Foles got big-game experience in high school

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Foles got big-game experience in high school

“After watching the game today, I'm a Nick Foles believer 100 percent. If he keeps working hard and getting better, that kid’s going to make millions in the NFL.”

That’s not a quote following Nick Foles’ performance against the Raiders or Bears this year. It’s not from Foles’ career with the Eagles at all. It’s not even from his college career.

It’s an anonymous post made by somebody going by “Texasfrog” on a Texas high school football message board on Dec. 24, 2006.

Seven years ago this week. And just a few hours after Foles’ final high school football game.

Foles, then a senior at Austin Westlake High School, completed 24 of 43 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions that day against the No. 1-ranked high school team in the U.S., Southlake Carroll.

Westlake led 15-7 early, but Carroll rallied for a 43-29 win to take the Class-5A championship before about 30,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Who says Foles has never played in a big game?

On Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, about 300 miles north of San Antonio, Foles will play in an even bigger game.

Eagles-Cowboys. Playoff berth at stake.

“State championship in Texas is pretty high,” Foles said. “Bowl games are really high, but that was a big game, growing up.

“At the time in my life, I hadn’t been through college football and you’re playing with all the guys you grew up with and on a big stage against at the time … the No. 1 team in the country.

“We ended up losing but we played them really, really well, and that was tough, but all those games that I’ve played in have. I’ve taken a lot from them. Those were the guys I grew up with. It was family. I knew them forever, since I was in elementary school, so that was a special time.”

With 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions, Foles is the NFL’s highest-rated quarterback with a 118.7 passer rating -- third-highest in NFL history.

The Eagles are 8-2 this year when he’s played more than a half, 1-4 when he hasn’t.

But Sunday night will be by far the biggest start of his career. On the road, in front of 80,000 Cowboys fans and a national TV audience, against the only team that shut him down this year, with a playoff berth hanging in the balance.

That’s all.

Foles played in a couple bowl games at Arizona, but he said that Texas state title game seven years ago is the biggest game he’s played so far.

“I remember warming up in that game and just thinking, ‘This is a dream come true,’" Foles said after practice Thursday.

“To be playing varsity high school football in the state of Texas for Westlake High School and be playing for a state championship, that was a dream.

“And the thing about that season, the beginning of the season, we had a lot of adversity that went on with the team and the players and injuries and stuff like that, so it was how we got there. We didn’t always play well, but we turned it on in the playoffs and we stuck together as a team.

“Sort of like this year. We didn’t start out very well, [but we] started to figure each other out, new identities and stuff like that. You stick together and you believe in each other and you play for each other, and that’s how it was my senior year at Westlake. We believed in each other and we fought for each other.”

Foles played in two bowl games while at Arizona: the Holiday Bowl vs. Alex Henery and Nebraska in San Diego following the 2009 season, and the Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma State a year later. The Wildcats lost those two games by a combined 69-10.

Foles was just 6 for 20 for 28 yards and an interception vs. Nebraska and 32 for 50 for 280 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions vs. Oklahoma State.

As big as Texas high school football is and as big as college bowl games are, Sunday night’s game vs. the Cowboys will be the biggest game of Foles’ life.

“It’s great going back to the state of Texas,” he said. “I was born in Austin, I’m a Texas boy.

“It’s great because there’ll be family there, but when I go there, I’m strictly business. It’s time to play football and when I’m in that stadium, I’m going to zone out everything and just focus on that field and focus on playing with my teammates.

“Of course it’s exciting, but I know what’s important and I can’t let the other stuff distract me because I know what’s on the table.”

A win would give the Eagles their first NFC East title and their first playoff berth since 2010 and make Foles the second-youngest quarterback ever to lead the Eagles to the playoffs.

Foles will be about 24 years, 11 months on Sunday. Donovan McNabb was about 23 years, one month, when the 2000 Eagles reached the playoffs as a wild-card.

“It’s pretty much playoffs because if we lose we’re done,” Foles said. “And we don’t want to be done.

“It’s fun, and we want to keep playing football. It is a different game because it is a do-or-die game, and it’s been fun playing with these guys. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, and I want to keep playing.”

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he's aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants' game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

It's official: Eagles reach terms with WRs coach Mike Groh

It's official: Eagles reach terms with WRs coach Mike Groh

The Eagles' only vacant coaching position has been filled.

On Monday afternoon the team announced that it had reached terms with Mike Groh to be the new receivers coach.

“We are excited to add Mike Groh to our coaching staff," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said in a release from the team. "Mike brings with him a vast array of experience coaching wide receivers in the NFL and college. Over his career, he has demonstrated a great ability as a teacher and as a motivator and we look forward to him getting started in Philadelphia.” 

Earlier this month, after the receivers had a disappointing season, the team fired first-year receivers coach Greg Lewis and have been searching for his replacement. In addition to interviewing Groh, the team also interviewed Bills receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

While Lewis was an NFL position coach for the first time in 2016, Groh has a little more experience at the NFL level. Groh, 45, spent 2016 with the Rams as their receivers coach and passing game coordinator after three years with the Chicago Bears as their receivers coach.

Lewis was the only position coached fired after Pederson's first NFL season. The team finished 7-9 after a 3-0 start.

Groh was seemingly available because of the head coaching change in Los Angeles.

Before he made it to the NFL as a receivers coach with the Bears, Groh had a long coaching career at the college level. He rose to the level of offensive coordinator at Virginia under his father Al, who was the Cavaliers' long-time head coach.

Mike Groh's first coaching job came with the Jets in 2000, when his father had a one-year stint as their head coach.

Mike Groh was once a quarterback at Virginia before his father ever coached there.

While the Eagles' receivers wildly underperformed in 2016, Groh has coached two of the top free agents at the position: Alshon Jeffery and Kenny Britt.

The Eagles' coaching staff will be in Mobile, Alabama, this week to get a closer look at some top draft prospects, among them will be several talented receivers.