PHILADELPHIA -- It doesn’t often get much simpler than it does for the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday in Oakland.
If they have the Nick Foles who played against Tampa Bay at quarterback, they will have every chance to beat the Raiders. If they have the Foles who played against Dallas, they will have virtually no chance to beat the Raiders.
Coach Chip Kelly is obviously hoping for the former. The problem is, there is no way to be sure until the game is underway.
“I know how confident Nick is in practice, but practice and games are different things,” Kelly said. “But I think he understands how he played in the Dallas game and how he's practicing right now. He's practicing really well. We'll see. But it's a daily basis.”
Kelly dropped an analogy to explain how Foles could be NFC offensive player of the week in Tampa and miss receivers every which way one week later.
“Sometimes that position is a lot like a golfer,” Kelly said. “You can go one week and be in contention and you're leading and you have a great round, and the next week the guy doesn't make the cut, and that's unfortunate. But what we need out of Nick is consistency, and he understands that. So that's what he's working for in practice right now.”
As Kelly pointed out, there is one major difference. A golfer is alone, while a quarterback requires good play from 10 other guys. But there’s another difference. The golfer only lets one person down: the golfer. A struggling quarterback brings down an entire team.
The Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown in either of their past two games. Foles played three-quarters of the first one and missed the second because of a concussion. Michael Vick played about 25 minutes of the second. Matt Barkley was quarterback for the remainder.
That futility had Kelly parrying with reporters’ questions about whether or not defensive coaches have solved his offense. His explanation is “instability at the quarterback position.” That will hold up much better if Foles can provide some stability and the offense gets moving forward again.
“Sometimes, as players, we try to do too much,” Foles said. “We try to make too many big plays. As a quarterback, you have the ball in your hand and you try to be a hero instead of staying with your reads and staying in rhythm, taking the easy throw sometimes.”
The quarterback who can stay on the field and play effectively can convince Kelly he’s the right guy for the job in the long term. With Vick out again, Foles has another chance to be that guy.
“I focus on the here and now,” Foles said. “If you take care of that, the rest of it will take care of itself. Obviously, everybody has a goal of where they want to be, but if you put all of your focus into that, you forget about the present, you forget about what it takes on this day to play well.”
Foles and Kelly have looked closely at what happened in the Dallas game. They have worked on the fundamentals -- footwork, shoulder angle -- that Foles needs to correct. But ultimately, it will be on the field, in a game, that Foles can prove that game was the aberration.
“I think sometimes you can paralyze him, and I'll use the golf analogy,” Kelly said. “If you stand over the ball and you think about nine million things before you hit it, you're not going to hit it very well. Sometimes, as I told Nick, 'Grip it and rip it, let's go.' He's thrown a lot of really good passes since I've been around him, and he's been really good with the football. He's thrown six touchdowns, hasn't thrown an interception yet.
“The big thing for him is, let's just get him back in the flow. Let's get in a rhythm. That's the biggest thing. Can you get in a rhythm, can you get your feet set, can you throw the ball?”
If Foles can do those things Sunday against the Raiders, the Eagles will have a very good chance of winning. They may even have a quarterback.