Handicapping NFL Offseason Quarterback Changes: Nick Foles
This is the third of a four-part series of articles detailing the immediate handicapping impact of the NFL quarterback moves during the first week of free agency. To read the article on Philip Rivers, click here. For the article on Teddy Bridgewater, click here.
The 2013 NFL season seems like ages ago. Chip Kelly was a head coach at the highest level still. Michael Vick was in the league. Eddie Lacy won Rookie of the Year! And Nick Foles made the Pro Bowl after throwing for 27 touchdowns versus only two interceptions. This was the first of two shining stretches for Foles in his football career, with the other being a very brief set of games for the Philadelphia Eagles capped off by shockingly outplaying Tom Brady and the Patriots en route to a Super Bowl title. Eight years in the league and 48 starts later, Foles has made north of $62 million and has a Super Bowl MVP. Not bad for two incredible short periods of time where he demonstrated a high level of play.
Now, Foles has been traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Chicago Bears. Cue the extreme reactions from Bears fans in the Midwest and all over the country. On one side, there are supporters of the trade who are in the camp of ‘anyone but Mitch.’ Others are extremely disappointed in the franchise given the free agent class of quarterbacks that were available this offseason and settling on a quarterback that has (to put it mildly) not shown the ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level over a sustained period of time.
There are debates about whether Foles steps in right away and is the starter, or if there will be a quarterback competition between he and Mitch Trubisky. However, if you dive into the details and understand what’s at stake here for head coach Matt Nagy, it becomes abundantly clear that he handpicked Foles and will now ride him to prominence this fall or to a season that may define a short coaching tenure in Chicago.
Like it or not, Nagy has now hitched his wagon to Foles. The familiarity that the quarterback has with the offense given he previously played under Nagy at Kansas City along with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and John DeFilippo (QB coach the year Foles won the Super Bowl with the Eagles and Jacksonville last season) will give the new relationship a head start. But there are far more issues with this team, which has made the lack of movement in the free agency/trade market so stunning.
As an example, the 2019 Bears offensive line was ranked 25th in the league (per Pro Football Focus). One aspect of Trubisky’s skill set that is unquestioned is his ability to run with the football, and the Bears offense still struggled to produce points (29th in the league averaging 17.5 points per game). Yet a less mobile signal caller will now be dropping back for the Bears behind an offensive line that has done nothing to get better. Literally nothing. This must be something that the Bears address in next month’s draft.
Foles will have a big target to throw to in free agent signing Jimmy Graham, but the tight end passed his prime several years ago and was a shell of his former self in Green Bay last season. That leaves Allen Robinson to once again shoulder much of the burden within the passing game, along with check down machine Tarik Cohen out of the backfield. Chicago will (and should) lean on their defense again. Robert Quinn coming off one edge with Khalil Mack on the other is downright scary for opposing quarterbacks. But I’m left asking myself, how is this team different than last year’s version that went 8-8?
Handicapping Angle: The betting markets are forecasting the NFC North to have a great deal of parity, with the Packers the odds-on favorite to win the division at +150 followed by the Vikings (+210) and Bears (+225). I’m higher on the Vikings than the sportsbooks (more on that in a future article) and think that the Bears remain the third best team in their division. That said, betting UNDER the Chicago season win total of 8.5 is the direction I’m leaning.