Donovan McNabb

Nick Foles vs. Carson Wentz is closer than you think

Nick Foles vs. Carson Wentz is closer than you think

One of the sad byproducts of the Eagles' Super Bowl triumph has been the move lately to bring Nick Foles down, to discredit him for his achievements, all in the name of Carson Wentz.

It seems a segment of Eagles fans out there — not all, not even most but enough that it's disturbing — believe Foles' postseason success was some lucky bounce of the football, just a bunch of fortunate throws that just happened to somehow settle into the waiting arms of Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith in the end zone.

Here's my favorite tweet from the past 24 hours: "To say someone can't accidentally have a great postseason is a farce, as (Joe) Flacco and Doug Williams have."

Another: "Wentz is so much better than Foles it's not even a conversation. It's not even close."

You can find dozens more on my Twitter timeline, and I find it just really, really sad that there are some Eagles fans out there who can't just enjoy the franchise's first Super Bowl championship without taking sides in some pointless Wentz vs. Foles debate.

The Eagles have two elite quarterbacks.

This is beyond question.

One I believe will be a star in this league for the next decade.

One just won the Super Bowl MVP.

It doesn't have to be one or the other. It doesn't have to be Nick vs. Carson. They're both great people, tremendous teammates, fierce competitors.

But for those who still refuse to give Foles credit for what he achieved, consider this:

Foles is 20-10 as a starter with the Eagles (.667), with a 62.4 percent completion percentage, 59 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 7.5 yards per completion and a 95.2 passer rating.

Wentz is 18-11 as a starter with the Eagles (.621), with a 61.5 percent completion percentage, 49 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 6.8 yards per completion and an 88.8 passer rating.

Foles is 6-4 against playoff teams, Wentz is 5-6. Foles has a 91.6 passer rating on third down, Wentz has a 92.1. Foles has completed 27 passes of 40 yards or more, Wentz has completed 15.

Foles has started 30 games, Wentz has started 29. Foles has thrown 86 more passes, thrown for 1,400 more yards, 10 more touchdowns, one less interception.

It's fascinating how similar their Eagles tenures have been. If anything, Foles has a slight statistical edge.

I think where people get confused is the old "eye test." Wentz looks like a superstar. He's a first-round pick. He's incredibly athletic and has certain skills Foles doesn't have. Foles was a third-round pick, he's bounced around the league a little, he's been a backup.

But as Eagles quarterbacks? There's enough of a body of work — roughly two seasons of starts for each — that their production simply can't be labeled an accident or a fluke or happenstance.

Now, what should the Eagles do at quarterback is a different question.

Wentz just turned 25, Foles just turned 29. When you're building a roster, you're going to go with the young guy with a world of upside.

What happens to Foles? I would guess he stays for another year, since there are still so many unknowns with Wentz's health and his readiness for opening day. Then he can hit free agency after the 2018 season and move on.

When all is said and done, Wentz may have five Super Bowl MVPs. But right now all we have is what we have, and that's the most promising young quarterback in the NFL and another guy who just turned in one of the greatest postseasons by any quarterback in NFL history.

We went so long in this city without elite quarterback play. Think about the last 50 years.

Really, other than maybe Roman Gabriel in 1973, Jaws from 1979 through 1981, Randall from 1988 through 1992, and Donovan from, say, 2000 through 2008, we haven't had it at all, other than brief blips from Michael Vick, Jeff Garcia and Foles in 2013.

Now the Eagles have two quarterbacks who everybody in the city can be proud of and can believe in.

This is a time to celebrate. A time to enjoy the afterglow of one of the greatest runs in franchise history. A time to revel in what the Eagles accomplished for once instead of what they're lacking.

Ghosts of brutal 1999 season don't haunt Pederson

USA Today Images

Ghosts of brutal 1999 season don't haunt Pederson

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — They threw stuff at his family. They cursed his wife. They booed him relentlessly. 

Now they revere the ground he walks on and are counting on him to guide the franchise he leads to its first championship in 57 years.

Has anybody in Philly sports history experienced the two extremes of obsessive fan behavior more than Doug Pederson?

In 1999, Pederson was caretaker of the quarterback position until rookie first-round pick Donovan McNabb was ready.

The fans wanted McNabb. Andy Reid didn't. And Pederson struggled.

And it was ugly.

“Oh yeah, it was hard on my family," Pederson said this week in a chat with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "Yeah, it was. 

"Because they’re seeing me kind of being dragged through the ringer a little bit and it’s hard to see it and hear it and live it every day, but you know what? It makes you tougher and you move on and learn from it and grow from it.”

Pederson started the first nine games of the 1999 season, and the Eagles went 2-7 in those games, averaging 11.1 points per game on offense before Pederson was benched in favor of McNabb.

Pederson finished the season with seven TD passes, nine interceptions and a 52 percent completion percentage.

His passer rating of 62.9 was the worst by an Eagles quarterback who started at least half the season since Ron Jaworski had a 60.4 mark back in 1977.

The fans were very tough on Pederson. And his family.

“I remember the pregame introductions and the fans being awfully hard on him," said Eagles safeties coach Tim Hauck, who played on that 1999 team.

"Doug was a leader in the locker room. He didn’t let on that it bothered him. He had a job to do and he was going to go do it no matter what was being said about him. 

“As a teammate, you felt horrible for him. We all know how the Philly fans are. They can be as hard as anybody in the country. But Doug handled it the same way he handled everything. With a lot of class."

Pederson made his last start in an Eagles uniform in a 33-7 loss to the Panthers in early November. He completed just three passes for 28 yards before getting benched permanently for McNabb.

Nineteen years later, in an empty hallway at the Mall of America, he recalled how he got through such a challenging year.

“You learn never to get too high and too low," he said. "You stay right in the middle. 

"Let me tell you something. We’re a faith-based family, and that has a lot to do with it. We stay grounded. You learn from that, you know? It’s not who we are. 

"That might be me as a football player, but it doesn’t define me as a person, and it's same way as a coach. Win or lose, this game (Sunday), it’s not going to define me as a person. It’s not going to change who I am. 

"I’m still going to be Doug Pederson. And that’s how you get through it. You just remember that’s not who you are as a person.”

The Eagles released Pederson when that 1999 season was over. He spent the next year with the Browns — and threw for a career-high 309 yards in a loss to the Eagles in Cleveland — and then four more in his second stint with the Packers before retiring and eventually starting a coaching career.

Now in his second year as head coach of the Eagles, he's one win from coaching immortality.

The Eagles face the Patriots Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in Super Bowl LII.

It's quite possible that some of the fans roaming the stands wearing German Shepherd masks are the same fans that gave Pederson, his wife Jeannie and their young sons such a hard time nearly two decades ago.

But if that irony bothers Pederson, he doesn't show it. He wants to win so bad for the very fans who nearly ran him out of town back in 1999.

“That’s why you never get so high and so low," Pederson said. "Because if you stay in the middle with the whole thing, it doesn’t bother you. It doesn’t get to you. That’s kind of where we’re at. 

"The same people who were booing and throwing stuff at you, yeah, they're (still Eagles fans), but that’s what Philly is all about. They’re passionate fans, and it’s a passionate city.”

The stats say Pederson was one of the least successful quarterbacks in recent Eagles history, and they also say he's one of the most successful coaches in Eagles history.

And the way he's handled both situations speaks volumes about something more important than Pederson the coach or quarterback. It's all about Pederson the man.

"He handled it with class back then and he’s exactly the same way now," Hauck said. "'It doesn’t matter what the outside world says about me, I’m going to do my job to the best of my ability.'

"It’s a great outlook on life."

Donovan McNabb had a better Super Bowl than you thought

AP Images

Donovan McNabb had a better Super Bowl than you thought

This article first appeared in The Philadelphia Eagles Playbook by Reuben Frank and Mark Eckel (Triumph Books, 2015).

In the summer of 2005, five months after the Eagles lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira visited Eagles training camp at Lehigh University. The Eagles were waiting.

They believed the Patriots had gotten away with countless cheap shots on quarterback Donovan McNabb in their 24-21 win over the Eagles in the Super Bowl, and now they had the video to prove it.

"At first, he didn't take us seriously," recalled John Harbaugh, then the Eagles' special teams coach and now head coach of the Ravens. "Then we showed him the tape and he could not believe the shots Donovan took out of bounds and late in that game. 

"Their whole thing was to hit Donovan and hurt him, and that's fine, but it was the officials' job to protect him, and they didn't. Imagine if Tom Brady got hit late that many times? Tell me they wouldn't call those penalties. When you watch that game, and you see the shots Donovan took, it's incredible what he was able to do."

So while many fans have focused on McNabb gasping for air and appearing to throw up in the final moments of the Super Bowl, the reality is that a moment early, All-Pro defensive end Richard Seymour demolished McNabb with a devastating hit that many quarterbacks would not have gotten up from.

"He got shellacked," said Andy Reid, then the Eagles' head coach and now head coach of the Chiefs.

Millions of fans saw McNabb doubled over in pain, desperately seeking to get the ball snapped before the play clock expired. They had no idea why.

"People always focus on me supposedly throwing up," McNabb said years later. "Richard Seymour got me pretty good. I got hit in the face and my helmet went backwards and I had stuff in my face. I'm trying to catch my breath and get my vision back. People make it out like I was tired. I just got killed.

"Nobody focuses on the plays we made, they just talked about, 'Oh, he choked in the Super Bowl.'"

Although McNabb passed for three touchdowns and over 350 yards against the Patriots — only Kurt Warner has also done that in a Super Bowl — he's remembered more for puking in the final minutes than throwing a brilliant touchdown pass to Greg Lewis that made it a three-point game. McNabb also threw three interceptions, although one came with five seconds left and the Eagles inside their own 10-yard line.

"First play of the game, he scrambled left and got hit pretty good out of bounds — it should have been a late hit, but they didn't call it," said Brad Childress, who spent the last five years with Reid in Kansas City and was then the Eagles' offensive coordinator. "That's never a good sign when your quarterback is getting hit like that on the first play of the game. He got hit a lot, but he continued to hang in there and compete."

Those hits took a brutal toll.

"Donovan got battered," Lewis said. "I know he was hurting at the end of the game. But in the huddle, he was his normal self. He was just like regular Donovan, running around and trying to make plays."

Whether he threw up or not, McNabb did complete 8 of 10 passes for 79 years on a critical fourth-quarter touchdown drive in the final minutes of a Super Bowl. And with 1:55 left in the game and the Patriots leading 24-14, he connected with Lewis on a spectacular 30-yard touchdown pass that brought the Eagles within three points. It may have been the finest pass of his career.

"Donovan took a beating in that game, but he hung in there, hung in there, hung in there," guard Artis Hicks said. "And eventually he came up with a big play when we really needed one."

Moments later, after an unsuccessful onsides kick, McNabb's only Super Bowl appearance was over, and the Patriots had won their third Lombardi Trophy in four years.

McNabb has taken grief for that performance for 13 years, and many fans still look back at McNabb's Eagles career as a failure, despite nine playoff wins, five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance.

"If we as a team had won just one championship, they would have given Donovan the keys to the city," tight end Chad Lewis said. "If we had won two, he's in Canton. But when we lost those games, there was so much disappointment and frustration, because the fans wanted it so bad that Donovan became the scapegoat."

The Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins after the 2009 season and after two years in Washington, he finished his career with the Vikings in 2011.

On Sunday, the Eagles will be back in the Super Bowl, facing those same Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium, built on the site of the Metrodome, where McNabb finished his career.

This is a good a time as any to revisit and reevaluate McNabb's performance in the Super Bowl. 

"I understand you have struggles in this business at the quarterback position, nobody is immune to it," said Warner, who beat the Eagles in two NFC Championship Games for two different teams. 

"But the crazy thing is, how many people have doubted him? To his credit, he stood up with character every time. He's battled through it. He came back every single time and proved everyone wrong. I just hope, at some point, they start giving him the credit he deserves."