MINNEAPOLIS – As one inquisitor after another challenges Nick Foles to explain why anyone should expect him to play up to Carson Wentz’s standards, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s going on at the quarterback position for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Yes, Wentz is the quarterback of the future in Philly and was playing at a near MVP level prior to tearing his ACL in a week 13 win over the Rams – a game in which the Eagles trailed, by the way, until Foles came off the bench to lead them from behind.
And yes, Wentz was clearly the starter when the Eagles signed Foles this past offseason to return to Philadelphia and be his backup.
But the simple reality is each has had one Pro Bowl season guiding the Eagles, and as well as Wentz was playing at the time of his injury, he was still a significant way off from matching Foles.
Wentz started 13 games this year and completed 265 of 440 attempts (60.2 percent) for 3,296 yards. He threw 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions and finished with a 101.9 passer rating.
Those are really nice numbers, just not quite in the same area code as Foles’ 2013 campaign when he started 13 games and was 203 for 317 (64 percent) for 2,891 yards with an otherworldly 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio for a 119.2 passer rating.
Perhaps the question everyone should be asking is “How far away is Wentz from being able to fully replace Foles?”
Early in the week Foles was asked what that magical season under Chip Kelly meant to his ability to go out and win a Super Bowl Sunday and he explained, “Definitely repping it those two years with Chip, it was a different style, but you get to learn and you get to pull from that time, that knowledge that you gain right then and I use it right now with how I read it.
“The feel of the game, the game happens fast and you can’t really be thinking on game day, you just have to react to what you see and trust your preparation but that has definitely helped me in this situation now.”
So what happened to Foles after that magical ’13 campaign? He led the Eagles to a 6-2 start in 2014 but after getting out to 3-0, he began to struggle, throwing just seven TDs compared to eight picks in the next five games. He was shelved for the season in Week 9 with a broken collarbone.
Inexplicably, Kelly elected to clean house after the season by trading LeSean McCoy, allowing Jeremy Maclin to leave via free agency and trading Foles for Sam Bradford to a Rams team where QBs' careers went to die under Jeff Fisher.
Now, after a full offseason and 13 weeks to learn Doug Pederson’s current Eagles offense, which features much of what Foles did well under Kelly, he has played back to his Pro Bowl form in these playoffs.
Asked how he and Wentz have handled what could be an awkward situation he says, “Obviously it’s a different role for him but he’s doing everything tremendously.
“He’s still at every meeting, still working, he still understands the gameplan . . . he’s still in tune, he’s still leading the guys in his role right now and he’s getting better every day so I’m excited about his future.”
Foles’ challenge in this Super Bowl has nothing to do with Wentz, it’s taking on the greatest of all time.
“Obviously I knew who Tom Brady was and watched him when I was growing up," Foles said. "I knew when I was in college, you know you want to watch the best players at your position, you want to learn from them because we for sure don’t have the answers at that age and you’re always going to learn even where I’m at now when you’re self-scouting, when you’re looking at other players.
“I enjoy looking at other quarterbacks and seeing what they do well and Tom’s one of them.”
Hmmm, he doesn’t sound intimidated does he?
Why should he? He’s a Pro Bowl quarterback just trying to win one more game.