Carson Wentz's season is indeed finished, yet the Eagles aren’t exactly slumming it at quarterback with Nick Foles.
Foles’ first tenure with the Eagles admittedly hasn’t aged well. The last time he started a game for the club in 2014, he was leading the NFL in giveaways nine weeks into the season. Traded the following offseason, Foles’ hasty demise with the Rams appeared to vindicate his critics.
Okay, so maybe Foles isn’t exactly franchise quarterback material. But the Eagles would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished backup.
Foles has led a team to the playoffs. He’s been to a Pro Bowl. He has a winning record as a starter.
How many other backup quarterbacks around the league can check off all three of those boxes?
Just one. No, not Colin Kaepernick. Only Teddy Bridgewater for the Vikings.
Foles is no hobo. He was a third-round draft pick who needed to outperform Michael Vick to earn the Eagles’ starting job. The statuesque Foles was so much better, it no longer mattered Vick’s legendary mobility could be a true asset in former coach Chip Kelly’s read-option offense.
The 2013 season turned out to be a history-making campaign for Foles. He tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game, and set another with a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the year — the latter mark having since been broken by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.
Despite losing to the Saints in the first round of the first round of the playoffs in 2013, Foles played well in that game, completing 23 of 33 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns. The last time the offense was on the field, the Eagles held the lead, only to lose on a field goal as the clock ran empty.
Even assuming that series of events will wind up as the high point in his career, we learned a lot about Foles. We know he has some talent. We know he can perform at a high level when given a great supporting cast. And we know he can play well in January.
As for the last three-and-a-half years, those probably haven’t been as bad as you think.
Foles came back to earth in 2014, as did the Eagles. Yet, turnovers aside, the team was better with him than without, going 6-2 in Foles’ starts until he was sidelined by a broken collarbone. Before the injury, he was on pace to throw for over 4,300 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Things continued to go south for Foles with the Rams in 2015, although the franchise hadn't finished with more than seven wins or better than 21st on offense since ’06 prior to this season. The issues in St. Louis ran a lot deeper than who was under center.
Foles spent 2016 rehabilitating his image with the Chiefs, completing 36 of 55 passes for 410 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in three games and one start. If nothing else, the 28-year-old proved he can be a fine backup under the right circumstances.
Which brings us into 2017 with the Eagles. Does this squad present “the right circumstances” for Foles to flourish?
The Eagles have a stable of running backs, multiple weapons in the passing attack, a decent offensive line and an excellent defense. It’s difficult to imagine a better situation for a backup quarterback to step into.
It’s not entirely unlike the situation Foles stepped into in ’13. The O-line probably isn’t quite as good, but the defense is vastly superior this time around.
And the Eagles don’t necessarily need Foles to be Wentz. They can lean on the running game. They have receivers who can bail out their quarterback on occasion. Their defense is capable of forcing stops and creating turnovers.
Foles has a 20-16 record in 36 career starts, with a 60.5 completion percentage, 7.2 yards per pass attempt, 56 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in 45 games. Those are quality numbers. It’s not as if the Eagles are sending Tim Tebow out there.
Does Wentz’s injury lessen the Eagles’ chances of winning the Super Bowl, or even mounting a deep playoff run? Of course. Dramatically, in fact.
But this season isn’t totally lost just yet. Foles only needs to be good, not great, to keep this Eagles team in the race.
There was a brief period where – misguided or not – the Eagles had to at least consider the possibility of Foles as a franchise quarterback. That obviously wasn’t the case, but if he can fake it again for the next two months, there’s a remote chance everything will be alright.