Time to put Foles, 'Franchise QB' convo on hold... for now

Time to put Foles, 'Franchise QB' convo on hold... for now

Sure, Nick Foles has made some history. Last week tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game, was one of only three guys even to do it without an interception, and was the only one to do it with a perfect quarterback rating. On Sunday became one of only three passers to start a season with 16 or more touchdowns and no interceptions, one being Peyton Manning, the other being a guy from 1960. Oh, and he posted the highest single-game quarterback rating at Lambeau Field. Ever.

But while it's good and fun to debate whether Foles should be the starter for the rest of the season and projects as a franchise guy, or merely finds himself at the middle of a fun and fortunate convergence of events, with the Eagles 27-13 win over the Packers this Sunday, the conversation has shifted, been put on hold.

Now, it's whether the Eagles can make the playoffs, and what it means for Foles if he leads them there.

First, on the Birds' road to January.

At 5-5, the Eagles sit a half-game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East, thanks to a tiebreaker coming in the form of that time Foles played less than good. Their chance for a season series split, and at closing the one-game difference between their in-division records, comes in Week 17, at Dallas.

Until then, the Eagles have a pretty manageable schedule. Their opponents -- Washington, Arizona, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas -- have a combined 26-29 mark. Only two division leaders, though one is the Cowboys. Only one at two games over .500. (Lions.) Toughest defense they'll face (Cardinals, coincidentally led by... Todd Bowles), comes after Philly's bye, in Week 14. Only one hour-plus time zone change, at 2-7 Minnesota. Four of six at home, and the Linc Stink has to subside sometime, right? (Right?)

Dallas, though, has it even easier. Combined opponents' record for the rest of the way: 24-31. Three games against teams at three games under .500. None against teams at two over. Chicago, in Week 14, may be without Jay Cutler. Samesies for Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, their next opponent. What may be the de facto NFC East championship game, the regular season finale against the Eagles, is in the Cowboys' house.

Dallas is the current Vegas leader to win the division, at an even money line. The Eagles are +150.

As for a wild card berth: read today's MMQB. Probs not gonna happen. As for the Giants and Washingtonians: I may be crazy to go here with the Eagles. Not crazy enough to go there with them.

Of course, the focus will eventually double back to Foles' long-term prospects, and rightfully so. Finding a franchise quarterback isn't just Jeffrey Lurie's No. 1 priority. It's just kind of what you do in the league.

If he doesn't win, the argument against Foles being cemented as "the guy" moving forward through the draft and into training camp next year will make itself. But what happens if he does win? Then what?

Here's a list of guys who've won at least seven games in a season in any of their first two NFL seasons dating back to 1984, Dan Marino's first year. Why seven? Two reasons. One, it's probably going to take seven Foles wins to get the Eagles into the playoffs safely. He has three already. (Remember, he didn't start in Week 5 in New York.) Two, lowering the bar to seven accounts for guys taking over mid-season, like Foles.

Rk Player Year Age Tm Lg GS W L T
1 Dan Marino* 1984 23 MIA NFL 16 14 2 0
2 Peyton Manning 1999 23 IND NFL 16 13 3 0
3 Ben Roethlisberger 2004 22 PIT NFL 13 13 0 0
4 Kurt Warner 1999 28 STL NFL 16 13 3 0
5 Marc Bulger 2003 26 STL NFL 15 12 3 0
6 John Elway* 1984 24 DEN NFL 14 12 2 0
7 Bernie Kosar 1986 23 CLE NFL 16 12 4 0
8 Jay Schroeder 1986 25 WAS NFL 16 12 4 0
9 Tom Brady 2001 24 NWE NFL 14 11 3 0
10 Dieter Brock 1985 34 RAM NFL 15 11 4 0
11 Daunte Culpepper 2000 23 MIN NFL 16 11 5 0
12 Joe Flacco 2008 23 BAL NFL 16 11 5 0
13 Andrew Luck 2012 23 IND NFL 16 11 5 0
14 Eli Manning 2005 24 NYG NFL 16 11 5 0
15 Donovan McNabb 2000 24 PHI NFL 16 11 5 0
16 Ken O'Brien 1985 25 NYJ NFL 16 11 5 0
17 Carson Palmer 2005 26 CIN NFL 16 11 5 0
18 Matt Ryan 2008 23 ATL NFL 16 11 5 0
19 Mark Sanchez 2010 24 NYJ NFL 16 11 5 0
20 Russell Wilson 2012 24 SEA NFL 16 11 5 0
21 Derek Anderson 2007 24 CLE NFL 15 10 5 0
22 Drew Bledsoe 1994 22 NWE NFL 16 10 6 0
23 Andy Dalton 2012 25 CIN NFL 16 10 6 0
24 Josh Freeman 2010 22 TAM NFL 16 10 6 0
25 Shaun King 2000 23 TAM NFL 16 10 6 0
26 Kyle Orton 2005 23 CHI NFL 15 10 5 0
27 Christian Ponder 2012 24 MIN NFL 16 10 6 0
28 Kyle Boller 2004 23 BAL NFL 16 9 7 0
29 Chris Chandler 1988 23 IND NFL 13 9 4 0
30 Kerry Collins 1996 24 CAR NFL 12 9 3 0
31 Andy Dalton 2011 24 CIN NFL 16 9 7 0
32 Joe Flacco 2009 24 BAL NFL 16 9 7 0
33 Robert Griffin III 2012 22 WAS NFL 15 9 6 0
34 Neil O'Donnell 1992 26 PIT NFL 12 9 3 0
35 Jake Plummer 1998 24 ARI NFL 16 9 7 0
36 Ben Roethlisberger 2005 23 PIT NFL 12 9 3 0
37 Matt Ryan 2009 24 ATL NFL 14 9 5 0
38 Mark Rypien 1989 27 WAS NFL 14 9 5 0
39 Russell Wilson 2013 25 SEA NFL 10 9 1 0
40 Vince Young 2007 24 TEN NFL 15 9 6 0
41 Drew Brees 2002 23 SDG NFL 16 8 8 0
42 Brett Favre 1992 23 GNB NFL 13 8 5 0
43 Tarvaris Jackson 2007 24 MIN NFL 12 8 4 0
44 Byron Leftwich 2004 24 JAX NFL 14 8 6 0
45 Mark Sanchez 2009 23 NYJ NFL 15 8 7 0
46 Michael Vick 2002 22 ATL NFL 15 8 6 1
47 Vince Young 2006 23 TEN NFL 13 8 5 0
48 Troy Aikman* 1990 24 DAL NFL 15 7 8 0
49 Sam Bradford 2010 23 STL NFL 16 7 9 0
50 Aaron Brooks 2001 25 NOR NFL 16 7 9 0
51 Kerry Collins 1995 23 CAR NFL 13 7 6 0
52 Jay Cutler 2007 24 DEN NFL 16 7 9 0
53 Trent Dilfer 1995 23 TAM NFL 16 7 9 0
54 Tony Eason 1984 25 NWE NFL 13 7 6 0
55 Trent Edwards 2008 25 BUF NFL 14 7 7 0
56 Boomer Esiason 1985 24 CIN NFL 14 7 7 0
57 Chad Henne 2009 24 MIA NFL 13 7 6 0
58 Danny Kanell 1997 24 NYG NFL 10 7 2 1
59 Cam Newton 2012 23 CAR NFL 16 7 9 0
60 Alex Smith 2006 22 SFO NFL 16 7 9 0
61 Ryan Tannehill 2012 24 MIA NFL 16 7 9 0
62 Tim Tebow 2011 24 DEN NFL 11 7 4 0
63 Mike Tomczak 1986 24 CHI NFL 7 7 0 0

Lot to like, the cases in point being, Marino, Brady, Peyton, Brees, Luck, Wilson, RG3, Roethlisberger, Favre, Aikman. Lot of yuck, too, such as Tomczak, Tebow, Kanell, Trent Edwards, Aaron Brooks, Kyle Boller, Shaun King, Ken O'Brien, Dieter Brock and a whole mess of other guys I have to use two names to reference.

Point being, the same point I made to counter people ready to anoint Foles on the basis of a couple of NFL records alone: end of the day, elevating a guy to "franchise QB" status isn't about stats, records or superlatives. It comes down to evaluating his performance on the field, in terms of abilities, and projecting how that performance should translate in the future.

Things that will be fun to debate on sports talk radio for, well, ever.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM. 

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.