Eagles have been better with Nick Foles. But they're committed to Carson Wentz.
It's that time of the year for the Philadelphia Eagles. It's crunch time and their season needs to be saved. It's Nick Foles time.
Foles saved last season for the Eagles, guiding them to a Super Bowl title after franchise quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a major knee injury. Foles started the first two games of this season, then stepped aside gracefully when Wentz returned to the lineup. But now he's back and attempting to salvage what could have been a lost season, leading the Eagles to victories the past two weeks to keep their playoff hopes alive with Wentz on the shelf because of a fractured vertebra in his back.
Foles will start this Sunday's game, Dec. 30, against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, with the Eagles needing a victory and a loss by the Minnesota Vikings to sneak into the NFC playoffs as a wild card. Foles's big-game magic touch is again on display, and Coach Doug Pederson has begun to face questions about whether he would stick with Foles or go back to Wentz during the postseason if the Eagles qualify.
"Those are obviously conversations we've got to have and tough decisions to make," Pederson said at a news conference Monday. "I've said all along that Carson is our guy. If he's cleared and 100 percent and ready to go, then we'll address that at that time."
The Eagles have remained committed to Wentz being their quarterback virtually from the moment they traded up to select him second overall in the 2016 draft . Wentz started as a rookie and developed into a league MVP candidate last season before suffering his knee injury in December.
Foles has accepted his role dutifully. The Eagles have handled the situation adroitly, keeping Foles around as the ultimate insurance policy rather than trading him last offseason with his value at an all-time high. The natural order of things is that Wentz is the Eagles' starter when he's healthy and Foles, who's likely to be a free agent this coming offseason, will get his chance to start with another team .
But there are some caveats. Foles, not Wentz, is the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Foles, not Wentz, has a statue at Lincoln Financial Field (with Pederson) commemorating the famed "Philly Special" play call in the Super Bowl. Foles, not Wentz, has beaten the playoff-bound Los Angeles Rams and Houston Texans the past two weeks to keep the Eagles' playoff chances from expiring. Foles, not Wentz, threw for four touchdowns and a team-record 471 yards Sunday against the Texans and led a drive to a winning field goal after being knocked from the game for a play by a jarring hit to his chest.
"It means a lot for a guy, especially a quarterback, to take a hit like that to the chest . . .. He got up," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said in the Eagles' locker room after the game. "He shook it off. He came back and made a play."
The Eagles have a record of 3-1 this season with Foles as their starter. They have a mark of 5-6 with Wentz .
"We're blessed to have two great quarterbacks," wide receiver Nelson Agholor said after the triumph over the Texans. "We know what Carson is capable of and we obviously know what Nick Foles is capable of. Never count him out . . .. That's what Nick does."
Should the Eagles be alarmed that they have been a better team this season with Foles on the field ? Should they be having any second thoughts about permitting Foles, whose contract contains a $20 million mutual option for the 2019 season, to walk away via free agency? Should it be unthinkable for the Eagles to reconsider their unwavering commitment to Wentz? Wentz has not even reached his 26th birthday and it's not as if he has played badly this season, with 21 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 102.2, in his return from a torn ACL.
The Eagles don't have to answer those questions yet . Foles will play against the Redskins and the Eagles must make a near-term quarterback evaluation (or reevaluation) only if they reach the playoffs and Wentz is ready to return. For now, they can simply appreciate the calm that Foles brings when he's on the field and cross their fingers that he can save another season.
"He's a guy that just wants to continue to just help the team win and dish the ball and put it in our playmakers' hands, really not getting much credit," Pederson said. "Just let the other guys do it."
Foles said Sunday he had been struck by the possibility that Sunday's game might have been his final home game as a member of the Eagles.
"It did," he said. "It's emotional. Like I said, I love playing in Philly. I knew there's a chance this could be it. I don't think about the future. But I am aware of that. This city means a lot to me. This team means a lot to me. Wearing that jersey means a lot to me. A couple weeks ago when I ran out of that tunnel, I didn't expect to play. I'm there to support the team and do what I can. I got emotional then because I knew that there's a chance this is coming to an end. But at the end of the day, I am very grateful for every opportunity to play here, to play in front of our fans, to wear that jersey."
Foles, who turns 30 next month, talked about taking an in-the-moment approach. He said he would continue that as the Eagles spend this week preparing for another significant game.
"I don't know what the future holds," Foles said Sunday. "I'm not gonna worry about it. I'm just gonna focus on now, enjoy just being in Philadelphia, enjoy the people, enjoy wearing this jersey because it's some of the most special moments of my life."
This article was written by Mark Maske, a reporter for The Washington Post.