Nick Foles has been one of the NFL's most captivating stories over the past two seasons. While filling in for an injured Carson Wentz in consecutive campaigns, the veteran quarterback led the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl title and then sparked another playoff run in 2018.
But has Foles truly played at the same level (or higher) as Philadelphia's franchise QB? Let's look at their respective numbers under center:
|Combined 2017-2018 stats||Eagles with Foles||Eagles with Wentz|
|Win percentage (including playoffs)||76.90%||66.67%|
|Points per game||23.2||26.9|
|Passing yards per game||253||265.4|
|Team rushing yards per game||93.7||122|
|Yards per attempt||7.17||7.57|
|Sacks allowed per game||1.15||2.88|
|Defense points allowed per game||17.1||21.1|
Outside of team record - which is certainly important - it's clear Philadelphia's offense was still superior with Wentz in the fold. The former No. 2 overall pick edges out Foles in some key statistical categories, including points per game and yards per attempt.
And while the veteran appears to be the more accurate passer, completion percentage doesn't tell the entire story. In 2018, Wentz actually had the edge in adjusted completion percentage, according to Pro Football Focus, which accounts for drops, throwaways, spikes, and passes where he was hit during a throw. Additionally, 78.5 percent of Wentz's passes were on target, compared to 75.3 percent of Foles'.
Still, while Wentz produced stronger numbers, it's mighty impressive that Foles managed to keep it close.
There's also one area where the reigning Super Bowl MVP actually holds a decisive edge - pocket presence. Wentz is sometimes criticized for holding the ball too long - looking for big plays but taking sacks in the process - whereas Foles has taken a minuscule 1.15 sacks per game. That lack of negative plays is a big reason the latter led the Eagles on extended drives and won games.
But again, it's hard to argue Foles is better than Wentz overall, or that a 29-year-old journeyman should land the starting role in Philadelphia over a 26-year-old who's starred since entering the league. The Eagles clearly agree, as head coach Doug Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman both said this week that Wentz is the unquestioned starter heading into 2019.
Foles could always return in a backup role, but the $20-million mutual option in his contract makes that scenario unlikely. In that case, should he be a top target for other teams this offseason, and which of his qualities are most appealing?
From the data, it's clear Foles thrives under pressure and when asked to make quick decisions.
In terms of the former, Foles ranked first in passer rating and third in completion percentage while under pressure in 2018, per PFF. And as mentioned earlier, he's excellent at avoiding sacks - even when faced with oncoming rushers. Foles was sacked on just 11.9 percent of snaps when he faced pressure this season, which was the league's second-best mark. His 2017 campaign wasn't as prolific in that category, but he still edged out the likes of Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, and Russell Wilson.
Meanwhile, quick decision-making is perhaps Foles' greatest strength. Run-pass options, slants, and quick option routes are staples of Pederson's offense, and the experienced pivot ran them to a tee. In 2018, Foles averaged 2.42 seconds in the pocket before attempting a pass and 2.45 seconds in the pocket per dropback, per PFF, which ranked fifth-least and least among quarterbacks, respectively. When releasing the ball in less than 2.5 seconds, Foles completed 76 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and just one interception.
Oh, and the bulk of those passes came during must-win games down the stretch.
Given his postseason experience and his proven success in certain areas, Foles should certainly be a target for quarterback-needy teams this summer, especially those willing to run a system that plays to his strengths. And when compared to the likes of Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, and Teddy Bridgewater - other QBs expected to be available this offseason - he beats them clean in nearly every key statistical category.
Nick Foles isn't Carson Wentz, but there aren't many true franchise quarterbacks around. He's still a proven winner and someone with undeniable strengths who's shown he can thrive in the correct scheme. Even if he's just a "game manager," he'll likely be one of the best available in quite some time.