God. Family. Football.
Those are Nick Foles’ priorities in life. In that order.
But two years ago, the man who will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game, almost erased football from the equation.
His one season with the Rams following his out-of-nowhere trade for Sam Bradford had been an absolute disaster.
Two years after his magical 27-touchdown, two-interception season with the Eagles, he started 11 games for the Rams, didn’t play very well, and was benched, replaced ironically enough, by the guy who will be quarterbacking the other team in Sunday’s game, Case Keenum.
After the Rams took Jared Goff with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Foles asked for, and eventually received, his release.
His old Eagles coach, Andy Reid, offered him the backup job in Kansas City behind Alex Smith. But Foles told him he needed time to think and pray on it.
“You have to know where your heart is,’’ Foles said Wednesday. “Why you’re doing it. I had to take a step back and ask myself, ‘Am I doing this for the right reason?’ Because if I can’t do it with my heart, I can’t do it. I’m not going to do something unless my heart’s in it. When you have your heart in something, you give it everything you have.’’
Foles didn’t make the decision alone. He spent a lot of time talking about it with his wife, Tori. And he prayed. Eventually, he signed with the Chiefs.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,’’ he said. “It was an emotional decision. I leaned on my wife. I leaned on my faith. I leaned on my family.
“My heart said, ‘Go back.’ At that moment, it was going back to play for coach Reid. And I’m a better person for making that decision. My faith and the way I felt going into that experience [with the Chiefs] allowed me to grow and made me a better player.’’
Foles shopped around for a starting opportunity after last season, but there were no takers. Eventually, he and Tori decided to accept the Eagles’ offer to return to Philadelphia as Carson Wentz’s backup.
He was relatively content in that role. But then, late in the third quarter of the Eagles’ Week 14 win over, of all teams, the Rams, everything changed.
Wentz tore his left ACL and was lost for the season. Foles became the starter. He has had his ups and downs in his four starts, including last week’s 15-10 win over Atlanta in the divisional round.
He struggled early and didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but completed 23 of 30 passes and averaged 8.2 yards per attempt.
Foles and the Eagles attacked the Falcons with mostly short, quick passes. Just four of his 23 completions came on passes that traveled longer than 7 yards downfield in the air. Six were throws behind the line of scrimmage.
Three of their four scoring drives against the Falcons were 12 plays or more. But the Vikings’ defense is considerably better than the Falcons’. And they don’t give up many long, methodical drives.
“We’re going to have to be able to take some shots [downfield],’’ Foles said. “Against Atlanta, they played a different coverage where they tried to keep everything in front of them.
“Minnesota is a little bit more diverse in their coverages. They like to switch it up. They do a good job of rockin’-and-rollin’ the safeties. And they play a lot tighter down. They’re not going to give us much underneath. So we’re absolutely going to have to make some larger completions.’’
The last five years have been a wild ride for Foles. From 27/2 and Pro Bowl MVP to being traded by Chip Kelly to being benched and given up for dead by the Rams to almost quitting football to returning to Philadelphia to be a backup to starting Sunday in the biggest game of his life.
“Just a few days ago, I sat there with my wife and we talked about how blessed we are to be in this moment,’’ he said.
He is 60 minutes away from playing in a Super Bowl. He has a beautiful 7-month-old daughter, Lily. Life is good.
“It’s not really a reset,’’ Foles said. “It’s my life. This is football. I’m fortunate to be able to do this. And I want to give everything I have to this game because I know my family’s there watching and supporting me. And that gives anyone strength in their lives to go out there [and excel], knowing their family’s right there.’’