There may not be any two better words to sum up Nick Foles’ NFL career so far than these; “Backup Plan.”
It all started with the 2012 NFL Draft. The Eagles and head coach Andy Reid went into the draft with two pressing needs; Defensive Front (linemen and linebackers) and a Quarterback. The top of the draft was loaded with quarterbacks, but the Eagles first pick wasn’t until #12. The big names went off the board before they got their chance to select one. Andrew Luck went 1st overall to the Colts. The Redskins traded up to the 2nd overall pick to select Robert Griffin III. The Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill at pick 8. But that was fine with the Eagles front office. The guy they really wanted wasn’t expected to go in the first two rounds. So, with pick 12, the Eagles drafter future Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. With their second-round picks, they drafted linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive end Vinny Curry. A few more quarterbacks went off the board in those two rounds. With the 22nd pick of the 1st round, the Browns selected Brandon Weeden and in the 2nd round, Brock Osweiler went to the Broncos. The man they coveted was still available.
The Eagles were set to pick their quarterback of the future with pick #76. As their 3rd round pick approached, no other quarterbacks were taken. Their plan was about to come to fruition. Then the announcement came; “With the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks select Russell Wilson; quarterback – Wisconsin.” With that, their plan fell apart.
The Eagles were left scrambling. They traded pick #76 to the Houston Texans for linebacker DeMeco Ryans and the 88th pick of the draft and went back to the drawing board. When that pick finally arrived they had come up with a backup plan. University of Arizona quarterback, Nick Foles.
Foles had a stellar preseason, but 2009 starter, Michael Vick did enough to keep his job. Vick, however, didn’t play much like a starter. He threw 10 interceptions in 10 starts, and led the Eagles got to a 3-7 start. For several weeks, fans were calling for Reid to bench Vick and give Foles a shot. He didn’t listen. But then, in week 10, Vick suffered an injury. With that, backup plan Nick Foles took over. Foles put up similar numbers to Vick’s, and the Eagles limped through the remainder of the season. They ended the year with a 4-12 record, resulting in the firing of Andy Reid.
In 2013, the Eagles hired a new coach, Chip Kelly. Kelly decided to spend training camp evaluating quarterbacks, announcing that he would choose a started out of Vick, Foles, and rookie Matt Barkley. Like Andy Reid, he chose Vick, leaving Foles to once again serve as a backup.
Vick performed better under Chip Kelly. The Eagles started out 3-4 with him as a starter, but in week 7, he got injured once again. In came backup plan Foles. The Eagles lost in his first start again the Giants in week 8. But then, something amazing happened. Beginning in week 9, the offense seemed to click. Foles led the Eagles to win 7 of their last 8 games. He finished the season with a quarterback rating of 119.2. He threw 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl team and the Eagles made the playoffs. Foles seemed to be the Eagles quarterback of the future.
But then, 2014 happened. The Eagles played well, beginning the season with a 6-2 record. But that was more despite Foles than because of him. Then, in week 8, he broke his collar bone and was placed on injured reserves. With that, Chip Kelly decided to move on. After the season, he traded Foles and a pair of draft picks to the Rams for a quarterback he’d rather have; Sam Bradford. Foles began the 2015 season as the Rams starter, but then lost his job to Case Keenum. In 2016, the Rams moved to Los Angeles, and were ready to move on from Foles as well. They drafted Jared Goff with the 1st pick of the 2016 draft and released Foles. Now out of a job, former coach Andy Reid (now with the Kansas City Chiefs) signed Foles to be the backup to Alex Smith. That was his only season in Kansas City.
It’s got to be tough being seen as nothing more than a backup plan and being continually passed over. At one point, Foles considered leaving the game of football. He says in a devotion series created by Philadelphia Eagles players for the You Version Bible App; “I wanted to retire from the NFL, and I really struggled. I couldn’t pick up a football for about eight months. I had no love for the game; it was tough.”
It was actually a Bible verse that changed his mind! The verse was 2 Corinthians 12:9; “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’”
Foles explains; “this Scripture… has really been a big verse for me these last couple of years. I’ve gone through ups and downs of the NFL. I’ve gone from being a starter, traded, benched, backup, backup, but this verse has brought so much meaning to my heart and in my life. I wanted to retire… but, I kept reading Scripture. I kept praying. I kept asking God. And so many of us ask God for signs. We ask God; ‘Hey, please just put it on the wall; I want to know.’ But that’s not how it works He’s not always going to do that. He can put something on your heart, but He’s not always going to give you a flat-out sign. And as I read this verse, looking back, He was shaping me. He was bringing me down to my knees.
I’ll never forget the moment when I decided that I had the heart to play football and I wanted to use the platform that God had given me to glorify Him with everything I have… I remember praying to Him, and at that moment when I prayed to Him I sort of felt this sense of calm. And what I felt in my heart was, ‘Nick, I’m going to be with you, you just need to make a decision…’ And at that moment, through that prayer, He said, ‘Hey, just take a step of faith. You’re either going to stop playing the game of football and you’re going to go onto a different area of your life and I’m going to be with you; I’m going to be the most important thing in your life – or you’re going to step back into football and you’re going to continue to play and I’m going to be with you every step of the way and you’re going to play to glorify me.’
And, in that moment, I decided to go back to the game of football and it was the greatest decision I ever made. I was so weak at that time, but… I wouldn’t change a thing because I grew so much through everything I went through. That’s a story I can share with friends, with loved ones – if I’m speaking at a church – or if I’m in the locker room; wherever that might be. Because everyone feels weak at some time in our lives. But we have to realize that, when we’re going through that, God is shaping our hearts, allowing us to grow, and helping us become who He created us to truly be.
In 2017, Foles signed with the team that first drafted him, the Philadelphia Eagles. Of course, he signed to be a backup; this time to another devout Christian, and soon to be close friend, Carson Wentz. On December 10, in a game against the Rams, Wentz tore his ACL, presenting Foles the opportunity to be the starter once again. He has responded by leading the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl!
Foles has experienced high points and low ones. He’s suffered injuries. He’s been humbled. He’s lost his job and been passed by. But he has seen each struggle as an opportunity to grow. Even though no one enjoys suffering, God uses painful moments to help us grow. When we suffer, we can take Foles’ story to heart. God uses our worst moments to prepare us for best. As Paul says in Romans 5:3-5; Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.