It was just a coincidence that on the day Devin Hester ripped Jay Cutler for leadership deficiencies, Nick Foles addressed the media for the first time as the Bears’ starting quarterback.
Cutler and Foles are on disparate sides of the NFL quarterback spectrum. Cutler was a first-round pick with a cannon for an arm but only one playoff appearance in 12 NFL seasons. Foles was a third-round pick who has changed teams five times in the last five years but has a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP trophy.
Quarterbacks such as Foles wish they had Cutler’s arm. But more of them would cut off their non-throwing arm to have Foles’ uncanny knack for making things happen in difficult circumstances.
The well-traveled Foles is back in that comfort zone after replacing Mitch Trubisky in the third quarter Sunday against the Falcons and throwing three touchdown passes in the final 6:20 in the Bears’ 30-26 victory. For whatever reason, when he steps on the field in tough circumstances, teammates respond — an interesting intangible for a player who is otherwise a far cry from Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.
“I think it comes from winning,” Foles said. “It’s just when you step in the huddle, guys can feel your energy or your composure or whatever it may be. If you step in the huddle just instilling confidence in the guys with how you say the play, and obviously the throws you make — you can do those things in the locker room but going on the field of battle in tough situations and being able to overcome them, gaining confidence from your teammates — that’s happened throughout my career.”
But Foles doesn’t buy the notion that the quarterback alone makes that happen — that an offense that struggled with consistency under Trubisky suddenly starts to percolate because Nick Foles is Nick Foles.
“It’s not one player,” Foles said. “That’s where we get it so wrong is we think it’s one player. No, it’s a team. It’s an organization. We have a great locker room. We’ve had a crazy start, but I’ve been around several locker rooms, and this is a really special locker room. I think we forget that. We look too much at statistics and wins and losses.
“You think too big. It’s actually really simple. It’s the guys that are tightest and believe in each other and don’t waver and do their job because they care about the guy next to them. It’s really that simple.”
Though the Bears’ culture deserves some of the credit for the offense’s resurgence against the Falcons, it usually starts with the quarterback.
“Any calming presence that any player has in those moments definitely helps you out as a coach,” Matt Nagy said. “I’ve always known that Nick has had that. I didn’t know it right away, but I’ve seen him in another uniform, and I’ve felt it. And I’ve talked to other coaches that have told me about it. A lot of that is DNA. But he’s also learned how to go about his own way of making it work.”
The game this Sunday against the Colts at Soldier Field will be a test of the Foles Effect. He starts with a big advantage — his previous success commands attention and respect. While Foles says he doesn’t “hold tight” to the Lombardi Trophy, it still follows him into every huddle he enters.
“For me, it’s just adjusting to what he likes,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “He has had success in the league, was playing at the highest level and has had success at the highest level. So it’s just us continuing to get those reps and making sure we stay on the same page.”