How the Eagles landed Foles

Nick Foles made an immediate impression on former Eagles coach Andy Reid, inset left, and former offensive coordinator Marty Morninhweg. "Smart, leader, tough . . . and he had a great feel for the game," Reid said.
Nick Foles made an immediate impression on former Eagles coach Andy Reid, inset left, and former offensive coordinator Marty Morninhweg. "Smart, leader, tough . . . and he had a great feel for the game," Reid said. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 09, 2013

One day during the 2012 offseason, Marty Mornhinweg turned on the college tape of Nick Foles and liked what he saw. So he walked down the second floor corridor at the NovaCare Complex and into Andy Reid's office.

"I said, 'Have you seen this Foles kid?'" Mornhinweg said recently to The Inquirer. "So he watches him, likes what he's watching and says, 'Where's Doug?'"

Doug Pederson, the Eagles quarterback coach, was on the road. He was working out other quarterbacks and by coincidence was scheduled next to be in Phoenix to visit Brock Osweiler, the 6-foot-7 Arizona State quarterback.

"We're like, shoot, let's get him over to work out Foles instead," Mornhinweg recalled. "So we had our people redirect Doug to Tuscon."

If Pederson wasn't in Arizona, who knows if the Eagles would have drafted Foles, then a senior at the University of Arizona. It's likely they would have eventually found some time to work him out.

But it's fascinating to think what might have not been with Foles - now playing for Chip Kelly and a new regime. He's the hottest quarterback in the NFL and on the cusp of leading the Eagles to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Reid, fired by the Eagles in January and now with the Chiefs, confirmed his decision to cancel the Osweiler workout for Foles, whose 4-8 senior season was marred by the coach's midseason firing and a sieve-like offensive line.

"Smart, leader, tough - all of his offensive linemen were freshmen and he never made an excuse - and he had a great feel for the game," Reid said of Foles. "The obvious was he could make every throw."

Mornhinweg no longer went on the road to work out quarterbacks. The last one he spent time with before the draft was Kevin Kolb in 2007. But the offensive coordinator and Reid trusted Pederson, the former Eagles quarterback who was coached by both in Green Bay.

And they needed someone to evaluate whether the patchy moments Foles had during his season were related to his skills or unfortunate circumstances.

"What I really wanted to know most was if his arm strength was there," Mornhinweg said. "I mean, was the spiral tight? That's something you got to see in person. And I wanted to know if the accuracy was there because, again, he could be sporadic."

Foles remembered the day vividly. The Eagles were the only NFL team to work him out individually, after all. They were also the only team to bring him to their headquarters for a predraft visit.

When Foles showed up for the workout, Pederson was already there, sitting in his rental car.

"I saw him and he was on his little iPad in his car and I knocked on the window," Foles said. "I said, 'Are you Coach Pederson?' "

It was early in the morning and Pederson wasted no time getting started. Foles said the quick start had him out of breath almost instantly and he felt winded. Speaking of which, the weather conditions weren't ideal for throwing.

"There was probably like a 40-m.p.h. wind and it was cold," Foles said. "And we threw straight into the wind all day and he was having me throw these crazy routes."

The same thing happened, Foles said, during his pro day. It was 80 degrees, sunny, and calm the day before. It snowed and rained the day of.

"So I just remember after the workout I was like, 'Oh, man, I hope I showed him what I could do,' because of the wind and all that stuff," Foles said.

Pederson reported back to the Eagles.

"So I get Doug on the phone and my first question was, 'How was the spiral?'" said Mornhinweg, now the New York Jets offensive coordinator. "And Doug's like, it's great. And then I ask him about the accuracy. And Doug says, 'Marty, he doesn't miss a pass.'

"And I'm like, and I can remember saying this, 'Doug, are you sure? Are you sure?' "

Foles, despite his concerns, said he didn't miss one throw. There was one pass that wobbled, but it still connected with the receiver. Foles, though, asked for another try.

"It was like a 60-yard throw," Foles said. "I wanted to redo it just to show him that I could cut the wind with a tight spiral. Next time I threw it, I threw a tight spiral."

The Eagles finished 8-8 in 2011 and Michael Vick had a turnover-marred, injury-interrupted season. There was a report that Reid had flirted with the idea of signing Peyton Manning. He met with Baylor's Robert Griffin III at the combine.

Reid was doing his homework on all the quarterback prospects, as he always did, but the Eagles started to focus on two guys they would likely have the opportunity to draft - Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Foles.

"Those were the two," Mornhinweg said.

Both were considered high-character young men. The Eagles first indentified Foles after his junior season and over time placed him on a short list of quarterbacks the scouting staff thought would fit in Reid's offense, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said.

"Then our coaches, led by Andy Reid, did a great job of following through with their own evaluations and workouts," Roseman said in an e-mail. "It was a total team effort."

Mornhinweg knew Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who was fired after a 1-5 start, because they had played together in the Arena League. He called him up, he said, knowing he would get an honest assessment of Foles.

"And he's like, 'He's the real deal,' " Mornhinweg said.

"His head coach . . . loved him and said he was a great person and leader, that every player on the team respected him," Reid said. "Give Howie the credit. He and his scouts deserve it."

When the draft came, the Eagles had four picks in the first three rounds. They took defensive lineman Fletcher Cox in the first and linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive end Vinny Curry in the second.

The Eagles had the 25th pick in the third round. Reid, who had final say on all football decisions, had Wilson rated slightly ahead of Foles, per Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg said he had Foles slightly ahead of Wilson. The difference was marginal.

But the Seahawks took Wilson with the 12th pick in the third round and the Eagles selected Foles 13 picks later.

"It was a calculated risk," Mornhinweg said.

Reid and Mornhinweg are gone, but so far the risk is paying dividends.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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