The curtain will open on Nick Foles’ third act — or is it his fourth or fifth? — Sunday with no crowd in the Soldier Field stands. One of the most important people in the Bears quarterback’s life, though, will be in attendance, standing on the other sideline.
Colts coach Frank Reich might have saved Foles’ career.
“He was the one,” Foles said Wednesday, “who really figured me out as a player.”
In 2016, Foles contemplated retirement, only for his love of the game to be resuscitated by, among others, then-Chiefs assistant Matt Nagy.
The next year, Reich helped revitalize Foles’ skills. Before the start of the 2017 playoffs, Foles was scuffling after replacing an injured Carson Wentz. Reich tasked the Eagles’ video staff with assembling clips from Foles’ previous Eagles stint, when he went 14-4 as the starter from 2013-14. There were more than 100 plays in which Foles completed passes of 15 yards or more.
“They just threw some plays out there one day and said, ‘Just go play these plays — we studied you, and these are the plays you do,’ ” Foles said. “And sure enough, something triggered inside of me. And he figured me out as a player to where even during games when I’d come to the sideline . . . Usually coaches want to coach you up and all this. And he’d go ‘Just keep doing it, just keep doing it.’
“At first it was sort of weird because you’re not used to a coach doing that. He was like, ‘I trust you — just go do your thing.’ ”
Foles stormed through the playoffs before beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. He was named the Super Bowl MVP.
“I think no matter what, if I threw an interception or I threw a touchdown, [Reich] cared more about the person than the player,” Foles said. “And that says a lot about him, and that’s why I have all the respect in the world.”
Foles’ performance in their only season together, in turn, earned Reich a head-coaching chance. Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels was announced as the Colts’ coach in February 2018 — two days after Foles’ Super Bowl win — but backed out hours later. Reich, the lifelong backup quarterback, interviewed and got the gig.
“I know that when he went to Indianapolis from Philly, we were all sad to see him go but happy for his opportunity to be a head coach because we knew he deserved it just because of the man he is . . .” said Foles, who faced Reich’s Colts in 2018 and 2019. “As you can tell, he means a lot to me.
“It’s a lifelong relationship.”
Reich said he and Foles share a love of faith, family and football.
“Well, we saw the game similarly,” the coach said. “But I think we see life similarly.”
Perhaps more than any man alive, Reich can appreciate the 16-point fourth-quarter comeback Foles pulled off Sunday. In his playing days, Reich quarterbacked teams to, at the time, the greatest comebacks in both NCAA and NFL history.
In 1984, he came off the Maryland bench trailing Miami 31-0 at halftime. Reich rallied for 42 second-half points and the Terrapins won 42-40.
He trumped that as a pro. In the wild-card playoffs at the end of the 1992 season, he led the Bills back from a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Oilers 41-38 in overtime.
“One play at a time,” Reich said. “It takes a complete team effort. You know, obviously when the offense comes back and scores a lot of points in a short amount of time, that’s going to get all the attention. At least in the games I’ve been a part of when there have been great comebacks, there’s been great defense played. There’s been special special teams played.
“When your backs are against the wall and there is a big comeback, every phase has to be in sync.”
No one was sharper Sunday than Foles, who replaced Mitch Trubisky in the third quarter and threw three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“It gives you a lot of confidence,” Reich said. “But you realize at the same time in the same way you have to be unflappable to have a comeback like that, you have to have that same mentality to follow that up week after week.
“And so it’s this game’s challenge, is not getting caught up in all of the circumstances and, rather, focusing, play-by-play, what needs to be done.”
Reich was thrilled to see Foles’ comeback Sunday, but he wasn’t the only one. The quarterback got messages from his friends with the Eagles, too.
“This game is certainly a lot about X’s and O’s and what you can do on the field,” Reich said. “But there is a chemistry also that, Nick is just a good human being and a great teammate. And I think guys feel that.
“He’s just so very genuine and authentic. You’re around him for five minutes and you feel that, and know that.”