Ziperski: Foles can’t cash in just yet

Feb. 8, 2018, 1:29 a.m.

Prior to Sunday’s game, few NFL fans and bettors expected the Philadelphia Eagles to spoil Tom Brady’s quest for a sixth Super Bowl title. If you go back even further, most people didn’t even expect the Eagles to make the championship game in a stacked NFC conference, after franchise quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending ACL tear in the midst of an MVP-level campaign. After struggling with journeyman backup Nick Foles in the final three games of 2017, things didn’t look bright.

Then Foles turned it up to another level. After eking out a close win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, the Eagles punished the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game behind a career game from Foles, who threw for over 350 yards and three touchdowns. And then on Sunday, Foles dueled with Tom Brady in one of the greatest offensive showdowns in NFL history, turning in another stellar performance with nearly 400 yards and another three touchdowns against the greatest quarterback of all time.

Nobody saw this level of play coming from Foles, who has been rather unremarkable over his entire NFL career save for an extremely efficient year in 2013 during which he actually racked up the third-highest passer rating ever for a single season.

Philadelphia wouldn’t be celebrating its first title without Foles stepping up to the plate, that’s for certain. He deserves the everlasting adoration of Eagles fans and a place in the history books. I have no doubt that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, owner Jeffrey Lurie and his fellow teammates are immensely grateful for the way he carried himself and dealt with the pressure while facing Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

At the same time, though, Eagles management has one job: to best position the franchise to defend its title in 2018. And unfortunately, what is best for the team might not be best for Foles’ career and vice-versa.

I understand the temptation to show their gratitude and reward Foles by making him the starter. Foles does not want to return to the bench after winning a Super Bowl, no matter what he might say publicly in the coming weeks and months. But does it make sense for the Eagles to hand him the reins and relegate Wentz to the backup slot? From the team’s perspective, not really: Wentz is several years younger, more talented and has demonstrated proficiency in Pederson’s RPO-heavy offensive scheme over a longer period of time.

Maybe, then, it makes sense to trade Foles away and let him start at quarterback for another team. Unfortunately, while that might be something Foles would agree to, it’s not in the best interests of the team. Because Foles has only one year left and the free agent crop will be especially strong this offseason, the market for Foles could be weak, and the Eagles might not get much in return. On top of that, Wentz injured himself in Week 14, and, although he had surgery only a few days later, that leaves him only nine months to recover before the 2018 season kicks off. Even if his knee fully heals by that time—which is a stretch, to say the least—he’ll have missed OTAs and much of training camp.

It’s not hard to imagine the Eagles opening up the 2018 season with Wentz on the sideline as he recovers. The team needs a proven backup who can win games, and it probably doesn’t make sense to sign someone. Teddy Bridgewater? I see the Vikings keeping him. Case Keenum? After his career year this past season with Minnesota, he’ll be too expensive and will likely sign with a team as the starter. Sam Bradford? Been there, done that, no thanks. Foles might not like it, but he’s the best option for the Eagles as the short-term starter while Wentz gets back to full strength.

Of course, this isn’t ideal for him. But the NFL is a business, and the front office in Philadelphia needs to put the team first, even if it means hampering the career prospects of their newest hero.

In all likelihood, it looks like the Eagles will retain Foles this offseason and that he’ll have to wait another year to cash in on his extraordinary Super Bowl run.


Contact Andrew Ziperski at ajzip ‘at’

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