Nick Foles is a confusing QB. Is he the guy who threw 27 touchdowns and just two picks over a stretch with the Eagles? Or is he the guy who looked lost with the Rams, who had to ask for his own release when the Rams were clearly going to replace him with a rookie?
One thing is for certain, however. Foles did have a choice regarding where he wanted to be a backup. He knew he wasn’t likely to walk into a starting job, but several teams were interested in his services. One of the main teams that talked about bringing him in was the Dallas Cowboys. Foles ended up picking the Chiefs, where he has almost instantly worked his way up to the No. 2 spot.
In some ways, Foles’ decision can be looked at as a slight to starting QB Alex Smith
When Foles asked to be released, it was because he wanted to be a starter. He knew he had almost no hope going up against a No. 1 overall pick. Even if Jared Goff is a huge bust for the Rams, they traded a massive amount of assets to go up to No. 1 and take him. They have to spend a few years trying to turn him into a star. They certainly hope he’ll be one almost instantly, but they’re looking at a minimum of three or four years trying to make it happen. Foles would be in his 30s by then and he wasn’t going to wait.
Again, he knew he wasn’t likely to get a starting gig at the time he was released. So, when looking at his options on the market, he had to see where he would best be able to overtake the No. 1 QB already on the depth chart. And he identified the Smith as that weak link.
Some of it also has to do with the lack of proven depth behind Smith. It’s not surprising that Foles is already the No. 2. Backup Chase Daniel went to Philly in free agency, so the Chiefs were just going to shuffle guys up from within, but they didn’t have anyone locked in.
But that couldn’t have been the driving factor, because the Cowboys are decidedly worse at the backup spot. They were a train wreck last year, starting multiple backups when Tony Romo was hurt, and nothing clicked. They were going to go with Kellen Moore this year, but he broke his ankle. Foles had to think he could beat out rookie Dak Prescott to take that No. 2 spot easily—and yes, Prescott was impressive in his first preseason game, but Foles made his decision well before that game, so he didn’t view Prescott the same way the Cowboys may now.
One telling fact here is that Foles isn’t banking on starting due to injury. Smith has been very reliable in Kansas City, starting 15 games in 2013, 15 more in 2014 and all 16 in 2015.
Meanwhile, Romo was the exact opposite in Dallas last year. He only started four games, breaking his collarbone twice in the same season. He has a history of back injuries and he’s 36 years old. He had surgery in the offseason, yet again. For the short time he was healthy last year, he threw five touchdowns and seven picks, and the Cowboys don’t even know for sure if he’ll be back up to that level in 2016.
If Foles wanted to Tom Brady this thing and poach a job due to injury, he’d be in Dallas. But he doesn’t. He wants to win the starting job by outplaying the starter, and he must believe his best chance to do that is in Kansas City.
Health concerns aside, he may be right. Smith has been a reliable quarterback who has done what is asked of him. He’s efficient and smart with the ball. With a back like Jamaal Charles and a solid defense, he’s the perfect system QB. But he lacks that next-level, dynamic element that sets elite QBs apart.
Foles looked like he had it for a brief time with the Eagles, before being an utter disaster last year. He’s gambling that he can get it back and take Smith’s job. And he thinks he has a better chance to do that than to wait for Romo to get hurt.