Nearly 11 months ago, when quarterback Nick Foles had improbably led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory, his long-term stature in the organization was simple. He’d get a salary bump in 2018, a tip of the cap on his way to free agency in 2019 and forever retain sentimental real estate in the hearts of fans.
One more incredible playoff-saving streak later – in which Foles unbelievably propelled the Eagles past the Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans and Washington Redskins – the Eagles are inching closer to a question they never realistically fathomed having to ask.
If Foles goes on another significant playoff run this postseason, can the franchise justify letting him leave in 2019?
There are logical answers to this question, of course. Arguments like: Carson Wentz is the chosen centerpiece; the financial gymnastics to retain Foles are too difficult; and there could be some solid trade offers for Foles if Philadelphia pursues that route. But setting the NFL’s typical front-office logic aside for a moment and simply weighing results, there should be some serious contemplation given to a question that goes beyond cap figures and best-laid-plans. And that question is this:
What if Carson Wentz is the better player, but Nick Foles is actually the better fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?
When that Wentz-vs.-Foles question came up around the Super Bowl 11 months ago, I thought it was preposterous. In fact, a few days before Foles won the Super Bowl MVP trophy by torching the New England Patriots for 373 passing yards and four total touchdowns, I wrote: “Whatever Foles does with this Super Bowl spotlight – no matter how great the feat – his spotlight is a rental. And the keys to the franchise will remain in the hands of Wentz.” I believed that. I was certain of it.
And now? Well … if Foles can repeat his 2017 run, there might be more of an argument here than I anticipated.
None of this is to imply that I don’t believe in Wentz. In fact, when he’s healthy and not getting hammered behind a leaky offensive line, Wentz is capable of the MVP-level play he displayed in the 2017 season. He’s still firmly entrenched as the center of the roster for the next decade, having just turned 26 on Sunday and flashing some brilliance in 11 starts this season.
But even in light of all this, it’s hard to ignore Foles has a special rhythm with Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Just as it’s difficult to overlook the reality that he stepped in for Wentz in week 15 and not only commanded the respect of everyone around him, but delivered in a pressurized playoff-level win on the road against the Rams. Then he followed it by cutting up an 11-win Texans team, followed by a quick lead over the Redskins on Sunday before leaving with bruised ribs. Even when you factor in Foles’ first two starts of the season – which were legitimately poor – his overall 4-1 record this season and penchant for rising when it mattered most says a lot about how valuable he remains in the franchise.
Before the Eagles do anything with Foles, it’s fair to wonder what he might look like with a full season under his belt alongside Pederson. Clearly, he knows the playbook as well as anyone on the offensive staff. That’s the only logical reason to explain starting five games, spending the majority of the season getting minimum snaps in practice, but still producing some absurd efficiency in limited opportunities, including a 72.3 percent completion rate, 1,413 passing yards and a 7-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That’s elite backup production that could potentially become even better with Foles being a centerpiece from start to finish. Maybe even good enough to be considered a franchise quarterback, which Eagles general manager Howie Roseman once believed Foles represented back in 2013.