PHOENIX, Ariz. – Mark Brunell put it simply.
“I’m excited about Nick Foles,” Brunell said this week.
That’s a former Jaguars quarterback and Pride of the Jaguars member talking about the team’s most-high-profile offseason quarterback addition in two decades, and Brunell said the reason for the excitement is simple:
Foles is a leader, and that’s a trait that should help the Jaguars immediately.
“There’s not a lot of Super Bowl MVPs running around,” Brunell said.
Foles, the Super Bowl LII Most Valuable Player for the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2017 season, signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent earlier this month. He will replace former Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, the team’s starter from Week 3 of 2014 until late this past season.
“Obviously it was a position we [the Jaguars] needed an upgrade in and we got it,” said Brunell, who is attending the 2019 NFL Annual Meeting this week as a member of the NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee.
“He brings everything to the table that you’re looking for: leadership, experience. He has been in the big moments, the biggest stage in sports, and he has handled it very well obviously.”
Foles last entered an NFL season as a starter in 2015, when he played with the St. Louis Rams. He spent 2016 as a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs before spending the past two seasons as a backup with the Eagles.
“He has a team now that he’s going to fully embrace and he’s going to do all the right things,” Brunell said. “He’s going to work hard and he’ll play well. He checks all the boxes.”
Foles, a third-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft by Philadelphia, played extensive stretches in place of Carson Wentz with Philadelphia the past two seasons, going 10-3 as a starter during that span. He went 3-0 in the postseason following the 2017 season, drawing praise in his time with Philadelphia for unusually strong leadership skills.
“The presence is key,” Brunell said. “The word I’ll use is respect. Coming into that locker room, the guys are already going to respect him based on what he’s done. They’ve heard about him and heard he’s a great guy, a leader. They’ve seen him play well in those big moments.
“Once they get to know Nick Foles they’re going to be impressed. He’s a good guy. This is important to him.”
Brunell said the dynamic of Foles entering Jacksonville as the unquestioned starter “is a good thing.”
“He doesn’t have to worry about, ‘Am I going to be the guy?’’’ Brunell said. “He is the guy and that makes all the difference in the world.”
Brunell cautioned that an improvement at the quarterback position isn’t an automatic cure-all for an offense that slipped from No. 6 in total yards in 2017 to No. 27 last season.
“I see it making a big difference,” Brunell said. “I think Nick would tell you that a quarterback is only as good as his supporting cast. I don’t think there’s any question about what [the Jaguars] have at quarterback. The question is what do we have around the quarterback? There are some what-ifs?
“Things have to line up for Nick Foles to be successful. You have to be surrounded by good people. When I had good people around me, I was all right. When I didn’t, I struggled. What you hope is the guys around him – who are put around him – play at a high level.
“But Nick is one of those guys who can get those guys to play better than they normally would.”
Foles’ addition is one of multiple offensive additions/changes made by the Jaguars this offseason. They recently signed wide receiver Chris Conley from the Kansas City Chiefs, tight end Geoff Swaim from the Dallas Cowboys and right tackle Cedrick Ogbuehi from the Cincinnati Bengals – also re-signing right guard A.J. Cann and tight end James O’Shaughnessy.
The team also hired John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator in January. DeFilippo served as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach in 2016-2017.
“I think Nick will be able to adapt into any system, and I think that’s critical,” Brunell said. “I think John DeFilippo said this: ‘We have to find out what Nick is comfortable with, what he does well.’ John knows obviously; now it’s, ‘How do we fit into that system?’ They’ll want to run the ball and be smart with the ball.
“What I like about Nick Foles is whatever system he is in he’ll be able to adapt. It really comes down to making good decisions with the football, and when the moment arrives when you have to take your team down the field and score at the end to win the game, Nick’s done it. He has been there before.
“I think everyone’s pretty confident in his ability. When you need the quarterback to play at a high level, he’ll be able to do it.”