PHILADELPHIA — Fluke or franchise quarterback? The question will follow Nick Foles around until he proves himself again.
Foles began last year as a backup to Michael Vick and finished as a Pro Bowl MVP. His emergence was one of the NFL's biggest surprises and a main reason why the Philadelphia Eagles went from 4-12 to 10-6 and won the NFC East title.
Foles threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, setting an NFL record for best TD/interception ratio. Foles completed 64 percent of his regular-season passes for 2,891 yards and his passer rating of 119.2 was the third-highest ever. He tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in his ninth career starts at Oakland on Nov. 3.
Now, everyone is wondering what he'll do for an encore.
Donovan McNabb, the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback who had his No. 5 retired by the Eagles last season, isn't convinced Foles is the real deal just yet. McNabb, currently an analyst for Fox, expressed that view in a radio interview in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
"I really can't answer that at this particular point, but if I had to give a take, I would say no," McNabb said on 97.5 The Fanatic when asked if he thinks Foles is a franchise QB. "I think what he will do, he won't do what he did last year, that just won't happen. I see him more being a 25 touchdown, maybe 8, maybe 10 interception guy."
Foles didn't flinch when he was asked about McNabb's comment.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I haven't earned anything yet," Foles said after practice. "It's a week-to-week thing. My job is to go out there and play to the best of my ability."
McNabb's opinion isn't unique. On a scale of fluke to franchise, the debate regarding Foles is slightly tilted toward the positive. Those who see him every day, coaches and teammates think it's more favorable.
"He's a hell of a competitor," coach Chip Kelly said. "He doesn't get frazzled very easily. Nothing really bothers Nick. I think that's an outstanding quality that he has. Whether it's throwing 27 touchdowns and two interceptions, he's the same guy every single day when he comes out here whether we played really, really well the week before or we didn't play so well the week before. You never knew what you had a year ago just because he had not been in games and didn't get a chance to see him test it. I think his ability to handle both praise and blame is an admirable quality for a quarterback to have."
Foles also is a team-first guy, crediting his teammates when he does well.
"I don't think ego and Nick even go in the same paragraph," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "And, he's still a tremendous quarterback."
Foles gets his first chance to show naysayers his sophomore year wasn't a mirage when the Eagles open the regular season at home Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I'm excited it's here," Foles said. "Going through camp and the preseason, it'll be fun to go out there and play against the Jaguars."
After starting six games as a rookie in 2012, Foles couldn't beat out Vick for the No. 1 job in training camp. But he took over in Week 6 when Vick injured his hamstring and put together arguably the best statistical season in league history. He helped the Eagles set several franchise records on offense playing in Kelly's up-tempo system.
Foles threw two interceptions in the preseason opener at Chicago and one more the following game at New England.
The critics and the skeptics raised their eyebrows when they saw that. Foles just shrugged it off.
"For me as player, I'm very critical," Foles said. "I think it's very important not to get complacent with your preparation and how you review yourself."
Notes: Kelly said everyone practiced Tuesday except WR Josh Huff (shoulder) and OL Matt Tobin (ankle). Nolan Carroll, not Darren Sproles, would return kickoffs if Huff can't play vs. Jacksonville. ... Kelly called All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy "the best running back practice player" he's ever coached. It was a reference to two weeks ago when Kelly was asked about McCoy's intensity in practice and said: "Some days, he's great out there, and there are other days he's not so great."