Four years after throwing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in one season, four years after he took the NFL by storm and led the Eagles to their last playoff appearance, Nick Foles is living a relatively anonymous existence as the Eagles’ backup quarterback.
While Carson Wentz can’t step off of his front porch without drawing a crowd, Foles can do things he couldn’t dream of doing four years ago, when he threw those touchdowns and interceptions — and recorded what was, at the time, the second-highest passer rating in NFL history (119.2).
Such as going out for a quiet dinner with his wife, Tori, or doing some early Christmas shopping, or taking his 5-month-old daughter, Lily, to see Santa.
The most annoying disruption to his privacy: somebody stops him and asks whether he’s Nate Sudfeld, the Eagles’ No. 3 quarterback and a Foles lookalike.
This is not to suggest that Foles is content being an NFL backup. After becoming a free agent in March, following a season as Alex Smith’s backup in Kansas City, he looked around for a possible starting opportunity somewhere. But pickings were slim.
“Tori and I, when we talked [about signing with the Eagles], it’s not about me. It’s about our family,’’ Foles said. “We were about to have a baby. We were talking about where we were at this point in our life. We loved Kansas City, but Philadelphia called, and they were really excited. I knew [head coach] Doug [Pederson] really well.
“The opportunity to come here at this stage of our life, even though it wasn’t to start, it was to be with a group of guys that I care for, and play in a city that I care about and will always care about.’’
Foles has played just 23 snaps this season, doing mop-up work in lopsided Week 8 and 9 wins over the 49ers and Broncos. He’s thrown just one pass: a 35-yard completion to Nelson Agholor in the Denver game.
If Wentz — who took every snap last season as a rookie — remains healthy, mop-up work will be the extent of Foles’ game action this season.
But stuff happens. Particularly in a violent sport such as football. And while the Eagles are praying to God that none of that stuff happens to Wentz, they are able to take considerable comfort in the fact that, unlike many of the teams in the league, they have an experienced backup they can turn to in the event of a catastrophe.
A backup with 36 career starts. A backup who already has dealt with and conquered the pressure that goes with being the quarterback in football-crazy Philadelphia.
Foles injured the elbow on his throwing arm early in training camp last summer and didn’t play in any of the team’s four preseason games. But there have been no issues with it since then.
“I know I have the capability to go out there and play,’’ Foles said. “Even the next year , when I got injured [with a broken collarbone], we were 6-2. Last year, I played two games when Alex got hurt, and we won both of them.’’
Foles thought he would have a long career in Philadelphia, but Chip Kelly had other ideas. Kelly didn’t see a franchise quarterback when he looked at Foles and traded him to the Rams for Sam Bradford before the 2015 season.
“We did well in the beginning in St. Louis,’’ Foles said. “Then, I started pressing a little bit. The big thing is, you have to want to learn from everything. Take the good with the bad. It’s not always going to be smooth. It’s not always going to be like 2013.
“But the ups and downs I’ve had since then have really helped me when I come to work. It’s something you can only learn by going through it.’’
Foles’ 2013 season was one of the most impressive performances ever by an Eagles quarterback. Four years later, he has a front-row seat for one that could top it.
Wentz is on pace to throw 40 touchdown passes this season. His play in the red zone and on third down has been practically magical.
“It’s been fun to watch Carson grow every single week,’’ Foles said. “Get more comfortable with the offense. Doing different things. Making plays that not many other people in the world can make.’’
The team’s three quarterbacks — Wentz, Foles, and Sudfeld — get along very well. Foles doesn’t have a Wentz voodoo doll that he sticks pins in.
“It’s a wonderful room to go to work in,’’ Foles said. “We get along. We like similar music. Obviously, our Christian faith is the biggest thing that ties us all together.’’
Going from being The Guy to being The Backup is not an easy adjustment. Some handle it better than others. Some aren’t able to handle it at all. Foles is doing fine with it.
“I’ve learned so much being a backup,’’ he said. “It’s definitely different than being a starter. The qualities you learn, the character you have to learn, it’s just different. And I don’t take it for granted.
“I learn so much about myself every day. Helping young players. Running the scout team. It’s different than what I was doing the last time I was here. But at the same time, I’m a better person going through this. Plus, this is just a great place to be.’’
The birth of Lily in June also has helped Foles adjust to his backup role. The roar of the crowd has taken a back seat to the innocent smile of an infant on the personal satisfaction chart.
“There is no greater joy than having a child,’’ he said. “If you were to ask me, ‘Hey, would you rather throw seven touchdowns [as he did against the Raiders in 2013] or go home to your daughter?’ I would say, ‘Go home to my daughter.’
“But it makes coming to work … you know that some day, she’s going to know what her daddy did. And that’s what gives you juice to go every day and do everything to the best of your ability.
“Your kids are going to some day Google you or check and see what you stood for. Whenever I get tired or frustrated, I think about that.’’