Busted: Nick Foles plays worst game as a pro on big stage versus Dallas

Busted: Nick Foles plays worst game as a pro on big stage versus Dallas

Chip Kelly’s analysis of Nick Foles’ performance in a 17-3 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys: “He was off.”

You can say that again. And again. And again. Amid calls from fans and writers (such as myself) for Foles to take over the reins as the Eagles’ starting quarterback from Michael Vick, the second-year quarterback experienced what was easily his worst outing since arriving in the NFL. And in the process, Philadelphia ceded first place in the NFC East to one of its most hated rivals.

Just how “off” was Foles? He connected on only 11 of 29 passes for a paltry 80 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He threw numerous passes behind receivers. He overthrew them on plenty of occasions too. For a guy who entered the week completing 67 percent of his passes this season, Foles looked almost Tim Tebow-esque as he struggled to hit his targets.

Not only was it the worst showing of Foles’ short career—it was easily the most ineffective any starter has been for the Eagles this season.

Foles would not finish the game due to a head injury, and since Vick was inactive with the hamstring, that meant Matt Barkley was the only option remaining. The fourth-round rookie went 11 for 20 for 129 yards, but managed to throw three picks in roughly a quarter of action.

No controversy there, although if both Vick and Foles are unable to go next week, Barkley might be the starter by default. Yikes.

Making Foles’ poor performance all the more disappointing was the fact that the Birds’ defense did everything they had to do to keep them in the game. Holding Tony Romo and the Cowboys to just 17 points is no small feat, particularly when the offense punts the ball away nine times and turns it over three more. The game was there for the taking with almost any reasonable production from the offense.

Yes, it was that disastrous of a performance for Foles, and yes, it likely cost him any opportunity to seize the job from Vick. That said, as awful as Foles was—and make no mistake, he was about as bad as it gets—it shouldn’t be enough to sway opinions that he is the right quarterback going forward.

Foles crashing back down to earth was always a distinct possibility, but the benefits of going back to Vick are still questionable at best. He’s laid his stinkers this season too already—Kansas City ring a bell? More to the point, unless Vick is taking this team on a deep playoff run or will be here beyond this year, why not give Foles the opportunity to rebound?

Critics will use Sunday’s performance against Dallas to draw inevitable comparisons to Bobby Hoying and Kevin Kolb. Does one horrendous game erase all of the good Foles had done and all of the improvements he’s made though? Has no great quarterback ever experienced a completely ineffective outing when they were still just nine starts into their NFL career?

Foles was the worst he’s ever been on Sunday, and he easily cost the Eagles a win in a huge spot against a division rival. Yet the benefits to going back to Vick remain debatable, and as much as detractors pointed to Foles’ limited sample size before this loss, it’s only grown by one game.

Does this really change everything?

That’s for each to decide on their own at this point. The arguments for Vick or Foles are clear. Maybe this game changed some minds, but it didn’t change mine.

Then again, it may not matter. Vick could still be a week or two away from returning, and now Foles’ status is up in the air. Maybe one is ready next week and the other is not. Maybe neither is, and it’s back to Barkley. We’ll see.

The only thing that seems clear in this whole mess now is what we all assumed before the season ever got underway. The Eagles almost certainly need to draft another quarterback in 2014 regardless. So why not let the kids they have play now?

Sixers look forward to results of Ben Simmons' CT scan Thursday

Sixers look forward to results of Ben Simmons' CT scan Thursday

CAMDEN, N.J. — Thursday is significant for the Sixers beyond the trade deadline. It is also the day of Ben Simmons' CT scan to evaluate how his right foot is healing.

"I feel like tomorrow at some point we're all going to be able to lay out a more genuine plan for him," Brett Brown said. "I feel like we're going to be good to go with some greater news and a more advanced detail of his plans after this scan."

Once all parties involved assess the results, the team will provide an update, which may not be Thursday. Simmons has been sidelined all season after suffering a Jones fracture during the final scrimmage of training camp. 

On Wednesday he went through his individual workout plan, which included five-on-none scripting with teammates.

"He's still getting a feel for all of us," Nerlens Noel said. "He's learning to throw it up to me, bounce pass to whoever. It's learning certain tendencies that'll make you start to feel more a part of the team."

The Sixers have not placed a timetable on Simmons' return. The first overall pick has not been cleared for full contact five-on-five practice, the next step in his recovery. Prior to the All-Star break, Brown said he expects Simmons will play at some point this season. He stands by that projection with 26 games remaining. 

"I personally would like to see him play this season. I don't backpedal from that," Brown said. "I think my comments are really very much influenced by his reciprocal desire to play this year, which we all respect. Everybody's got clandestine conspiracy theories on why he might not want to play. I know in my heart and speaking to him, he wants to get on a court and play basketball again.

"I hope he can do that too. If for some reason he can't, we'll deal with it. But I think it would help him to play NBA basketball and get his competitive juices going again if the doctors point us in that direction."

Simmons' teammates are ready to welcome him into the mix when he is given the green light. Their limited glimpses into his talent have them eager for his debut.

"Unlimited potential," Noel said. "I think with Ben, the thing that makes him so special is his IQ for the game, a sixth sense on the court. Him being able to find little things that not very many 6-10 guys can find. I think that's going to propel his game and make him a special player in this league." 

Added Joel Embiid: "I'm excited ... I thought he was our best player in training camp."

Trade deadline looming, Sixers cherish what could be final day together

Trade deadline looming, Sixers cherish what could be final day together

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers looked around the court on Wednesday and knew it could be their last practice all together.

The NBA trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Thursday. The Sixers are scheduled to practice that day, but who is there for it remains to be seen.

“Honestly, I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Joel Embiid said. “Hopefully I’m here and hopefully my teammates are here. We’ve been playing great basketball when we are healthy and we all play. Hopefully we keep the same group and you never know what can happen.”

The Sixers have stayed tight knit through losing, ups and downs and trade talks. In their ideal world, they would remain teammates for the rest of the season. In the basketball world, there is a strong possibility at least one of them will be moved.

“You’ve learned that you’re not confident on anything,” Brett Brown said when asked about having the same players after the deadline. “There’s nothing that would point to either my 16 years of experience in the league or my three previous trade situations here in Philadelphia that would make me say anything otherwise. We’ve maintained a very high level of transparency with my team. We talk freely. It doesn’t feel as dramatic perhaps as it might have in other years.”

Jahlil Okafor has been the focal point of trade discussions. The Sixers were close to a deal for him last week, to the point where they sat him out two games and did not send him to Charlotte. Okafor will keep his phone close as the deadline approaches.

“I did the best I can to just focus in with the guys [at practice], going over the plays and working on defense,” Okafor said. “But it was definitely on my mind that I could be out of here tomorrow.”

Okafor said he would not have hard feelings if a deal did not happen after being on the trading block. At the same time, he just wants to know what his NBA future holds.

“If the Sixers decide to keep me, I’ll be happy," he said. "I have amazing teammates that I love being with every day and I’ll go back to my everyday routine. If that’s here or somewhere else, I’m just ready for 3 o’clock to happen so I can continue with my career and start doing what I love to do, and that’s play basketball.”

The Sixers' trade talks, to this point, have centered around the bigs because of a logjam in the frontcourt. At the start of the season Nerlens Noel said the team had to make a change. Noel said he was not worried about the deadline and noted the Sixers' first practice after the All-Star break was upbeat, not anxious.

“It’s been such a long season with so many things that were said, so now at this point it’s whatever happens happens,” Noel said.

So who will stay and who will go? With the Sixers' roster in question, Embiid summed up the trade deadline in Embiid fashion.

“It’s business,” Embiid said. “Anything can happen. So you’ve got to trust the process, I guess.”