To hear Nick Foles tell it, when he finally was released by the Rams on July 27, there was only one man he wanted to play for. The man who drafted him as a rookie, who he thought the world of and knew could get his career back on track.
“It really was only Coach Reid — that was it,” Foles said of Chiefs coach Andy Reid. “I really didn’t care about any other offer. I told my agents, ‘That’s the guy I want to play for. I need to step back and just see how I feel about everything, and then, go forward.’”
The process of stepping back and thinking took a week. And during that timeframe, Reid had seven practices to evaluate the three players battling for the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback job — Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray and, to a lesser extent, Kevin Hogan.
At the end of the day, the combination of Foles’ desire to reunite with Reid — and the Chiefs’ need for an experienced backup as they attempt a Super Bowl run — culminated Wednesday night, when the Chiefs reached an agreement with Foles on a one-year contract with a team option for 2017. On Friday, the Chiefs released nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu and added Foles to the roster.
“He was good for me as a rookie and Chip (Kelly) his first year there,” said Reid, who drafted Foles in the third round in 2012 and coached him for one season in Philadelphia. “I think he’s a good fit and you can’t have enough of those guys.
“It’s a tough position and you want to make sure you’re fully loaded there — I think we’re doing that.”
The nature of Foles’ deal — which, according to ESPN, is worth $1.75 million this year, plus incentives, and a team option for 2017 ranging between $6.75 million and $16 million based on 2016 performance — have led some to wonder whether the Chiefs see Foles as a starting option.
Reid, however, made it clear that his team belongs to 32-year-old Alex Smith for the foreseeable future.
“It’s Alex’s football team — this has nothing to do with Alex,” Reid said. “In fact, Nick and Alex are friends. They were both in the Pro Bowl together and have stayed in touch. Nick knows that it’s Alex’s team and Alex knows that it’s his team. Let’s go play.”
Foles co-signed on that sentiment. He said he’s looking forward to improving as a player and learning as much as he can from Smith, who had a career year in 2015 as he led the Chiefs to a 11-5 record and their first playoff victory in 22 years.
“Alex has done amazing things,” Foles said. “He’s a tremendous leader. You can tell when he steps in the huddle and is out here that he’s the leader of this team, the leader of the offense. I’m excited. …
“He has so much knowledge of the game, whether it’s his work ethic or the plays he runs or what he sees in the defense, so I’m just excited to be in the film room. I get to learn from him, and I can spitball things to him of what I’ve seen and how I’ve read it. It’ll be great for both of us.”
Foles said Smith, who relies on his backup to be a sounding board of sorts, greeted him warmly when he arrived.
“We just gave each other a hug and said it was good to see each other,” Foles said. “Just little things like, ‘How’s the family? How are you doing?’ He was great. He connected our wives — helped my wife out with figuring everything out. That’s part of it too. She’s about ready to move halfway across the country, and we have to figure that out.”
There remains plenty to figure out on the field as well. The Chiefs had five quarterbacks splitting reps Friday, which is unusual at this time of year.
And the order in which they took the reps Friday — Bray for a few second-team snaps, then Foles for a few second-team snaps, with Murray and Hogan splitting third-team reps — seemed to be an indication of the current depth chart. But when asked about slotting Foles in front of Murray and Hogan, Reid said it didn’t have anything to do with the performance of the latter two.
“Aaron is playing really good football right now — it’s not because of Aaron’s efforts or anything like that,” Reid said. “In addition, Hogan is coming along and he’s sharp as a tack. I was trying to get Nick a couple of reps in there with that group where maybe the protection was an inch better.”
Reid was asked outright what the practice order says about the other backups on the roster.
“The one thing Nick has that these other guys don’t is his experience,” Reid said. “I think these other guys are going to be tremendous. We have a great stable of guys at that position. What a position to be in. It’s a win-win situation.”
Still, Foles appears to be well-positioned to win the backup job. While Bray, Murray and Hogan have never taken a regular-season NFL snap, Foles has an extensive resume.
The one year he played under Reid in 2012, Foles completed 161 of 265 passes, 60.8 percent, for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. In 2013, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions, but last year, he completed 56.4 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions with the Rams.
Last season was disappointing enough that the Rams gave up draft picks to move up and select Jared Goff, which led to Foles’ release.
Yet Reid believes the 27-year-old Foles — who features a big arm, decent release and decent athleticism — can be salvaged.
“I’m going off his rookie year when he was in this offense,” Reid said. “He handled it very well and he has good feet — very similar to Tyler Bray. He also has a good arm and he’s smart. That’s a pretty good combination when you put it all together.”
Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin, who played with Foles in Philadelphia in 2012, also made that comparison.
“Him and Bray are kind of similar in their style, and the way they throw the football,” said Maclin, who added he can see Foles and Smith meshing well.
“Clearly this is Alex’s team — there’s no debate about that, but he’s a guy who brings experience. Those guys are going to work well together … he’s a guy who likes to communicate. He’s always talking and likes to know, ‘What did you see because this is kind of what I saw. What can we do to make things better and get on the same page?’ In that aspect he’s very comfortable.”
Now, it’s up to Foles to take advantage of this reunion and get the most out of it. Reid said Foles has to get the verbiage of the offense down — “He’s a smart guy, but we’re 10 days into this so he’s got some catching up to do,” he said — but after taking an initial glance at the playbook, Foles is confident he’ll nail it down.
“A lot of it was reminiscing on old memories like, ‘Oh, I remember that’ or ‘That’s changed a little bit’ or ‘I recognize that play but it looks different,’” Foles said. “It was sort of surreal to see the font of the playbook because it triggered a memory of rookie year and grinding through that playbook. And just looking at Andy Reid’s playbook and you’re just, ‘Oh man, oh gosh.’
“But now I’m going into my fifth year, so now it’s going methodically, like how I study a playbook. And I’ve developed a regime throughout the years, so I have to just keep going each day.”