Nick Foles gives Jaguars the QB consistency they were missing

Even if Nick Foles doesn't have prolific stats for the Jaguars, they'll treasure the consistency that he's shown in the past few seasons. AP Photo/Michael Perez

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Doug Marrone was doing his research on quarterback Nick Foles, the Jacksonville Jaguars coach found a lot of things to like.

Some were pretty obvious: outdueling Tom Brady to earn Super Bowl LII MVP, his 11-5 TD-interception ratio in six career playoff games and a passer rating of better than 100 in four of those games.

What also stood out was something that Marrone and the franchise desperately needed from a quarterback: consistency.

“I like that you know what you’re getting,” Marrone said. “The consistency, the nothing really rattles him. You can watch someone play and then, ‘Hey, I wonder how he’s responded to this?’ or, ‘I wonder how he responded to maybe an interception, or maybe a poor read, or maybe a bad play?’

“You talk to coaches that have been around him and they say nothing ever really rattles him. He takes information. He’s smart. He knows where he wants to go with the ball. He knows coverages. Those things that were the thing that kind of jumped off to me outside of what you can see on the tape and playing on the big stage and being ready and being prepared.”

In addition to former starting QB Blake Bortles’ issues with turnovers -- no NFL player committed more turnovers or threw more interceptions from 2014 to 2018 than Bortles -- he also was up and down. The Jaguars were never quite sure what they were going to get from him each week until they were a couple of drives into the game. If it was good Blake, then everything was OK.

And good Blake could be very good. He was the NFL’s highest-rated passer in the first three games of December 2017 and he played turnover-free football in the 2017 playoffs. He also threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns in the Jaguars’ victory over New England in Week 2 of 2018 and 388 yards two weeks later against the New York Jets.

If it was bad Blake, then the four offensive coordinators Bortles had in his five seasons had to scramble to adjust a game plan for an already-limited offense with few playmakers. And, hoo boy, did he have some really bad games: five turnovers in a loss to Kansas City last October, interceptions that caromed off a teammate’s foot and another off an offensive lineman’s helmet, seven starts in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

Foles has had some low points too, mostly while playing in St. Louis in 2015, but since then he has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in nine regular-season starts. He had a passer rating of at least 86.3 in six of those nine games, including three games in which his rating topped 100.

Bortles, who last week signed with the Los Angeles Rams to back up Jared Goff, had a passer rating of more than 100 nine times in 44 starts from 2016 to 2018. He had six starts in which his passer rating was less than 50 over that same span.

“I was going into Year 4 [in 2015]. I had been injured the year before, and I didn’t know how I really wanted to play the game,” Foles said. “It really wasn’t until going to Kansas City [in 2016] and coming back to Philly before the Super Bowl run where I was able to sit down and watch film. I know it’s been talked about a lot about -- the 150-play cut-up that the staff made to where I could watch and see myself read and react in 2013 and 2014 and how I was playing. It was pure. It was like I played in high school -- just pure. It was gut reaction. Read and react. I obviously was prepared.

“At that point, I realized I was having so much fun. I wasn’t thinking. I was making throws I had not made in a while. I had guys around me, the ball was being spread, and it was just a different energy about it. From there, I just sort of carried on.”

The Jaguars’ defensive players are just as excited about having Foles on board as the offensive players are. It got to a point last season where the defense knew it had to hold opponents to single digits to have a chance to win -- and in one case that wasn’t enough (a 9-6 home loss to Tennessee). There was no margin for error and that wore on the players.

With the more consistent Foles on board, it’s as much a win for the defense as it is the offense.

“It’s always important -- the consistency,” Marrone said. “You want that from everyone. Obviously, the quarterback position is extremely important -- the most important position -- but you need that in all the players for consistency.”