The Eagles entered Chip Kelly's tenure with a lot of questions at quarterback. Veteran passer Michael Vick was still signed to a large contract that needed to be reduced or removed before the season, and Nick Foles was a second-year player with a small sample size of work as a starter. Kelly had a few decisions to make. Would he cut Vick and go with Foles and perhaps a rookie draft pick, or would he keep the veteran and have him fight for the position with the youngster and a pick? For Kelly, the second option was his choice.
The decision to keep Vick turned out to be a brilliant move, as Vick, Foles and the newly drafted Matt Barkley competed throughout the summer. Both Vick and Foles looked great at separate times in the offseason, with the younger passer showing accuracy and improvement in training camp, while the elder option played well in the preseason. Vick's in-game performance led to him being named the Eagles' starter before the third preseason game.
Foles took his job as a backup in stride and acknowledged his support for his teammate and friend. Vick went on to lead the Eagles to a 33-27 win over the Redskins in the first game of the season and looked sharp in doing so. He followed up that performance with another quality outing in a loss to the Chargers. The failure against San Diego would be the first of a three-game skid that populated the loss column.
The Eagles played the Giants in Week 5, and that is when everything changed. Vick struggled as a passer against the Giants, who at the time were 0-5 on the season. He was able to produce a miraculous 79 yards on the ground, which kept the Eagles in the game but also saw to his demise. Vick scrambled to pick up a first down late in the second quarter and pulled up tightly on the sideline. He had pulled a hamstring.
Vick played out the remainder of the series and then returned to the field for the next possession. Vick struggled to move around in the pocket and Kelly could tell that he was injured. The head coach made the decision to pull Vick and put Foles on the field. The second-year player led a 75-yard drive on the same series and helped the Eagles finish the first half with 19-7 lead after a late field goal by kicker Alex Henery.
Following halftime, Foles dominated the Giants' defense. Despite a 14-point comeback by New York to start the third quarter, Foles led the Eagles on a 17-0 run for the rest of the game. Foles engineered two touchdown drives that featured two perfect throws for scores to tight end Brent Celek and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Eagles won, 36-21.
Foles would start in Week 6 while Vick attempted to recover from his hamstring injury. The former third-round pick gained his only victory as a rookie against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay with a dynamic performance in 2012. In this season's outing against the Buccaneers in Florida, Foles was downright sensational. He ran for touchdown to start the game, in what would be a dominant performance. He finished the 31-20 road win with a 71 completion percentage, four total touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 133.3 passer rating.
The following week, Foles came back down to Earth with a horrific showing against the Cowboys in Philadelphia. Despite not turning the ball over, Foles went 11-of-29 for 80 yards before suffering a late-game concussion. It seemed that Foles was a quarterback who was too inconsistent to handle the load.
Foles missed the Week 8 game rematch against the Giants. An injured Michael Vick and rookie Barkley matched and quite possibly exceeded Foles' Week 7 ineptness against the Eagles' bitter rivals. The pair combined to be 23-of-36 for 188 yards and two interceptions. The Eagles defense showed up, holding the Giants to five field goals as New York won, 15-3. It was an embarrassing loss that saw Vick re-injure his hamstring.
The worsening of Vick's health gave Foles another shot as a starter, and that is when the young passer's unbelievable November began. Foles literally owned the Raiders defense with seven passing touchdowns, three of which went to once-questioned starting wide receiver Riley Cooper. The former Arizona Wildcat was phenomenal with the seven scores to go along with 406 yards and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Foles is the only player in NFL history to combine seven touchdowns with a perfect passer rating.
The next two games would be wins over the Packers and Redskins. Foles was a combined 29-of-44 in those games with 526 yards, four total touchdowns (one rushing) and zero interceptions. He had passer ratings of 149.3 and 104.3 in those contests. In fact, Foles has had four of his five starts end with passer ratings of over 100.
Kelly made the decision during Week 12's bye week to give Foles the reigns for the rest of the season. Here is what Kelly had to say about the decision to start Foles:
"He's played more games (since the preseason) and you get more of a body of work to see him play," Kelly said of Foles. "I said it the other day, that he's doing a great job of protecting the football and not putting us in bad situations. When we have a shot and can take it down the field, he's proven that he can do that. He's got a great command of what we're doing and he's a lot more comfortable with what we're doing. It's just kind of an ongoing process for him."
Foles has been accurate (63.6 percent completion percentage), efficient (18 total touchdowns, 128.0 passer rating) and has protected the ball (one lost fumble, zero interceptions) this season. Those three qualities are what Kelly has preached about his desire for a quarterback. Unexpectedly, he has also displayed the ability to be an effective runner with 30 scrambles for 123 yards (4.1 YPC).
On top of meeting all of Kelly's requirements for the position, Foles owns the highest passer rating (128.0) for any month in league history. He has thrown 162 passes without an interception. Even more important, the team is 4-1 with him as a starter and the Eagles are in the midst of their first three-game win streak since 2011.
Foles may not be a burner as a runner or have the best arm, but he has done everything Kelly has asked him to do. With that said, Kelly's coaching has turned Foles into a premier passer and both have reaped the benefits.
With five games remaining on the schedule, Foles, Kelly and the Eagles are all position to continue their success. However, their luck is tied to the performance of the passer from Austin, Texas.