Forget Draft Position: Nick Foles Defining Performance Gives Eagles Hope for the Future

Forget Draft Position: Nick Foles Defining Performance Gives Eagles Hope for the Future

There are going to be some folks who either can’t or won’t
enjoy the Eagles 23-21 victory over Tampa Bay. I feel sorry for them.

Was the win ultimately meaningless? Yes. Did it have a
negative impact on their rising draft position? Yes. But dammit, this was an
important win for Philadelphia.

It cemented Nick Foles as the future of their franchise.

No one can promise Foles will lead the Eagles to the
promised land. We’re not putting him on the next plane to Honolulu, nor planning
his enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. Long-term, nobody even knows whether
Foles will enjoy a lengthy run as a starting quarterback, let alone achieve
varying levels of greatness.

If the Birds are to ever win a Super Bowl though, the past
decade tells us they will most likely need an elite quarterback in order to do it.
Prior to Sunday, I would have said there wasn’t a player of that caliber on the
roster.

Now there is hope.

Down 21-10 with 7:21 to go in the fourth quarter, Foles led
the offense on back-to-back touchdown drives of eight and 13 plays, finally pinning the ball on Jeremy
Maclin in the end zone as time expired. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Perhaps it is just as unfair to declare Foles’ career is
suddenly filled with tremendous promise after one great game as it was to say he wasn’t
necessarily ever going to become that player. It’s not as if there weren’t signs already.

The Eagles chose Foles in the third round with the blueprint
of grooming him to one day become a starting quarterback. He had an outstanding
preseason that suggested he was light years ahead of schedule. Since coming on
to relieve Michael Vick, he has made measurable improvements each and every
week.

But there is a difference between the athlete who is a
relative unknown, a preseason darling, or a young, developing quarterback, and the
player who proves on the field, when it counts, that he has “it.” By leading
the Eagles on that 64-yard touchdown drive with 2:44 remaining, Foles made the
leap from just another guy to legitimate prospect.

How good was Foles against the Buccaneers? Oh, he only had
the best performance by a rookie quarterback in club history. The kid
connected on 32 of 51 attempts for 381 yards (7.5 YPA) and two touchdowns, plus
added another score on the ground. He dropped back 60 times, but committed zero
turnovers.

Numbers don’t really do the outing justice. Foles made big
throw upon big throw during the comeback, especially on the final drive. 3rd
and 14? No problem. 4th and 1? He’ll take it himself. 4th
and 5? How ‘bout 22 yards. 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line with
two seconds left? Piece of cake. In fact, Foles accounted for all 136 yards on
the Eagles’ last two possessions.

All day long, Foles maneuvered around the pocket, faced the pressure, and delivered strikes down field. He had the look of a seasoned
veteran, which is quite possibly the best compliment you could pay a 23 year
old in the NFL.

Would we still be heaping all of this praise upon Foles had
Tampa Bay’s Danny Gorrer held on to an errant pass only three plays before Maclin
made a sliding grab by the sideline in the end zone? Maybe not to the extent
we are now, but a single poor throw would not have undone or erased the body of
work. This was a strong outing any way you slice it.

Besides, there are always bumps along the road. Foles has a
long way to go before anybody believes he is ready to put the football team on
his shoulders on a weekly basis. He is going to make mistakes, mistakes that are
the reason the Eagles taste defeat. It’s all part of the process.

Yet simply put, he is passing the eye test. There was an
increasing level of comfort setting in with the direction the Eagles are
heading at the position. Now that Foles has added a defining win to his resume,
there is going to be a genuine buzz over his next act. How does he top this?

At this point, Foles is a lottery ticket. He could fail
spectacularly, and the Eagles toss him aside. He could grow into a competent
quarterback that leads the team into the next era, and you enjoy it while it
lasts. Or, as we caught a glimpse of for the first time today, Foles might be
the next big thing, the grand prize so to speak.

Whether or not the Eagles picked a winner, we’ll have to
wait for the drawing to find out. We know now though that Foles was definitely worth the investment.

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If you hate the Nerlens Noel trade, you value him more than Sixers do

If you hate the Nerlens Noel trade, you value him more than Sixers do

I'll make the Nerlens Noel trade simple for you.

The Sixers don't think he's worth the money he'll be offered after the season.

He's a restricted free agent, and the Sixers don't anticipate matching the offer he'll receive, so they got what they could instead of letting him walk and getting nothing.

"I've often said I wouldn't make a bad deal," Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday, "but yesterday I made the best deal that was available to us."

If you're fixated on the "bad deal" part of the quote -- and judging from the reaction in our newsroom and on Twitter and on our site, plenty of you should be -- then you have a higher opinion of Noel than the Sixers do. 

And that's the point of contention. 

Maybe Nerlens turns out to be Dennis Rodman 2.0. 

If that's the case, Bryan Colangelo will be ripped like Larry Brown has been for choosing Larry Hughes over Paul Pierce (it will never end). The move will be grouped with Moses Malone for Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson, and the No. 1 pick (Brad Dougherty) for Roy Hinson. 

(Sixers fans would have broken Twitter had it existed in 1986. If your Sixer fandom survived those trades, then this one barely should elicit a shrug.)  

But Noel also may just be the next Samuel Dalembert.

It will take some time to answer that question, but critics of this trade are also asking about the timing of the deal.

Why not trade Noel earlier? If they weren't sold on him, they could have dealt him last year when free agency wasn't on the horizon and they had more leverage. 

Remember, circumstances were different at the end of last season. Joel Embiid had yet to play. Noel and Jahlil Okafor were their insurance policies -- and Okafor was recovering from a knee injury too. 

"We were plugging in Nerlens Noel as our starting center at that point," Colangelo said. "There was no other way around because the unknowns related to both Joel and Jahlil."

Plus, Bryan Colangelo arrived last April 11, with just two games left in the regular season.

"When I was brought in, he was already basically an RFA," Colangelo said. 

Then why not wait until after this season and possibly retain Noel at a decent price? Colangelo didn't want to take the chance.

"Him being a restricted free agent certainly affected how people approached that type of player," he said. "It was more or less the case with every conversation I had that that concern about what that contract might look like in the future was certainly a factor in people's apprehension to move forward."

Perhaps the biggest conclusion to draw from the deal is this: The fact that the Sixers traded Noel -- and were clearly also willing to trade Okafor -- is a sign of their confidence in Embiid's potential, and more importantly, his durability.

"That Joel has emerged as a transformational type of player, it certainly made the decision to possibly move Nerlens that much easier," Colangelo said.

The Sixers clearly are confident that Embiid will not be the next Greg Oden will recover to be the player who -- as a rookie -- is averaging nearly a point a minute. 

Risky? Certainly. Crazy? We'll find out. 

That said, the Sixers are also asking you to remember Richaun Holmes, who, as Colangelo put it was "in the shadows last year as an emerging backup."

And he's still emerging. Holmes has shown promise on both ends of the floor and is more polished and versatile offensively than Noel. Let's see what the kid can do. Maybe he'll find a home backing up Saric at the four and Embiid at the five.

Speaking of backups, the Sixers clearly weren't satisfied with the offers for Okafor, who unlike Noel isn't facing free agency. So they held onto him. Good move; he's too young to give away. 

Now it's up to the coaching staff to convince Okafor that the best way to earn a starting spot anywhere is to play defense and actually hustle after a rebound or two. 

The coaching staff's other priority is Justin Anderson, the key piece in the Noel deal. Anderson gives the Sixers another solid wing defender to go with Robert Covington. But -- like Covington this season -- he's struggled from three. Anderson recently has shown signs of being the player worthy of the 21st pick in 2015. Brown and company must help him rediscover his shot and become the next Jae Crowder

But back to the beginning. Regardless of your opinion of Noel, remember this: The keystones of this team are Embiid and Ben Simmons. If they recover from their respective injuries and live up to expectations, then this team should -- with its wealth of assets and cap room -- be in position to complete The Process. 

If not, then there's probably nothing Nerlens Noel could have done about it anyway.

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

As recently as December, Bryan Colangelo insisted the Sixers would not trade one of their centers just for the sake of clearing up the logjam in the club’s frontcourt. “I will not make a bad deal for this organization,” the general manager said.

What changed in the past two months?

On Thursday, Colangelo sent Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for a conditional first-round draft choice that in all likelihood will become a pair of second-round picks; Justin Anderson, a second-year prospect with nowhere near Noel’s upside; and Andrew Bogut, who may never even wear a Sixers uniform (perhaps the best case scenario, in all honesty). This is an objectively bad deal for the Sixers!

Sure, there are numerous explanations for the disappointing return on Noel. The NBA is well aware the Sixers have too many centers, so Colangelo was bargaining from a position of weakness. The Sacramento Kings didn’t do the Sixers any favors, either, by woefully short-changing themselves in the DeMarcus Cousins swap. And Noel will be a restricted free agent come July, creating the kind of uncertainty that tends to hurt value.

Yet none of those excuses justifies Colangelo’s decision, and the reason is very simple. There was absolutely nothing compelling the Sixers to make this move right now.

If Noel wasn’t gone at the trade deadline, then what? They risked losing him in free agency and winding up with nothing in return.

First, to that argument, the return the Sixers did get on Noel feels like nothing. Even a top-18 protected pick isn’t much of an asset to the franchise at this point, while two seconds are essentially meaningless. Bogut is, too, for that matter. Anderson is not without some promise, although his ceiling probably isn’t as high as Noel’s floor.

Nothing the Sixers accomplished here is going to help the team win a championship.

Of course, the fear that Noel would walk away and leave the Sixers with empty pockets is built on something of a faulty premise to begin with. That was only one potential outcome.

One possibility was also to make an actual attempt to re-sign Noel long-term. Another possibility was matching an offer sheet if those efforts ultimately failed. Another outcome still was a tepid market forcing him to accept the Sixers’ one-year qualifying offer.

By doing literally any of those things, the Sixers could have traded Noel at a later date. Even if Colangelo already determined the 22-year-old was not going to be part of the future, he could have waited to see if a better offer would materialize at a later date.

Any number of components would have changed over time. The Sixers could’ve dumped Jhalil Okafor, creating room in their frontcourt and restoring the organization’s bargaining power in the process. The market would’ve had a chance to reset after the disastrous Cousins trade made moving bigs for any semblance of value next to impossible. By merely holding on to Noel, the Sixers could’ve created the perception they just may want to keep him around, allowing the front office to raise the asking price.

An injury to a key player could've driven up Noel's value for a desperate team. His own development might've made him a more attractive piece around the league. Who knows, maybe Colangelo would've come to appreciate Noel's role with the Sixers in the meantime — just saying.

Would there be risks involved with that approach?

Not any greater than the risk of getting fleeced.

There’s little doubt that if Noel went on to sign an offer sheet in July and the Sixers didn’t match, the organization would be facing backlash as a result of that turn of events as well. While it’s a little difficult to accept that could’ve transpired, we can’t pretend the scenario didn’t exist.

Regardless, trading Noel for this package feels like a give-up move on the part of Colangelo. It seems like exactly the thing he promised he wouldn’t do, which was move one of the Sixers’ centers purely because they have too many.

To make matters worse, the timing of all of this suggests Colangelo allowed the trade deadline and Noel’s status as an impending restricted free agent to dictate his decision-making, which is a sin far greater than simply making a bad deal.

That’s the sign of a bad process.