Foles won't be sacked by the likes of Buzz Bissinger

Posted: July 28, 2014

NICK FOLES could face intense attacks all season from the likes of Carolina's Greg Hardy and Arizona's John Abraham, and Washington's Jason Hatcher might get two shots at him.

Foles simply cannot be bothered to worry about an attack from Philly Mag.

Philadelphia magazine this spring commissioned Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger to write a profile of Foles. Foles in 2013 took the starting quarterback job from Michael Vick, compiled outlandish statistics and went to the Pro Bowl, where he was the MVP.

The problem is, Foles is as interesting as sliced white bread and as eager for the spotlight as a cockroach in a pantry.

Bissinger's July cover story, which, typically, was well-phrased and liberally psychoanalytic, focuses on Foles' privileged background and his reluctance for self-promotion. It questions Foles' manhood and, ultimately, concludes that Foles lacks the required arrogance to be a successful NFL quarterback; bizarrely, gratuitously, it finally calls Foles "chickenbleep."

The story also repeatedly mentions Foles' refusal to speak to Bissinger, and the refusal of Foles' family to speak to Bissinger.

"You try to make it all about me, you lose track of what it's really about, and that's the Philadelphia Eagles and this city," Foles explained when he reported to training camp yesterday.

Bissinger is responsible for the "Friday Night Lights" franchise, which undresses the glories and failings of Texas high school football. Foles, of course, is a product of that brand of football, complete with a helicopter daddy and a football-factory high school.

Bissinger depicts Foles as a football geek who seldom drank alcohol, who didn't preen with the other rich kids, who always deferred to his team's accomplishments and never his own.

If Johnny Manziel is the football antichrist, Foles is the anti-Manziel.

And, for whatever reason, Bissinger criticizes Foles for it all: his straight-arrow lifestyle, his humility, his refusal to open himself up for public consumption.

Foles acknowledged he read "parts of it." He said he was fed other parts via Twitter, and other parts by associates who told him about it (always a bad idea, that).

At first, he almost seemed bemused at the story's conclusions; then, when pressed, he allowed his voice to assume a degree of anger.

"I don't agree with it. A quarterback and a leader - it's not necessarily what you do in the limelight," Foles said. "Handling yourself in the appropriate manner is very important for the organization for yourself and your teammates. I've always believed that you need to be who you are."

Significantly, Donovan McNabb, the best quarterback in team history, was notoriously dorky and maddeningly noncontroversial - at least, he didn't cause controversy. Certainly, McNabb didn't flash money signs or berate players on the field. Eagles fans might shudder at the thought of another decade of Donovan, but, even while he was setting all of those team records, he never caused trouble.

Foles seems destined for a similarly bland existence.

"If you're a guy who loves to go out and be at everything, and you can be a great player as well, that's awesome. That's naturally what you want to do," Foles said. "That's out of my norm. I've always been sort of a laid-back, Texas boy. I love being with my family. That's what I stick to. I love football. I love getting better."

Foles also hinted that there might be a little more starch in his personality than the public sees.

"My teammates know me, because I show who I am in the locker room, and then I don't change when I go on the field," he said. "I'm the same guy everywhere they see me."

His teammates seem unconcerned.

"I don't think 'ego' and 'Nick' go in the same paragraph," veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin said.

Maybe what we see of Foles is what we always will get. Maybe that will be enough; maybe, as Bissinger contends, it will not.

Then again, maybe there is more bulldog in Foles than we get to see. Maybe that is Foles' strategy.

"[Bissinger] never talked to me, so he never got to see my side," Foles said. "I didn't want that . . . I don't regret anything."

Nor should he.

Still, Foles betrayed a Texas-sized lack of sophistication when he asserted that stories like Bissinger's will be written regardless of his participation; certainly, accomplished journalists like Bissinger usually produce more balanced content when given more complete access.

Then again, Foles is a sheltered, 25-year-old Texas athlete who has only 16 NFL starts in only two NFL seasons under two extremely different coaching staffs.

At this point, Foles is supposed to be unsophisticated.

At least he is genuine, and his capacity for his brand of leadership is as natural as his chronically bad hair.

Foles said he spoke to right tackle Lane Johnson earlier in the day about Johnson's four-game suspension for using a banned substance; that, of course, is organic leadership.

Foles called Johnson's expected replacement, journeyman Allen Barbre, "awesome" and a "caveman"; that, of course, is hyperbolic, but supportive nonetheless.

Foles said that he couldn't sleep Thursday night in advance of reporting yesterday, and that the team was "giddy" to reconvene after scattering to the four winds for the past month. Geeky, sure; but detrimental?

Bissinger also wrote that, in high school, Foles had a mythically powerful throwing arm, one that launched pigskin missiles 60 yards and, upon arrival, bruised his receivers' chests.

Contradictorily, the chief criticism of Foles as an NFL quarterback is his lack of arm strength.

Well, at least, that was the chief criticism of Foles . . . until the recent attack on his deference and decency.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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