Dan Wiederer: Trust. That’s what has Bears optimistic about what Nick Foles can bring to the offense — and QB competition.

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CHICAGO — Nick Foles knew the competitive nerves would be there.

“You get the butterflies for sure,” he said. “Any game you ever play in, you get that excitement. Because it’s a big stage. There’s a lot going on. But once you get on the field, you just play ball. You live in the moment. And there’s something that comes out of you where you go out there and just play.”

At the start of Foles’ improbable run to becoming a Super Bowl MVP, seven Sundays before “Philly Special” and a memorable upset of the Patriots, there was a routine first step against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

In Foles’ first start for the 2017 Eagles, he let his natural composure take over. He threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers. Each came inside the red zone. And all of them, when put together, exemplified the veteran quarterback’s command and comfort in the offense.

A 3-yard scoring dart to Alshon Jeffery.

A 10-yard “faith throw” to Zach Ertz.

A backyard easy-breezy 13-yard toss to Trey Burton.

And a 10-yard bullet to Nelson Agholor.

The Eagles rallied out of a 13-point deficit to seize a 34-29 road win in Week 15 against the Giants, a triumph that proved both comforting and energizing to the city of Philadelphia. A week after the Eagles lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, Foles showed that the city’s Super Bowl hopes were very much alive and in good hands.

The Eagles improved to 12-2 with their No. 2 quarterback showing he was composed and in full control of what he was asked to do.

A few days later, in detailing all four scoring passes for the Eagles website, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo walked through the logistics that made each pass possible.

On the toss to Jeffery, for example, Foles used a “peel motion” from Ertz before the snap to diagnose zone coverage, then calmly went through his progressions — left to right — getting to his fourth read and making a precise throw behind cornerback Ross Cockrell.

Foles trusted the play design and trusted Jeffery to be where he needed him. Six points.

The throw to Ertz, on a corner post route, came against an all-out blitz and required both anticipation and faith that Ertz would break in front of defensive back Andrew Adams near the goal line.

On time. On target. Six more points.

The touchdown to Burton was as easy a throw as Foles will ever have in the NFL, with the Eagles’ route combination confusing cornerbacks Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and leaving Burton totally uncovered. It was a third-down conversion and another end-zone celebration.

Finally, against another Cover-0 look late in the third quarter, Foles made a quick read and shrewd throw to Agholor, noticing cornerback Darryl Morris’ back turned in man coverage and giving his receiver a chance to make a play.

With trust in the route combination of Agholor and Torrey Smith and belief in Agholor’s ability to make a contested catch, the Eagles finished a 59-yard scoring drive to build a 31-23 lead, their final touchdown in an important win.

It was all there.

In one snapshot from one seemingly routine December game, Foles showed his command, vision and understanding of progressions. He distributed the ball wisely with a flurry of accurate throws that came in sync with the timing of the plays.

“We know Nick’s a great player,” DeFilippo told the Eagles website a few days later. “Because we know he’s going to go in and do his job the best of his ability. And he’s prepared. So we have all the faith in the world in Nick.”

In short, Foles trusted his offense. He trusted his teammates. He trusted his own abilities. In turn, Foles earned greater trust from his coaches and supporting cast.

Circle that word, Bears fans: trust. That is what has the folks at Halas Hall so optimistic about what Foles can bring to the Bears.

DeFilippo is now the Bears quarterbacks coach, again united in a symbiotic relationship with Foles after previous stops together in Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor worked with Foles as the Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2013.

Bears coach Matt Nagy spent two previous seasons with Foles: 2012 in Philadelphia and 2016 in Kansas City.

All three coaches have built-in trust with Foles and a speak-from-experience confidence that the 31-year-old quarterback will know the offense inside and out, able to execute at a winning level if he is called on.

There has been no public decree from Halas Hall about Foles’ role as his Bears career begins. When Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace last spoke at the combine — three weeks before the trade with the Jaguars for Foles — they continued to emphasize that Mitch Trubisky would remain the starting quarterback but would face real competition to retain that role.

Thus all of this remains fluid, especially with the ongoing coronavirus shutdown threatening the Bears’ offseason schedule for meetings, organized team activities and minicamp. The uncertainty could linger through June.

Still, what Nagy wants so badly — and struggled to maintain at times in 2019 — is trust in his quarterback. And in that regard, Foles might be able to gain the inside track on the starting job given Nagy’s straightforward criticism in December that Trubisky hadn’t yet become “a master at understanding coverages”; that he was struggling too often to trust the pocket; that his footwork needed refinement; and that his ability to play with a touchdown-to-checkdown mentality wasn’t sharp enough.

The Bears will push Trubisky to make noticeable developmental leaps this offseason, still clinging to hope they can get his career back on track. But they also can’t waste much time in 2020 hoping a breakthrough is coming. They’ll have to see it to believe it.

And when the season begins, Nagy wants to put his foot on the accelerator and peel out from the starting line without having to tap the brakes.

Back in 2017, the Eagles’ Super Bowl journey seemed headed for a detour when Wentz went down. But internally, the trust in Foles allowed the Eagles to keep cruising — through the end of the regular season, into the playoffs and all the way to an unforgettable win in Super Bowl LII.

Foles trusted his offense. He trusted his teammates. He trusted himself. He lived in the moment and just played.


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