOLES, Nick Foles' dad, has ventured to two of the five games his son has started this season for the Eagles. Larry left his home in Austin, Texas, to watch Nick play in Tampa and in Oakland.

Astute readers will note that Nick led the Birds to victory and won NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards both times. So, Eagles fans might want to start a campaign to get Larry to Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday, when the home team is going to face quite a challenge in the stout defense of the 7-4 Arizona Cardinals. Right now, from the Foles clan, only Nick's mom, Melissa, is scheduled to attend. Her last time watching Nick in person was that 17-3 home loss to Dallas that might have buried Nick on the bench forever, if Michael Vick didn't have a 33-year-old left hamstring that he reinjured almost immediately upon reclaiming the starting job.

Melissa Foles might not quite be the karma Eagles Nation is looking for, as its surprising 6-5 team looks to retain a share of the NFC East lead. But Larry Foles is not worried, he said. He does not believe Nick's fortunes will depend on who is or isn't in the stands. (Clearly, this man is not from around here, and has never seen "Silver Linings Playbook.")

"Nick's not a flash in the pan," Larry Foles said yesterday, taking a break from overseeing his restaurant ventures. (Quick synopsis of the Foles family saga from the story we wrote last year: Larry Foles, high-school dropout and one-time Shoney's manager, in 2011 sold two chains that he and a partner owned for $59 million. Then he moved on to newer concepts.)

The rest of us might still be debating whether 24-year-old Nick Foles is the franchise quarterback Chip Kelly will choose to build around in future seasons. Larry has no doubts.

"I think Nick could play for most teams," his father said. "If a team ran a straight option, like in the old [wishbone] days, he wouldn't be good at that, but an offense that asks the quarterback to read and respond, I think he's really good at, because he's smart.

"He's young. He's going to get better and better."

Though Kelly hasn't said so, the universal assumption is that Nick will start his 12th NFL game this weekend, even if Vick, as expected, returns from the Eagles' bye week healthy, when the team resumes practice today. Foles is 4-1 running Kelly's offense, with 103 completions in 162 pass attempts (63.6 percent), 16 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 128.0 passer rating. Over the last three games, he has compiled a 152.8 passer rating, second-best in the NFL for a three-game span since 1960.

Larry Foles said he sees growth in Nick in terms of "his composure, his poise, what he sees when he's out there."

Had a young Eagles quarterback put up those numbers, say, 5 years ago, there wouldn't have been much doubt about him being the guy going forward. But Foles has two things going against him: Kelly did not draft him, probably would prefer to build around a more mobile passer, and, this is a year when offense has gone crazy in the NFL. All over the league, records are being set. Points, touchdowns, touchdown passes and passing yardage all are on paces for all-time highs. The cumulative passer rating is the highest ever, as is completion percentage.

The same weekend Foles dispatched the Redskins, Tampa Bay rookie Mike Glennon completed 20 of 23 passes (87 percent) as the Bucs beat the Falcons. Is Glennon a budding superstar? It's possible, sure, but . . .

Probably the most important thing the Eagles have to determine in their final five games this season is whether Foles truly is their future. Given the NFL's offensive inflation, numbers won't tell the whole story there - though continuing to throw touchdown passes while avoiding interceptions seems a pretty solid way to build a case for oneself, in any era.

So far, the only real blot on his resume is that Dallas game, in which Foles seemed completely out of sync, unable to make simple reads and throws. He finished that day 11-for-29 for 80 yards and a 46.2 rating. Given Foles' limited body of work coming in, that was enough for some observers, who immediately wrote him off.

Larry Foles has a rebuttal.

"Dallas played tremendous defense," he said. "They were on top of everybody. He just couldn't get it going. He missed a few passes; that's going to happen every now and then. It happened to Nick in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska," Foles completing just six of 20 passes for 28 yards in that 2009 game, a 33-0 Arizona loss.

Larry Foles noted that on Sunday, Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft - in which Nick Foles went 88th - lost by 40-11 to those same Cardinals Nick and the Eagles will face this week. "He just couldn't get a rhythm for nothing," Larry Foles said. Luck was 20-for-39 for 163 yards, a touchdown and a pick, compiling a 60.1 passer rating.

"You don't judge a person by one game," Larry said. "I knew [Nick] would bounce back. I didn't know he'd bounce back like he did."

Larry said some of the Eagles fans sitting near him in the stands in Oakland 2 weeks later, when Nick returned from the concussion he suffered against Dallas, knew he was the QB's father, and "word spread" to Raiders fans. As Nick started to pile up historic numbers, the outcome long decided, the Raiders fans "wanted to see history made," he said. "After Nick threw the sixth touchdown, they started cheering for the seventh. They were upset when [Kelly] pulled him" with Nick having tied the all-time NFL record but not having broken it.

Larry said he got about 10 minutes after that game with his son, who was not overly impressed by what he'd done. They chatted matter-of-factly with Garrett Celek, the 49ers tight end who is Brent's brother and was Nick's freshman roommate at Michigan State, before Nick transferred to Arizona.

Nick wants to keep his personal life as private as possible, Larry said. We don't know much about his hours away from NovaCare, other than that he has a steady girlfriend. The only other peek behind the curtain his father was willing to provide is that Larry feels the mutual regard between Foles and Vick is not a manufactured storyline.

"They're tight - oh, my gosh!" Larry said. He said Vick has played a big role in helping Nick gain confidence in his ability to scramble effectively, if not brilliantly, despite his lack of speed.

Larry Foles said he was mostly a baseball player growing up and wanted Nick to go in that direction, but Nick found the sport boring. For several years, basketball was his primary focus; Larry said Nick was the first freshman to star for Westlake High in Austin, and around that time, he told his dad that if he grew to 6-8, he would stick with basketball. That didn't happen. Nick is listed now at 6-6.

"The good Lord knew what he was doing," Larry Foles said. "He's always been a gamer. He rallies and utilizes all the people around him; I don't think he could ever be a tennis player or a golfer, anything like that."

Franchise quarterback is a better fit, Larry Foles believes.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has been nominated for the NFL's Salute to Service Award, for his work with local military bases. The Eagles host local military members at each home game.

On Twitter: @LesBowen


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