Former high school coach rooting for Brees, Foles

Posted: January 03, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas - For a few hours tomorrow night, Derek Long will set aside his preferences for defensive prowess and shutouts.

With a pair of his former players - Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Saints quarterback Drew Brees - squaring off in an NFC wild-card game at the Linc, Long wants to see a shootout.

"I hope both of these defensive coordinators get a lot more gray hair after this game," said Long, the former football coach at Austin Westlake High, where Foles and Brees played in high school. "The ideal game for me is if both Nick and Drew threw for seven touchdowns. I just want the quarterbacks to have great games."

Long was a defensive coordinator at Westlake when Brees led the Chaparrals to their only state title in 1996. He took over as Westlake's head coach in 2003 and watched Foles develop into an excellent quarterback as well. In both Brees and Foles, Long saw potential college quarterbacks. Brees had great success at Purdue as did Foles at Arizona.

But never in his wildest dreams did Long think he would ever have the chance to see them go at it in an NFL playoff game.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Long said. "I really didn't think about it a whole lot until after Philadelphia won [over the Cowboys on Sunday]. I asked my wife, 'Who am I supposed to cheer for?' "

Listed at 6-6, Foles stands 6 inches taller than Brees, but Long sees more similarities than differences between the two.

"The first thing is their leadership ability," Long said. "The other thing that was really similar to me with those two guys is they both had the ability to find receivers when they were under pressure. To me, the really great quarterbacks have that pocket presence and find that receiver downfield when someone's trying to tear their head off. Both Nick and Drew, that's something that really stood out."

Foles had yet to take a snap for the Chaparrals when Brees was drafted by the Chargers in 2001. In just his second year in the NFL, Foles threw for 27 touchdown passes and was picked off only twice, giving him the league's best touchdown-to-interception ratio. Yet Long believes Foles' best football days are ahead of him.

"He's basically still a rookie. He's still figuring all this out," Long said. "He's just on the lip of his career. He's the type of guy that I see moving on like Drew. He'll continue to get better as he adjusts to the speed of the game and the athleticism of the people he's playing against."

Foles has done some things for the Eagles this year that he never even did for Long at Westlake.

The most touchdown passes Long can remember Foles throwing in a game for the Chaparrals was four - three fewer than Foles had in his record-tying performance against the Raiders earlier this season. According to Long, Foles threw 280 passes as a senior and was intercepted four times, half as many times as he has been intercepted despite throwing 317 passes for the Eagles this year.

As he has been all season, Foles was efficient against the Cowboys in the game that decided the NFC East title, completing 17 of 26 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. But it was Foles' humility after the game that Long noticed.

"He talked about the defense doing a great job and getting those two interceptions," Long said. "There's not anybody that can accomplish anything by themselves on a football field. [Foles and Brees] do a really great job of recognizing their teammates and trying to acknowledge what they have done because it takes all 60 people in order for a team to be successful."

Long won't be rooting for either the Eagles or Saints tomorrow night, but he's hoping both of their quarterbacks put up big numbers, and for sure, he is enjoying the fact that a pair of former Chaps have made it this far.

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