The last time the Eagles came to Tampa, the Raymond James Stadium crowd had barely finished watching a video reminder of Ronde Barber’s 92-yard pick-six off Donovan McNabb in the 2002 NFC Championship Game when Barber did it to McNabb again. And again. In a contest that would end with an historic 62-yard game-winning field goal by Matt Bryant, Barber made history too with a pair of interception return touchdowns in the same game, tying an NFL record.
McNabb is out of football now and his replacement, Michael Vick hasn’t played since November 11 due to a concussion. It is Vick’s replacement, rookie Nick Foles, who will have to avoid a similar indoctrination from the Buccaneers’ ultra-experienced, 37-year-old safety.
Barber and the Buccaneers’ defense know they will be getting Foles this Sunday because Philadelphia Head Coach Andy Reid officially made that announcement on Monday. In fact, with Foles coming off his best NFL performance yet, Reid said the third-round pick out of Arizona will have the job for the remainder of the regular season.
Foles has played in four games with three starts and has completed 81 of 133 passes (60.9%) for 793 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. That TD-INT ratio is the main reason for his middling passer rating of 73.3, but he was 22 of 34 for 251 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the Eagles’ 38-33 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night for a one-game rating of 96.6
The Buccaneers have played one other rookie quarterback this season, back in Week Four against another NFC East team, the Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III, the second overall pick in the draft, had a strong day with 26 of 35 passing for 323 yards, plus a rushing touchdown, leading Washington to a fourth-quarter comeback and a 24-22 victory.
In fact, drawing a rookie quarterback may not be the inherent edge for the defense that it seemed to be in the past, especially in what is being referred to as the Year of the Rookie QB. Foles is one of seven rookies who started under center for their teams in Week 13, joining Griffin (who will start on Monday night against the Giants), Indy’s Andrew Luck, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden and Arizona’s Ryan Lindley. In Week 12, those seven rookies had a 4-3 record, and three of them (Griffin, Luck and Wilson) are firmly in the playoff hunt.
The Eagles, at 3-9, are actually much closer to the first overall pick, as they are just one game better than the 2-10 Chiefs and the 2-10 Jaguars. However, that does not mean the Eagles are expecting to lose down the stretch with Foles at the helm, although they do concede that the decision is based partly on preparing for next season. In the article linked above on the Eagles’ official web site, Reid discusses his feelings about both Foles and Vick as his team heads into the final quarter of the season.
“I think where we’re at right now in the season, I think it gives the kid an opportunity to play and finish it up,” said Reid. “I just think he’s playing well enough, number one, to where I think he can win football games for us, and then, two, I think where we sit at this position in the season, I think it’s the right thing to do.”