What’s next for Nick Foles?

What’s next for Nick Foles?

Like everybody else, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around what Nick Foles accomplished in an Eagles uniform on Sunday. On one hand, I don’t care who you are or what the situation is, seven touchdowns in one game is damn impressive. There’s a reason only six other players in the 94-year history of the NFL have done it.

On the other hand, it was against the Raiders. Forget the rankings, they looked clueless. Oakland’s pass rush was nonexistent, cornerbacks were falling down all over the place and nobody even bothered to cover LeSean McCoy on his 25-yard touchdown reception. That was a bad team.

Then there is Foles’ baggage. He was a third-round draft pick. He lost an open competition for the starting quarterback job to Mike Vick over the summer (however narrowly). And when the opportunity presented itself again for Foles to cement himself in that role, the second-year passer played the worst game of his career against Dallas.

In the span of three games, Foles went from Offensive Player of the Week to a 37.9 completion percentage and 2.8 yards per attempt to etching his name into the record books. Foles is 24-years-old and has made nine career starts, yet he’s already experienced unimaginable highs and lows.

Who is Nick Foles? Nobody knows for sure right now—but everybody should be intrigued.

The numbers speak for themselves. Foles is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt this season. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns passes with zero interceptions. His 127.4 passer rating would lead the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.

It’s the things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet though. Even as a rookie playing in his first NFL preseason game, Foles seemed to possess almost uncanny pocket presence. He instinctively slides away from pressure, but his eyes remain locked down the field rather than on the 300-lb. defensive lineman inside his facemask.

Foles is tough like that. He’s not afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit. He’s got a prototypical 6’6”, 243-lb. frame, so he can absorb a few.

Foles’ arm strength is better than advertised as well. He’s usually very accurate, makes sound decisions with the football, and has what’s been dubbed as “functional mobility.”

Sounds like a great player. Why are we so mind-blown over his amazing performance on Sunday?

It’s his pedigree. The overwhelming majority of NFL starting quarterbacks are taken in the first round of the draft—Foles went in the third. He never produced a bowl victory at the esteemed University of Arizona, where he compiled a 15-18 record as a starter including a four-win season his senior year. You can understand why people are hesitant to label this kid a franchise quarterback.

It’s his track record too, or lack thereof. With the win over the Raiders, Foles’ record in the NFL improved to 3-6. Those three victories are against opponents with a combined 10-22 record. And while Foles has typically demonstrated steady improvement from one game to the next, there are still outliers such as his abysmal game against the Cowboys in Week 7.

There is only one way Foles can put those doubts and more to rest and that is by beating some decent teams or at the very least stringing together several quality weeks in a row. He hasn’t acchieved either of those feats yet, and until he does it’s perfectly fair to be skeptical even of seven-touchdown performances.

But it’s never really been about labels or what people believe. Neither Chip Kelly nor Howie Roseman and not even Jeffrey Lurie can wave a magic wand one day, and poof, Foles is the franchise quarterback.

There are only two ways a player is elevated to that status. One is he’s selected in the first round of the draft and handed the reins. The other is he plays his way into that position.

Fans and analysts can’t petition for somebody to be named a franchise quarterback. He simply is or he isn’t.

Time will tell whether or not Foles ever earns that status in Philadelphia—he hasn’t yet. Franchise quarterbacks all had to ascend from somewhere though, and labeled or not, Foles’ history-making afternoon on Sunday may very well have been the origin of one.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).