Nick Foles' presence gives Wentz time to recover and allows the team to make a late playoff push
The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles were a team of destiny. It was their time. A franchise and its fan base finally rewarded after a 57-year championship drought. Fast-forward a year later and the Eagles are 7-7 with two weeks remaining and in need of a lot of help to make the playoffs, even after a stunning upset of the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams as 13-point underdogs on "Sunday Night Football."
A plot twist in Hollywood is always nice, but repeating as Super Bowl champs is as daunting of a task as winning back-to-back Oscars. Nick Foles came to the rescue last night, as only Philadelphia's most beloved son could, keeping the dream alive for another week. But the 2018 Eagles are not going to overcome all of the injuries they sustained. Factor that in with questionable coaching decisions, poor execution and a lack of enthusiasm at times, it's clear that this season has been a letdown.
Foremost among the blows? The loss of quarterback Carson Wentz to a broken vertebra in his back. As can be expected, there has been plenty of drama surrounding the situation. What did the team's medical staff know about his injury? How long has he been playing with it? Will there be any long-term effects from the injury? Questions aside, the reality is Wentz's injury is a blessing in disguise for the Eagles.
Make no mistake about it, Wentz is a franchise quarterback that drips of elite status. Once he gets healthy and strings together a few seasons of injury-free football, he will be on a short list of NFL stud signal-callers. Shutting him down for the remainder of the season makes all the sense in the world. Give his back time to heal, since it doesn't require surgery. Allow his legs to really return to 100 percent and focus on coming back ready both physically and mentally for the 2019 season. Wentz is already a Super Bowl champion and he has the makings of a potential MVP. And he'll turn 26 on Dec. 30.
But Philadelphia has the best insurance policy in the NFL in Foles. And oh by the way, he's a Super Bowl MVP who outclassed Tom Brady on sports' biggest stage. Foles showed yet again on Sunday night that's he capable of starting in this league. In beating the Rams, Foles outplayed counterpart Jared Goff, completing 24 of 31 passes for 270 yards while seemingly resuscitating Alshon Jeffery's season (8 rec., 160 yds.) in the huge 30-23 victory.
These final three games give Foles an opportunity to showcase himself as he will most likely be a free agent this offseason. The Eagles have a $20 million option they can exercise, but that seems unlikely since Wentz should be cleared and ready to go well before training camp, unlike last year when he was coming back from a torn ACL.
The team could apply the franchise tag to him, but that doesn't make a ton of sense given the parameters associated with it. Foles wants to start and he's earned that shot. So these final two games could go a long ways towards determining his market, especially if he helps the Eagles back their way into the playoffs.
Foles, who will turn 30 in January, has done well to re-establish himself in Philadelphia. In 2013, he posted a 27:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio with Chip Kelly as head coach and will forever be remembered for his performance in Super Bowl LII. There figure to be plenty of teams interested in signing him to be their starter. For example, could he become an option for Jacksonville, who is almost guaranteed of changing things up at the position even if the Jaguars draft one next April?
The reality for Foles is that he's probably not any team's long-term solution, but that doesn't mean he can't have an instant impact for someone in 2019 and either help bridge the gap for a young QB before becoming, once again, one of the top backups in the league.
In fact, staying with the Eagles can't be ruled out as you know he's well-liked by management, coaches and players alike. Foles also seems to enjoy being a part of the team and has a good relationship with Wentz. It just will come down to what Philadelphia is willing to offer compared to other interested teams.
But the primary concern for the Eagles right now is getting Wentz healthy. There figure to be some changes to the roster (and maybe the coaching staff) in the offseason, but it's not like a complete overhaul is needed. Instead, just imagine what Wentz will be able to do next season when he's fully healthy? Especially if he's working with an offensive line that's gotten a little younger through the draft? Or has a definitive option at running back (Le'Veon Bell anyone?) and/or a new weapon on the perimeter to throw to? Definitely a lot of things that fall under the tag of "To Be Determined," but at least the most important piece is already in place.
So Eagles fans, take a deep breath and r-e-l-a-x. Carson Wentz's injury is a blessing in disguise.
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)