The puns have been exhausted, the adulation has been overwhelming and the myth has been created. After two preseason games, Nick Foles has become a sensation. Back-to-back sterling performances have given the rookie quarterback a league-best 118.4 quarterback rating and, with Mike Kafka and Mike Vick likely to be sideline Friday night against the Cleveland Browns, the opportunity to start his first NFL game. Through it all, the precocious Foles has remained unfazed.
"I just take it for what it is," said Foles, who added that he didn't even know about his league-best QB rating. "I'm really just focused on the game. I try to block everything else out. It can be distracting at times, but then you learn to zone out and focus on the task at hand. My goal is to be the best football player and best teammate I can be, so that's really what I'm focused on right now."
For a rookie, Foles has quite the firm grasp of the veteran cliché handbook. From taking it "one play at a time" to crediting all 10 players alongside him for his success, Foles has interview-speak down pat. Except that there's something about the rookie's earnestness that makes you believe he truly buys into those time-worn philosophies. Take, for instance, his response to a question about Jason Kelce describing Foles as playing "like a kid" on the field.
"I think you have to play the game with that attitude," said Foles. "When you're a kid, you go out there and you have fun. When you're out there, you're playing a game. That goes with, when you're a kid, you're playing at a high speed ... My philosophy is if guys see you having fun, they're going to let their natural abilities take over. So when I play I just try to have fun and not worry too much."
"I had a great mentor at Arizona, Frank Scelfo, who was my quarterbacks coach there. He taught me to treat wins and losses the same, treat good and bad says the same, so I look at it even-keel and always stay focused. I'm also dissecting the game even if I feel the game went well, there are plays that I could have done better, maybe stepped up, checked down the ball, moved around a little differently, set the protection a little differently. If things go bad and you play one play at a time, it's on to the next play. You throw a pick, it's on to the next play no matter what. That's how I approach it. I know there are going to be battles and struggles and it's really just staying focused and keeping confidence and keep playing and keep fighting."
It does seem, then, that Foles' ability to limit the distractions has helped his immersion into the NFL.
"Most rookies come in and they're shy and he has not been afraid since day one really," said Kelce. "He's just one of the guys out there wanting to make plays."
The Eagles have had immediate rookie contributors on offense recently, from skill position players like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy to offensive linemen like Kelce and Danny Watkins. But the responsibilities, not to mention the stakes, are much greater at quarterback.
"I do know it is hard to come in and play as a rookie at any position, but I can only imagine what it's like as a quarterback," said Maclin.
"I think it's 10 times harder than it is to be a center because the quarterback is the field general," said Kelce. "You have to know what every single player is doing on every single play. Mentally, the difficulty he's going through are a lot more than what I was going through."
Foles said that part of his motivation to succeed is to reward the Eagles for bringing him to Philadelphia in the first place.
"I couldn't have been happier coming here," he said. "The fact that they believed in me, they were the only team that worked me out and I met with, so I had a great comfort level. That's the only thing that's important to me, I'm with the Eagles, I couldn't be happier to be in the great city of Philadelphia. It's special for me to be here."
Still, Foles fully understands that the past two games have meant little in the grand scheme of things. For one, as Andy Reid pointed out Wednesday, because it has been the "vanilla" preseason, Foles has not been truly tested with any exotic blitzes or coverages. In fact, Friday night will be the first time Foles faces a first-team defense in live action, and he only has two days to prepare.
"I know the game's going to be fast," Foles said, "so I'm just going to have to play fast. We have a practice today, it's a fast week putting in a game plan in one day. (I) just need to go out there and have a great practice today and go into the game just playing really fast and playing one play at a time."