Philadelphia Eagles coach refuses to fully endorse his QB
No one expected Nick Foles to replicate the play of MVP contender Carson Wentz, but Foles’ play over recent games has left a bad taste in the mouth of Doug Pederson.
Over his last eight offensive possessions, Foles has led the Eagles to all of three points. Four of those drives ended with punts, two ended with Foles throwing an interception and one was a turnover on downs.
That lack of production has Pederson thinking of other options when it comes to the quarterback position.
On Tuesday, Pederson was asked if he could potentially bench Foles during a playoff game for poor performance.
“It’s hard to say right now until I’m in that situation quite, honestly,” Pederson told reporters. “Listen, it’s a one-game season. It’s hard to be in desperation mode, but if you are in that mode, you know, who knows? I do know this — it’s not about one guy. … A lot of contributing factors go into winning a game.”
The Eagles backup is second-year pro Nate Sudfeld, who started the year on the practice squad. He was promoted to the main roster on Dec. 1 and played in his first NFL game in Week 17.
It may be a small sample size and against a Cowboys team with nothing to play for, but Sudfeld was historically impressive.
Nate Sudfeld completed 19 of 23 passes in his NFL debut in Week 17 for the @Eagles
Sudfeld's 82.6 completion percentage in that game is the highest by any player in his first career game in the Super Bowl era (min. 20 pass att)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 2, 2018
After refusing to fully endorse Foles, Pederson was then asked if he considered starting Sudfeld in the playoffs over the last few days. He responded, “No, I was thinking about New Year’s and having a good time with my family.”
Shortly after the press conference, Pederson then decided to backtrack a bit and gave Foles his strongest endorsement to date.
#Eagles coach Doug Pederson just texted me after his press conference: “My guy is Nick Foles, end of story.” … That is significant.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2018
With Sudfeld’s hopes dashed, Pederson turned to focusing on ways to maximize Foles’ abilities. In order to do that, the coach held a film session Tuesday in which he went back and watched old games of Foles in his first few years in the league.
ESPN’s Tim McManus said Pederson and the Eagles coaching staff are using the bye week to tailor the offense to fit Foles’ strengths. They watched film of Foles under Andy Reid in 2012, under Chip Kelly in 2013 and 2014, and from his time with the Rams in 2015.
Foles had the best year of his career in 2013, when he posted a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That season he tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game, led the league in passer rating and was a Pro Bowler.
Pederson and his staff are working to incorporate some of the elements that made Foles successful back then into this year’s offense.
“The quick-throw was there, a little play-action pass, the shotgun stuff,” said Pederson of Foles’ previous work. “Those are all things that are in our system, and we might just have to dust a few more off and get that ready to go. And that’s kind of what this week is for, to get some of those ideas and thoughts on paper and execute them this week in practice.”
Whether changing the offensive system right before the postseason will pay off remains to be seen, but Foles will likely be on the shortest leash ever given to a starting quarterback on the No. 1 seed.
The good news is the Eagles have an extra week to prep Foles for a tailored offense (or prep him to get benched). Philadelphia will host the lowest NFC seed that advances in wild-card weekend, which will be the Saints, Falcons or Panthers.
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