So yesterday, when Chip Kelly was asked if there was no longer a quarterback competition on his team, the coach carefully but firmly said - and I quote - "No."
"There's always competition," said the Eagles head coach. "I think you can ask Nick that, too. I don't think Nick's going to think, 'I can go out and throw 12 interceptions in a row - which he'll never do - but I'm your guy.' "
Quite true. Foles had indeed said as much and much more before the coach held his final press conference yesterday, at one point answering a question about the "franchise" label by saying, "If you don't play well in this league you probably won't be the starter."
Quite true again.
But not really on point.
Kelly would have to be nuts, and a suddenly bad coach, to abandon a guy who threw for 29 touchdowns and was intercepted just twice. As long as the percentages stay anywhere near that, any discussion about Foles' lack of foot speed, and the restrictions on what plays Kelly can and can't call, takes a seat on the bench.
The real discussion is about the faith those numbers have bought Foles going forward, should he come back to earth even a little bit to start the next season.
Yes, I know, Kelly stayed with Michael Vick until he was incapacitated. But Vick had the foot speed to operate the kind of offense Kelly seemed to prefer, had a resume that included an MVP award. He was also the maestro of that first half in the first game against Washington, a half that served as Kelly's calling card for the first month of the season.
Foles? Foles helped Kelly shake off any lingering doubts we had about his coaching chops. The Eagles didn't look like a gimmick with Foles under center. They looked like a fundamentally sound, offensively balanced NFL team.
From the moment he got here, that's what Kelly argued he was. A fundamentals freak, a guy who was about execution, not eccentricity. Yes, the icon-filled placards were as fun as they were functional, but they were functional. His breathless offense disrupted foes more often than it disrupted the Eagles, and with a maturing young team and increased familiarity with it, that ratio should only improve next season.
Foles spoke in those terms yesterday, about how familiarity with the offense would allow greater improvisation next season, greater opportunity. He's competing, he said, but against himself, against the faults in his game that he is resolved to improve. He wants to add a little foot speed, if he can, wants to improve his footwork so he buys a little more time next season, avoids those sacks that proved so lethal in Saturday night's last-second loss to the Saints.
"I need to get better," Foles said. "I don't look at this season as, 'Oh man, I did good.' I've got a lot of stuff to work on. We didn't win the last game. And a lot of that goes on the quarterback."
Yeah, he said that. Another guy, another quarterback, might spread the blame more, point to his numbers that were better than his more touted adversaries were, might point to his would-be winning drive, too.
Not once this season that I can recall did Foles dispute criticism of his game, even in those nerve-raw moments immediately after games. Often, as he did again yesterday, he introduced self-criticism to the process, and vowed to improve.
He's also quite comfortable discussing the position's intangibles. "He's got to be the teammate the team looks to, the city looks to," Foles said. "And you've got to be consistent. You're not always going to play perfect games but . . . you've got to play well."
He did that for a large bulk of this season. Not the way Kelly may have envisioned when he took the job 12 months ago, but well enough to streak to a division title and a home playoff game in which Nick Foles played well enough for his team to win.
So he gets the keys to start next season. Title? Registration? Not so fast. The cautionary tales about too much, too soon can be found to the immediate south. Nick Foles said all the right things and did plenty of them too this season. But faith, it seems, will require a longer haul.
"One of the things we do here is we compete," said Kelly. "And obviously you have to have that one guy and right now Nick is that one guy. But I don't think Nick is afraid of the competition. I think he showed that to me this year. But we're always going to try and continue to upgrade at every position. And I think all of our players know that and true players really embrace that.
"That's part of this deal. You can never have enough quarterbacks. And I've said that everywhere I've ever been. We were fortunate that we had two this year."