Jump to content

2017: Case Keenum and Nick Foles are much better quarterbacks without Jeff Fisher around


Recommended Posts

Case Keenum and Nick Foles are much better quarterbacks without Jeff Fisher around



Keenum and Foles are playing for an NFC Championship because Jeff Fisher isn’t their coach anymore.

By Christian D'Andrea@TrainIsland  Jan 17, 2018, 9:00am EST


Jeff Fisher already took credit for the Rams’ 2017 NFC West championship despite being on the sideline for zero games this season. After Sunday, he might be taking credit for an NFC Championship as well.

That’s because both starting quarterbacks in the showdown between the Eagles and Vikings — Philadelphia’s Nick Foles and Minnesota’s Case Keenum — are players Fisher handpicked to lead the Rams at different points. Vikings backup Sam Bradford, recently reinstated to the active roster after sitting out most of 2017 with a knee injury, also has ties to Fisher; he’s the player Fisher exiled from St. Louis in exchange for Foles back in 2015.

Both players have seen their fortunes rise since parting ways with the coach who made "7-and-9 BS” a meme. Keenum defied the odds in 2017. He went from mentoring a quarterback (Jared Goff) who’d go 0-7 as a rookie last year to becoming an MVP candidate on one of the league’s hottest teams this year.

Foles hasn’t been a full-time starter since that 2015 season, but he’s had the fortune to land on solid teams who can make the most of his limitations behind center. In the last six games in which he’s thrown 10 passes or more, his teams are 5-1. The lone defeat came in a meaningless Week 17 game where he played just one quarter — albeit a pretty awful one — before ceding snaps to backup Nate Sudfeld.

Each passer is in a better place than where Fisher had left him. Here’s how they got there.

Case Keenum flourished with an OC who builds to his QBs, not the other way around

The 2017 Vikings were supposed to rely on 2016 addition Bradford and a hopefully healthy Teddy Bridgewater, but the latter’s injury status led Keenum to the great white north on a one-year, $2 million deal. That investment has paid off tenfold.

Keenum quickly earned the confidence of Vikings fans after taking the offensive reins following Bradford’s knee injury in Week 2. His second start of the season was a 369-yard, three-touchdown smashing of the Buccaneers. While he wouldn’t reach those lofty yardage heights again, his consistent and efficient passing was all a well-balanced team needed in a quarterback; the Vikings are 13-3 in the games he’s played this season, including the playoffs.

There were several major differences between Los Angeles and Minnesota for Keenum. His receiving corps, led by Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph, was now buoyed by a trio of Pro Bowl-caliber players. He upgraded from the league’s 29th-ranked pass blocking unit to one that ranked eighth in 2017. And most importantly, he linked up with the offensive coordinator who’d revived Bradford’s career the year before.

Pat Shurmur’s ability to create a cohesive game plan despite the loss of pieces like Bradford and rookie tailback Dalvin Cook — who tore his ACL in Week 4 after a hot start to his career — has carved out his place as one of the game’s most dynamic offensive minds. Shurmur’s role in Minnesota’s resurgence has made him a popular head coach candidate once again, and he’s likely to be hired by the Giants.

With Keenum, his adjustments have relied on the young veteran’s ability to escape pressure and his receiving corps’ ability to create several different looks, keeping opposing defenses on their toes. Shurmur uses a smattering of personnel packages, shifting from throwback I-formation packages to empty-backfield lineups to two-TE sets with regularity. That confusion, mixed with the crisp routes of players like Thielen and Diggs, the growing improvisational skills of Keenum, and a healthy dose of play-action shots downfield have paid off in a big way.

As a result, Keenum has posted career highs in passing yards per game, touchdown rate, passer rating, and just about every other meaningful statistic a quarterback can have. Now he’s one win away from the Super Bowl.

Nick Foles gives teams with powerful defenses just enough to win

Foles wasn’t the primary reason Philadelphia overcame its ignominious history as the first No. 1 seed to be an underdog against a No. 6 seed, but he did enough to lead his Eagles to a victory over the Falcons in the Divisional Round. The former Pro Bowler, back in the city where he rose to greatness then crashed back to earth like an errant signal flare, made significant second-half improvements to complete more than 76 percent of his passes on a windy day and earn his spot in the NFC title game.

Philly will need more from him to earn a spot in its first Super Bowl in 13 years. While the team is 3-1 in his starts this season, he hasn’t been especially impressive on the field. Statistically, there’s a lot in Foles’ 2017 to remind him of that 2015 season with Fisher.

His regular season completion rate was identical (56.4 percent). His adjusted yards per pass was similar — and bad — at 5.2 yards in 2015 and 5.4 this fall. His QBR has even fallen from 32.4 to 31.4.

But unlike 2015, Foles has proven he can be the caretaker quarterback for a winning team. The Chiefs and Eagles each surrounded him (as a backup) with high-level skill players on offense and a punishing defense. Those Rams under Fisher gave up 20.6 points per game — a good number for sure, but more than the 2016 Kansas City (19.4) or 2017 Philadelphia (17.9).

In the same span, Foles has regressed back to the mean in terms of making big plays. He’s found the end zone with more than 5 percent of his passes the past two seasons, rebounding from a 2015 bottoming-out at 2.2 percent. He’s been steadier in the red zone and less turnover averse, two improvements that, like mentioned with Keenum above, can be attributed to stronger offensive line play.

He hasn’t been perfect — or even close to Keenum’s level this season — but Foles’ career has been moving in the right direction since parting ways with Fisher. On Sunday, these two former Rams will have the chance to prove their former coach was just the wrong guy making the right call when it came to finding a bargain Super Bowl QB.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/14/2020 at 9:35 AM, UK_EaglesFan89 said:

Jared Goff too I believe. Though that one is more marginal.

While blaming Garrett for Dak's shortcomings, that one Cowboys fan on YouTube said that Pederson was able to get a "journeyman backup" QB (Foles) to win a Super Bowl after Wentz got injured, making it sound like Foles was horrible. There's problems with this Cowboys fan:

1. I doubt Eagles win Super Bowl LII with Dak. It probably ends with a blowout win for Patriots with Dak as Eagles QB. Foles is better than Dak.

2. Foles, Goff, and Keenum were all awful under Fisher. When they were away from Fisher, they were decent. Foles was good before being with Fisher. I gave them benefit of doubt.

3. Under Garrett, Romo was nowhere near awful as those 3 QBs above were. Romo played better than Dak. It's not like Dak was awful under Garrett like the 3 QBs were under Fisher. Can't fully blame Garrett for Dak looking average. Garrett is nowhere near as bad as Fisher. Dak gets more blame than Foles, Goff, and Keenum.

4. This Cowboys fan blamed Garrett and Dak's bad shoulder for losing week 16 game against Eagles. Romo played through injuries and won games.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Duh - the whole team is better. Look at the Rams before and after. 

He was one of the most overrated coaches in the last 10 to 15 years. His record in Tennessee was marginal - made the playoffs only a couple of times but was about a  .500 coach.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Rob331 said:

He was one of the most overrated coaches in the last 10 to 15 years. His record in Tennessee was marginal - made the playoffs only a couple of times but was about a  .500 coach.

Perhaps he was only about .500 but to be fair that's not a terrible record for a coach who was around many years...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...