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. 

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).