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NFL Draft

Why Nick Foles Makes Bears More Dangerous Than Before

  • The Draft Network
  • September 30, 2020
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Nick Foles is one of the trickiest quarterbacks in the league to figure out.

On the eye test, Foles is a fringe starting quarterback. He throws a catchable ball and can escape the pocket, but makes bad decisions under pressure and trusts his arm far too much. His success in Philadelphia stands out as an anomaly on a resume otherwise littered with inconsistent play.

On the stat sheet, much the same is true. On his career, he boasts a modest 7 yards/attempt, an acceptable 2:1 TD:INT ratio, and a cromulent 62% completion rate. Of course, those career numbers don’t tell the story of Foles’ volatility. Foles’ PFF grades waffle from elite to awful on a game-to-game basis, and his best throws often look just like his worst throws: downfield heaves to covered players. Even in Foles’ comeback against the Atlanta Falcons this last week for the Chicago Bears, when he stepped in to relieve Mitchell Trubisky, the biggest thing he brought to the Bears offense was a willingness to let others make plays.

This wild and entertaining recklessness that typifies Foles and powers his successes is a welcome breath of fresh air in Chicago, where Trubisky often holds the offense back from potentially explosive downfield gains. Foles’ roller coaster isn’t something you necessarily want to hang your hopes on, but when the alternative prevents you from scoring points in a comeback effort, riding the variance is justified.

But the Bears won’t always be down big, and Foles’ variance won’t always create scoring bursts. The Falcons had multiple opportunities to ring the death knell against the Bears, and it was as much their defensive ineptitude as it was Foles’ aggressiveness that got the Bears back on top. Against other teams, Chicago shouldn’t expect to be so lucky. 

As such, with a 2-0 start from Trubisky under their belt, the decision to play Foles and then retain him as the starter for Week 4 and beyond is an important one. It can be difficult for an organization to admit that, despite authoring a comeback of its own against Detroit, that an offense wasn’t good enough even in a winning effort. Head coach Matt Nagy described the choice to insert Foles into the Week 3 game as a “gut feeling,” citing the offense’s struggles in the red zone and on late downs as unacceptable issues that were preventing them from putting points on the board.

Nagy sees more in his offense than just the 27-point effort against the Lions and 17-point mud fight against the Giants, and it’s hard to blame him. The offensive line is playing better with young interior linemen Cody Whitehair and James Daniels stepping forward, Anthony Miller is explosive and separating, and Jimmy Graham is putting points on the board. The additional boost of Foles’ play could enliven the team as a whole. Use Allen Robinson as an example: after two weeks of play defined by missed opportunities, he stepped up with Foles at the helm, scoring a critical touchdown late against the Falcons in what can only be described as a “big boy play.”

Sometimes change is thrown at the wall in desperation—coaches do anything to get anything different than what a bad offense has been generating. This is not that. Foles was not deposited onto a 2-5 Bears offense that had little hope for a season turnaround, by a coaching staff unlikely to see the other side of Christmas. And that’s an encouraging sign for Bears fans: this move wasn’t just made because Foles was something, anything else than what was already there at quarterback.

Trubisky wasn’t playing all that poorly; it’s just clear that he won’t elevate the team any further than he already has, and with Foles, while the potential for back-breaking play remains, the potential for a truly potent offense also exists. The Bears have long lauded Foles’ familiarity with the scheme, but perhaps that relationship flows the other way: perhaps it is the scheme and the coaching staff’s familiarity with Foles’ wild play that will allow them to ride the bronco longer than they would otherwise.

The Bears are 3-0, and the primary reason that anyone would dismiss them from the playoff conversation no longer starts at quarterback. Foles may not elevate this offense all the way to playoff relevancy, but he at least gives them a more honest shot, and it’s easier to talk about the Bears as contenders in the NFC race with him at the helm. He will lose them games; he will win them games. But he has a three-game cushion, and for as long as the Bears’ locker room and coaching staff believe in his magic, the Bears are more dangerous now than they were before. 

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