Nick Foles once broke many of the Westlake (Texas) High School passing records set by Drew Brees, but the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback still has a little ways to go to catch Brees, his New Orleans Saints counterpart in Sunday’s NFC playoff game, in the pros.
Foles is a mere 63,272 passing yards and 452 touchdown passes behind.
Yet the two will be on more equal footing than they were the first time they went against each other in the playoffs five years ago because Foles has caught Brees in the all-important category of Super Bowl rings (1) and surpassed him in postseason passer rating (105.2 to 100.7).
Foles also owns a better postseason completion percentage (69.8) and yards per attempt average (8.0) than Brees (65.9 and 7.8), though the sample size is smaller. But as far as that goes, Foles is 4-1 in the playoffs, compared to 7-6 for Brees.
None of that means much to Foles, however.
On Wednesday, he talked about how he still admires his elder in every way, even though they’ve come to be friends.
“You can look up to someone and maybe they’re a celebrity,” Foles said. “Then you get to know them as a person and you realize they’re just people. We’re all just people. We all have our similar flaws but we’re people. And I think just getting to know him and then watching him on film how he continues to just get better and better and better, that’s something I respect.”
So here they are, set to make history again as the first former Super Bowl MVPs who attended the same high school to meet in the NFL playoffs.
The game will be kind of a testament to how far each has come.
When Brees was setting his records at Westlake in the 1990s, Foles sort of knew who he was but wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention.
After all, he was only 7 years old.
“I can’t say I remember watching him play,” Foles said. “I was probably running around playing tag if I was at a game, throwing a little football.”
Brees’ first memory of Foles was a little clearer.
“I remember seeing him play in high school,” Brees said. “The 10-year anniversary for my high school football team state championship was 2006. It was actually during the season. It was a Friday night. I remember flying back and kind of being part of that homecoming experience, and the starting quarterback for my high school at the time was Nick Foles. Funny how things play out, but he’s done a phenomenal job.”
Foles has had a fragmented career with flashes of record-setting brilliance. The only two seasons in which he opened as the top quarterback on his team’s depth chart, he failed to complete them.
The first time was because of an injury while still in his first stint with the Eagles. The second time, which came the following year in St. Louis, was because of ineffectiveness.
But none of that matters to Foles or his friendly hometown rival.
“He’s always been a pretty calm, cool customer,” Brees said. “You look obviously at what he was able to accomplish last year and certainly what he’s been able to accomplish this year during the latter part of the season. He makes plays and I think he’s got a lot of confidence in himself. I think their team seems have a lot of confidence in him as well.
“We played them in the playoffs in 2013 when he was a starter there with Chip Kelly. Obviously, they had a great team then and he was playing well then too.”
So good that Foles (23 for 33, 195 yards, two TDs, no interceptions) at least statistically outperformed Brees (20 for 30, 250 yards, one TD, two interceptions) and led his team to a go-ahead field goal on his last series.
The Saints countered with a big kickoff return by current Eagle Darren Sproles that set up a short field and, eventually, a 32-yard field goal as time expired for a 26-24 win.
In contrast to Foles, Brees has been on a fast track to the Hall of Fame for some time. His 74,437 career passing yards and 67.3 completion percentage are tops in league history, and his 520 TD passes are second. He’s been named to 12 Pro Bowls.
Foles will never approach those kinds of numbers, not that he cares.
“Playing against him then I was a younger player, it was something that was really special — growing up and getting to play against someone you really looked up to,” Foles said. “But a lot has happened since then. I mean, life has happened. I’m definitely a different player.”
One that’s a lot closer to Brees than the 63,272 yards between them indicate.