Green: Foles adds to Super Bowl’s ‘QB Mystique’

Jerry Green
The Detroit News

Bloomington, Minn. — My ancient theory about The Quarterback Mystique remains valid a half-century later, proven and true.

A quarterback does not have to be super to win a Super Bowl.

Nick Foles sat upon a podium in the center of the media glare Tuesday in the prelude to Super Bowl LI on Sunday.

He is the current version of the vagabond quarterback. He has played here, there and almost everywhere. Ideal for the anonymous role.

He talked about family and football.

“I’m not much of a history buff,” he told this throng of journalists with boom microphones and cell-phone recorders and even the notebooks of yesteryear.

We were in a conference room inside the vast, gaudy Mall of America, where the NFL has opted to conduct media operations in isolation for this year’s Super Bowl. Foles fit the image of the NFL wayfarer. He sat there above us all with his head covered in a Navy watch cap. He wore eyeglasses and the roots of a scraggly beard and mustache.

But the top attraction here at Super Bowl LI is the celebrated Tom Brady — in a vastly successful chapter of The Quarterback Mystique for the dynastic New England Patriots. The other guy is Foles, the standby who salvaged a season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Foles’ biography consists of an erratic NFL career of trial, bare success, painful failures and now a starring role in a Super Bowl. Another challenger for Brady.

The Eagles picked Foles in the third round the 2012 NFL Draft — actually a more coveted draft choice than Brady had been a dozen years earlier by the Patriots. In Philly, Foles played behind Michael Vick for a while, played some; he actually made the Pro Bowl in 2013. The Eagles traded him to the Rams. The Rams used him some, then released him. Foles would exist as backup with the Chiefs in 2016. And then was dumped again.

He signed the second time with the Eagles for the 2017 season as the backup to Carson Wentz, one of the NFL’s young glorified quarterbacks.

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Even in college, Foles had been a roustabout. He played anonymously at Michigan State in 2007, then switched to Arizona.

And, being honest, he was not a history buff.

Some names out of history for Super Bowl buffs:

Billy Kilmer, Craig Morton, Vince Ferragamo, Jim Plunkett, David Woodley, Tony Eason, Jeff Hostetler, Stan Humphries, Chris Chandler, Trent Dilfer, Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman — and Doug Williams.

All started Super Bowls. Morton, Plunkett, Hostetler, Dilfer, Johnson and Williams were Super Bowl victors.

None was a glorified NFL quarterback. Here in Minnesota, Fran Tarkenton is venerated as quarterback for the Vikings. Sir Francis went 0-3 in Super Bowls, but was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Kelly remains respected and admired as a pro quarterback — he lost four of four with the Bills. But as part of The Mystique, Kelly also is in the Hall of Fame in Canton.

History was smeared all over Super Bowl XXII in 1988.


Doug Williams was quarterback starter for Washington. He would go up against John Elway, the top quarterback in the NFL at the time. It so happened that Williams is black, the first of his race to start a Super Bowl at quarterback.

During that Super Bowl’s frenzied media day, Williams was mobbed by sports journalists involving themselves in American social history.

It was an ink-stained wretch from Dubuque, or possibly Anaheim, who dropped the most controversial questions in 52 years of Super Bowl media jousts.

“Doug, have you always been a black quarterback?” asked the ignoramus of a journalist.

It was a question, truth be told, that I did not hear myself, off in the fringes. But the story was fired around to all of before the session ended.

Wikipedia research claims the story is untrue, was never asked.

Several seasons ago Williams showed up at Ford Field as an executive with the Buccaneers, who were to play the Lions. I forced myself to ask.

“Doug, did that guy really ask that question?”

Williams looked down on me and nodded yes, and we both broke up with laughter.

The Quarterback Mystique consists of a variety of oddments.

Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Elway, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Brady — five times — are QBs who have been Super Bowl victors.

But none of those glorified athletes featured in The Quarterback Mystique matched the feats of Williams in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII.

I, II, III, IV, V — Williams passed for four touchdowns in the quarter, and engineered two other TD drives. He was the quarterback conqueror over the not-so-magical Elway and the Broncos, 42-10, that day.

Now, it is Foles — not a history buff — who is going try to create some history for The Quarterback Mystique against Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Jerry Green has covered every Super Bowl for The Detroit News. Read his columns all week at