Reaching new highs, Foles remains low-key

"The most important thing is to stay steady and have that hunger every week," says Nick Foles, whose next test is against the Vikings. YONG KIM / Staff
"The most important thing is to stay steady and have that hunger every week," says Nick Foles, whose next test is against the Vikings. YONG KIM / Staff
Posted: December 14, 2013

In a casual conversation this week, Nick Foles was informed that Chicago's backup quarterback, Josh McCown, is No. 3 in the NFL in passer rating.

Foles asked for the top two. Told that he was No. 1 and Peyton Manning was No. 2, the Eagles quarterback shrugged. He didn't even know - and didn't seem to care.

The person who seems least impressed with Nick Foles is Foles. He cares little about his league-best statistics. He barely blinks at Sports Illustrated putting him on the cover. He treats the discussion of a touchdown-to-interception streak with the same disdain as a child going to a dentist.

Entering Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, the player who might be the hottest quarterback in the NFL acts far less excited about himself than most 24-year-olds would react to being a focal point of meaningful December football.

"What you did in the past really means nothing," coach Chip Kelly said. "It's what's the next challenge, what's the next opportunity for us to go out and get better. I think Nick just personifies that."

Foles explained how when he played youth sports, his mood would deviate depending on a win or a loss. But Foles' two seasons in Philadelphia have revealed a quarterback who is almost robotic.

"Through playing the game, trial and error, you learn how to deal with it," Foles said. "When you go through it and you have tough losses, or you have big wins, you come back next week and . . . you realize the most important thing is to stay steady and have that hunger every week."

When Kelly was asked about the youth on the defensive line, he rerouted the question by noting that age does not always mean maturity, and the example that he gave was Foles.

"When you sit down and have a conversation with him, he doesn't act like a young, immature man," Kelly said.

Sometimes, Foles acts as if he's devoid of any emotion at all. But the steadiness is one of his key qualities. He can throw for 80 yards in a game or seven touchdowns in a game, and after 24 hours - the allotment of time he allows himself to feel good or bad - Foles is the same person.

He said he approaches each practice trying to get a hundredth of a percent better, knowing that the days accumulate and the minutiae matters.

"All I can tell you is this year, he's taken that 'put it to bed, move on' mentality," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said on Tuesday. "He's embraced it. He's up there now finishing up his preparation for today's training session. I just see him on a day-to-day basis trying to get better."

Shurmur said Foles has also shown the willingness to admit mistakes, which is the first step in improving and correcting errors. The good decisions he makes are often the result of learning from bad decisions.

Foles said this week that he's "flawed" but that "I keep it real with myself." He analyzes all his activities on the field and can diagnose miscues.

"I'm not afraid to make mistakes because I know I can correct them," Foles said.

Foles quoted former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski saying that quarterbacks require "amnesia." That's where his "24-hour rule" comes into account. Few phrases have been uttered by Foles more this year than "24-hour rule." It allows him to absorb what happened, then move on to the next game.

"That last game can't win the next one," Foles said, which is another one of his go-to phrases.

But Foles has won many of the next ones this season, which is a departure from his recent history as a quarterback. He went 1-5 as an Eagles starter last season and 9-14 in his final two years at Arizona. He is 6-1 as an Eagles starter this season, with a firm grasp on the starting job and a playoff bid within reach. And that's something that Foles would admit to caring about.

"The weeks really go fast when you're winning as a team," Foles said. "Obviously, winning is a lot more fun than losing."

Extra points

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams (hamstring) was added to the injury report and was limited in Thursday's practice. Williams was on the field at the start of practice and was not on the previous day's injury report, so it is likely that he was hurt on Thursday. Linebacker Najee Goode (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis; safety Earl Wolff (knee) continued to be limited. . . . Vikings running backs Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) missed Thursday's practice.


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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