Since Sunday night, viewing Nick Foles highlights has become a nightly tradition. Of course, it’s only the successful highlights worth watching. Foles threw 19 touchdown passes before he even threw an interception in 2013. Thinking back to those days with Foles as the de facto franchise quarterback, and it’s hard to believe that was only four years ago. It feels like an eternity considering the Eagles have started three quarterbacks since.
Carson Wentz had a rocky rookie campaign. But his final two starts, albeit one against a bench heavy Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, showed something. He flashed franchise quarterback capabilities throughout the season, not just in two relatively meaningless games. But the consistency wasn’t there. This year, the Eagles have been one of the more complete teams in football, and despite their completeness, Wentz has garnered enough attention to head some MVP chatter. That’s how special Wentz has been during his second year. From the beginning, an escape of not one or two but three Washington defenders, leading to a heave to the comeback kid in Nelson Agholor, the former North Dakota State star has been a revelation for a fan base that truly needed one. Scroll through every game and there’s at least one highlight from Wentz that generates a second, sometimes third, viewing. The escape on Monday Night Football against the same Washington defense, the falling-out-of-balance, 40-yard third down throw to Agholor against the Seahawks, the lob pass in the end zone to Corey Clement against the Denver Broncos. In what would be his final game of the season, Wentz churned out a couple more magical plays, too. Now, he must watch from the sidelines as the guy who many believed would become the franchise quarterback takes over. Such is life.
Arguing with friends about Foles being the quarterback in Philadelphia does feel like ages ago. Following Chip Kelly’s first season, the Eagles won 10 games, but Mark Sanchez played quarterback with Foles breaking his collarbone. As free agency opened in 2015, Kelly traded Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford. (Draft picks were exchanged, too). Just like that the talk of Foles being the quarterback moving forward was for naught. From a distance, with the Eagles imploding during Chip Kelly’s third and final season in Philadelphia, it was easy to dismiss Foles in St. Louis. Foles played for a painfully uncreative offense with barely any skill players at his disposal. He was benched, symbolizing a potential end to a career.
Life comes full circle sometimes. Foles contemplated retiring from football following the miserable year in St. Louis, but the familiarity with Reid was appealing. Kansas City drafting a quarterback in the first-round a year later then freed up Foles to sign with Philadelphia. Signing Foles was this cool novelty for Philadelphia fans to cheer about, but at the time it didn’t feel like anything much. Fans could dig out No. 9 jerseys from basements and attics, but other than that there was nothing else. Wentz proved he belonged after starting all 16 games as a rookie, figuring things out along the way. Yeah, Wentz plays with a certain bulldozer mentality that could potentially cause injury, but Foles would only have to spot start for the six-foot-five Prince Harry doppelgänger, right?
Nobody expected Foles to start long-term for the Eagles. He barely played in the preseason with elbow soreness. But Foles has the ability to make all of the throws. He’ll have some success come Sunday. With Wentz, however, the situation didn’t matter. It’s easy to trust Wentz like a child trusts a caring parent. So many times Wentz just made plays happen. Statistics, outside of Philadelphia being ridiculously good on third downs, could never accurately portray having Wentz as starting quarterback. Any situation felt winnable with Wentz.
It’s going to take some time, hopefully just three weeks, for Foles to feel fully engaged with the offense, and his weapons. Having Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz will help Foles tremendously. The fact that general manager Howie Roseman had the forefront to trade for Jay Ajayi shortly before the deadline might have saved the Eagles offensive season. That trade serves as a reminder to never grow complacent, because there’s always an opportunity to learn and get better. Football, after all, is the ultimate team game. In middle school, a coach said the offensive line is only as good as its weakest link. It’s something I remember so vividly, and it’s something I’ve thought about since superman Wentz tore his ACL. Rallying around this 53-man roster will be exuberant. It’s the most fun Eagles season since Foles led the team to the postseason in 2013. Now, No. 9 is back behind Jason Kelce, hoping to lead this team even deeper into the postseason.
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