INDIANAPOLIS – There are times a fresh perspective is required.
What in the heck went wrong?
And there are times a new set of hands is required on the steering wheel.
Maybe things will be different with this guy, anybody else, leading the way.
Nick Foles is able to offer an objective observation from the periphery on what has been a tumultuous season for the Indianapolis Colts, and finds himself in position to help provide a temporary respite.
After being on the field for just two snaps in the first 14 games – week 2 at Jacksonville, remember? – Foles finds himself smack dab in the middle of that tumultuous season. He’ll be the Colts’ starting quarterback Monday night when the Los Angeles Chargers visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
For the second time in two months, Matt Ryan has been benched. Considering his age – 37 – it’s fair to wonder if Ryan has taken his final snap in the NFL.
But that’s a story for another day.
Wednesday, it was all about Nick Foles, who’ll be the Colts’ third starting QB this season, following Ryan and Sam Ehlinger.
“I feel Nick gives us the best chance to win and that’s the direction we’re heading,’’ interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. “We just didn’t feel like we made enough plays offensively.
“It’s no secret. We haven’t converted in the red zone and ultimately, you’ve got to make plays in the NFL and we’re not making nearly enough explosive plays.’’
Saturday was quick to insist “this is not all on Matt.’’
But now it’s all on Foles.
His charge is to inject a downfield threat in the passing game – the Colts are averaging 6.6 yards per pass attempt and 9.9 yards per completion, both unacceptable levels – and force defenses to quit crowding the line of scrimmage. And it’s to squeeze more out of an offense that has scored more than two touchdowns just twice in 14 games.
“For me, it’s just going out there and playing with the guys, doing the best we can each and every play, being in the moment,’’ Foles said. “I’m just going to try and help and do my job and just help my teammates.’’
Foles has been here before. He’s been a starter and a ready-when-necessary backup during a career that’s spanned 11 seasons and six teams. In many instances, he’s been thrust into less-than-ideal situations. Backups are called on because the starter suffered an injury, or isn’t playing at an acceptable level.
“Just trusting your teammates, realizing it’s not just you out there,’’ Foles said. “You get to play with 10 other guys in that huddle and then there is defense and special teams. You have a team.
“I think sometimes as a QB, you think you’re alone and everything starts racing through your head. I think that’s normal. But for me, it’s always given me peace realizing when I step in the huddle, I’m with 10 other guys.’’
Foles has appeared in 69 games and is 29-27 as a starter. In his last start – week 16 of 2021 for the Chicago Bears at Seattle – he completed 24-of-35 passes for 250 yards and one TD in a 25-24 win. His 15-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham with 1 minute remaining capped the 13th game-winning drive of his career.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Foles’ promotion will make a discernible difference. The Colts have lost four straight and seven of eight and sit at 4-9-1, and the offense will be without standout Jonathan Taylor (ankle) for the remainder of the season.
Foles has the pedigree: Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, 14,003 yards, 82 TDs, etc.
But his first practice snaps with the starting offense came Wednesday. Everyone must get accustomed to his mannerisms, his cadence, which plays he’s comfortable with.
“We’ll see what it’s like throwing to the guys,’’ Foles said prior to practice.
That’s the short-term view.
From a higher vantage point, Foles is in a position to access a Colts season that hasn’t unfolded as anyone anticipated.
You know . . . the firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, the firing of head coach Frank Reich, the hiring of an ESPN analyst (Saturday) as interim coach, the benching of Ryan following the 19-10 loss at Tennessee in week 7, Ehlinger making his first career start despite the presence of Foles, Ryan being reinstated and now Ryan being yanked again after the Colts suffered the greatest collapse in NFL history – leading 33-0 at the half at Minnesota, losing 39-36 in overtime – and Foles finally getting his shot.
“It’s been a crazy year for this organization and everyone involved,’’ Foles said.
A few minutes later, he added, “it’s been a unique season.’’
It began for Foles in mid-April when he signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract to serve as Ryan’s backup. The opportunity to rejoin Reich – their partnership was instrumental in Philadelphia winning Super Bowl LII after the 2017 season, and they’ve remained close friends – was too strong to turn down.
The difference between then and now?
“It’s a 180,’’ Foles said. “I couldn’t have expected anything that happened this year. Frank Reich, one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around, a big reason I came here and I love him to death.’’
Foles remains in contact with Reich.
“That’s a life-long thing,’’ he said. “Frank is someone I look up to, a mentor, a guy who I believe does things the right way.’’
Reich’s dismissal is just one of many unpleasant moments in a season to forget.
“Everything that has transpired is not what I expected, but that’s sort of how life goes,’’ Foles said.
Foles makes three
The Colts will start three quarterbacks in a season for just the third time since 1998.
*2015: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck and Josh Freeman.
*2011: Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.
The team selected center Ryan Kelly with the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft. He’ll now be snapping to a ninth different starting quarterback: Foles, Ryan, Ehlinger, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Luck and Scott Tolzien.
It’s important, Kelly noted, to get comfortable with the “day-to-day stuff.”
“Figuring out how he sees it, what his cadence is. Everybody’s got a little bit different cadence,’’ he said. “Just talking things through. It’s great we’re playing Monday night. We have extra time to figure things out.
“We’re keeping things simple, which is great so guys can go out there and play fast. It just starts (Wednesday). It puts the onus on the walkthroughs and every meeting that we have and every practice.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.