Cataldi: Will the real Nick Foles please stand up?

Nick Foles, Eagles quarterback
Nick Foles tied an NFL record by tossing seven touchdowns Sunday in Oakland. But, can he play at a consistently high level?

 

Foles: Stud or dud? Oakland or Dallas?

 

Nick Foles is an amazing young quarterback, a gunslinger capable of throwing seven touchdown passes in a single game. Nick Foles is a horrible young quarterback, a noodle arm unable to perform under pressure. Take your pick.

After the most improbable twist in his already implausible NFL career, Foles is either the future of the Eagles, or a foolish pipe dream. He is either one of the most accurate throwers in the team’s history, or a turnover machine. He is either a leader or a choker.

There has never been a quarterback like Nick Foles on the Eagles, for good and/or for bad. His performance in Sunday’s astonishing 49-20 rout of the Oakland Raiders merely added to his mystery. In that game, Foles threw an NFL-record seven touchdown passes in just over 40 minutes of action, accumulating 406 passing yards and a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 in the process.

Two weeks earlier, he managed only 80 passing yards in a pitiful 17-3 loss to Dallas. It was a performance so hideous, Foles lost most of the city of Philadelphia that day. In fact, he was accused of the worst crime imaginable for a professional athlete. A majority of the fans thought he had choked.

How could someone who played so well in Oakland have been so awful against the Cowboys? That was the question I wanted answered Monday when coach Chip Kelly called into my WIP radio show. Unfortunately, that’s still the question I’m trying to answer today. The best Kelly could come up with is that everybody has a bad day once in a while.

If the Dallas game really was just a bad day, then the Eagles might have the quarterback of their future right here already. They might not have to fantasize about Marcus Mariota of Oregon or Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville. If Kelly’s high-speed offense can put up 49 points in 40 minutes against a top-10 NFL defense with Foles in charge, why look elsewhere?

Ah, if it were only that easy. The quandary that Kelly now faces is far more complex than one bad game or a few errant passes. Can the coach trust a young player who failed so spectacularly in his biggest test? Can Kelly build a future on the shaky legs of someone who cringed when the pressure got too intense? When is one bad game just that, and when it is something far more ominous?

Kelly has tempered his comments about Foles from the day he took over as Eagles coach, creating the impression that he isn’t eager to tie his fortunes to a quarterback he inherited from Andy Reid. When confronted with that perception, Kelly said it was “1,000 percent wrong.”

Maybe so. Maybe, after a performance that dazzled the fans and stunned the Raiders, Foles has finally provided a reason for the coach and the city to trust him again. Maybe he really is the future of the Eagles after all.

But remember, this is Nick Foles, a young quarterback who deals only in extremes. Oakland or Dallas? A stud or a dud? Take your pick.

 

 Brown’s unassuming style winning over city

 

In a city with all rookie head coaches and a rookie manager, the early leader among them is an unlikely one — Brett Brown.

The new Sixers coach didn’t arrive with the fanfare of Chip Kelly, or the pedigree of Ryne Sandberg, or the familiarity of Craig Berube, but he has forced Philadelphia to pay attention to what he is doing with our basketball team. Brown accomplished this feat with simple talk, an unassuming style and an amazing three straight wins to start the season.

Brown waited 25 years for a chance to coach an NBA team, and he came here knowing that the Sixers are way too young and not nearly talented enough to harbor any serious aspirations this season. Yet, he has already started developing young stars like Michael Carter-Williams while overseeing team basketball. These kids are fun to watch.

I know, I know. All I have done the past year is mock the carpetbagger owners and the PR ineptitude of the Sixers, and there is every reason to believe my assault will resume soon. This isn’t a good team and they are, at best, unconventional in the way they relate to Philadelphia. With the notable exception of their impressive new coach.

Brown is off to a very good start in all aspects of his challenging job. He prepares his team well, he answers questions honestly, and he has a down-to-earth approach that is connecting with the fans. In a city of rookie bosses, the other guys could definitely learn something from Brett Brown right now.

 

‘Fire Holmgren’ chants should inspire ‘Fire Snider’ chants

 

Something happened at the Wells Fargo Center last week that was long overdue. The patient and understanding fans of the Flyers finally snapped. They rocked the building with chants to “Fire Holmgren!” in a rare public display of their anger toward a franchise that has failed to win a championship for 38 years. Hallelujah.

Friday night’s 7-0 humiliation against the Washington Capitals (minus Alex Ovechkin, no less) was the most dramatic example yet of the decay of this team under the stubborn leadership of chairman Ed Snider and his shameless bobo, GM Paul Holmgren.

Through all the years of falling short, Flyers fans have looked the other way, savoring their distant memories of the mid-1970s while paying more and more money for less and less satisfaction. Their acceptance of the status quo in a franchise desperate for change is part of the reason for the stagnancy.

Well, the embarrassment of that loss Friday night and the stupid behavior that accompanied it finally caused the kind of revolt that even Snider cannot ignore. Since denying that the team needed a fresh perspective last month, Snider has appointed a former goon, Craig Berube, as coach, traded for a goon, Steve Downie, and then watched his team goon it up when they were getting crushed last Friday.

And now even the most forgiving fans can forgive no more. Those fans were right to clamor for the departure of Paul Holmgren; he is doing a horrendous job as GM. And the next chant should be directed at the real problem with the Flyers, Snider himself. He isn’t worthy of the blind support he has received — and, thankfully, he isn’t receiving any more.

 

 

Idle thoughts from Cataldi

 

» Ray Emery’s unprovoked assault on the opposing goalie, Washington’s Braden Holtby, was a disgrace to the sport and to our city. What the Flyers goaltender thought he was proving by pounding on a blameless opponent is unimaginable. It was a new low for Emery and the Flyers.

» Phils GM Ruben Amaro is targeting some high-priced outfielders in the free-agent market this offseason. In other words, he’s going to risk more millions on aging players well past their peak years, just as he has done every other recent winter. Hey, this strategy has worked so well, why change it?

» What a shame that Rich Dubee lost the job as pitching coach in Baltimore to Dave Wallace, who hadn’t coached in the big leagues for six years. It couldn’t be that Dubee, the obnoxious ex-Phillies aide, interviewed poorly, could it? No way. Not Rich.

» Allen Iverson has said goodbye more times than any Philadelphia superstar, but you can’t deny he’s very good at it. Last week’s emotional news conference was typical of him — compelling, entertaining and surprising. No one has come close to replacing him since he left, on the court or off it.

» Former Eagles president Joe Banner proudly unveiled a new wall in the Cleveland training facility filled with inspirational phrases. Somehow, however, he managed to misquote Mother Teresa and Thomas Jefferson, among others. Banner twisting the truth? Say it ain’t so.


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