No one saw this coming. Certainly not Nick Foles.
When Nick Foles was about to take the field Sunday at Oakland, coach Chip Kelly said to him: “Sling it. Rip it. Feel the game.”
Seven words for seven touchdowns. Foles threw a rollout liner to Riley Cooper; two lofted spirals perfectly placed to Cooper; one gift long one to an uncovered DeSean Jackson; one short, in tight coverage, to Brent Celek; one catch-and-run out of the backfield to LeSean McCoy; and one laser to Zach Ertz at the side of the end zone. He’d never thrown six before, in high school or college. And now he’d thrown seven.
“It’s a great honor to be up there with so many great quarterbacks, like Peyton Manning [who threw seven on Sept. 5],’’ Foles said by phone after the game. “But the most important thing is who I did it with. I am so proud of Riley Cooper. So happy for him. I love Riley to death, and he showed today how important he is to this offense, and how valuable he is as a receiver.”
As for the Eagles’ quarterback-of-the-future thing, that’s for another day. Kelly’s not showing his hand now, and Sunday certainly wasn’t enough to make Kelly, owner Jeff Lurie or GM Howie Roseman think Foles is the next Ron Jaworski. But I’ve maintained all along that Kelly doesn’t need a quick-twitch quarterback with Mike Vick’s running ability to be a good quarterback in this system. It’d be nice to have great athleticism, sure. But the most important thing is a quick-twitch brain, with fast decision-making ability and efficiency. Foles is completing 63 percent, which is good, not great. He has 13 touchdowns and no interceptions, which is very good, of course. His 8.7 yards-per-attempt is good, and his 127.4 rating ridiculously high.
“I have 100 percent confidence I can run this offense and run it at a high level,’’ Foles told me.
But now, to convince the brass, Foles needs consistency. He’s got seven more game to show it—and to try to hold off his friend and competitor, Vick, when he’s healthy enough to play in two or three weeks.
Josh Freeman a healthy scratch.
All I can say is, wow. That’s the 37th story on a rollicking weekend like this one, but it deserves to be noted. This is a notable thing. The Vikings are paying Freeman $2 million for 12 weeks of work, he’s able to play, he’s been with the team for 27 days, and your other quarterbacks are Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel. So how exactly is Minnesota anything but a financial way-station on the way to another team in 2014?
Why Jacksonville is so … well, troubled.
I was going to use a stronger word. But the suspension of their best player, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, for the rest of the season is an exclamation point on what a disaster the four-year reign of Gene Smith (2009-12) as general manager was.
Smith’s an honorable man and was a solid scout before the Jags promoted him to GM before the 2009 draft. But of the 26 players he selected in his four drafts, only three figure to be Jaguars starters (not including punter Bryan Anger) when the team comes off the bye Sunday at Tennessee. Here’s who they are, and how they rated versus their peers according to Pro Football Focus, which grades every NFL player relative to his position:
• Defensive end Tyson Alualu, a first-round pick in 2010, is rated 42nd of 47 4-3 defensive ends.
• Guard Will Rackley, a third-round pick in 2011, is 69th of 71 guards.
• Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, a fourth-rounder in 2011, is rated the 36th-best wideout in the league, of 108 receivers ranked by PFF.
Smith made four top-10 picks in his tenure. Tackle Eugene Monroe (ninth overall, 2009) was a marginal starter who was traded to Baltimore last month. Alualu (10th, 2010) would be a backup on many NFL teams. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert (10th, 2011) has been a disaster and may not make the 2014 roster. And Blackmon (fifth, 2012) came into the draft with one DUI charge and has had three more substance-abuse-related occurrences since, the latest of which resulted in his banishment for the rest of the season. It’s in serious doubt whether Blackmon will ever play another snap for Jacksonville.