Was Jeff Fisher really such an incompetent coach? His former quarterbacks are certainly making it appear so. Fisher was the head coach of the Rams in 2015 and 2016, during which Nick Foles, Case Keenum, and Jared Goff all started games. All three of them took their 2017 teams to the playoffs, or had success in the playoffs.
So are all of these players just great quarterbacks, and Fisher didn’t know how to work with them? Did they improve since Fisher was fired? Did these quarterbacks experience an aberration of strong play that is not likely to be repeated—more so in the cases of Keenum and Foles than in Goff, who is just in his third season?
We’re not going to know the answers to these questions, at least not immediately—except perhaps for the fact that Fisher is an average coach at best—but the most intriguing instance is Foles, who has for the most part been a career backup, yet has shown the capacity to play very well.
And after his remarkable postseason run, many are talking about his next starting opportunity, making the assumption that that will happen. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t, but the reality is that he is under contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Carson Wentz is going to start when he returns. He was nearly the league MVP before he tore his ACL.
The case of Foles bears in mind that of Joe Flacco, who in his contract season had a remarkable run in the postseason en route to a Super Bowl victory, which resulted in him basically controlling his subsequent contract negotiations and forcing the Ravens to make him, at the time, the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.
Since then, the Ravens have gone exactly 40-40 over the course of the past five seasons, including 9-7 in 2017, and have missed the postseason in four of those five seasons. They have finished second in the AFC North twice, and third three times, though they did win one playoff game in the year they advanced.
This is a topic that Pro Football Focus explored relating to Foles to other similarly-talented quarterbacks who had a late-season surge. His three-week playoff push in comparison to his 27 previous games resulted in a quarterback rating improvement of 38.1 points.
According to their research, that is the ninth-largest swing since 2011, with by far the biggest different being Kirk Cousins in 2015 during the final three weeks of the regular season, where his quarterback rating improved by 57.1. Flacco’s postseason run was an improvement of 26.4.
Yet since that run, his quarterback rating is even lower than it was than before. Over the past five years, he has posted a rating of 82.1, where it was previously 88.9. As for Foles, his rating was 77.6. What will he look like five years from now? That is what general managers of quarterback-needy teams are wondering.