- Nick Foles is leaving the Philadelphia Eagles to become the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- In Philadelphia, Foles served as backup for Carson Wentz, stepping in after his injury in 2017 to lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
- While Foles’ talent is that of a starter, his role in Philadelphia as the backup was key to the team’s unexpected success.
It has often been said that the backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town.
In my time growing up watching the Eagles, I’ve found this to be especially true. Between Philadelphians’ love for an underdog and quick-temper when it comes to those identified as the source of a problem, backup quarterbacks have a lot of appeal in the City of Brotherly Love.
This was true even before Nick Foles brought Philadelphia its first Super Bowl.
Ask around Broad Street, and you’ll hear memories of the likes of Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley playing at critical moments for the franchise.
Jeff Garcia made me cry once.
But in a city that has always had an affinity for the next man up, Foles stood apart from the pack, and through his faith and his brilliant play, gave the Eagles a Super Bowl victory so spectacular we wouldn’t have believed it if we weren’t watching it unfold in real time.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Even Foles’ first stint with the Eagles, he did everything that was ever asked of him and more, even throwing for an NFL-record-tying seven touchdowns in a 2013 win over the Oakland Raiders.
Foles would wind up leading Philadelphia to an 8-2 record in 10 games after taking over the starting role, filling in for an injured Michael Vick.
In the wild-card round, Foles threw a go-ahead touchdown against the New Orleans Saints with just five minutes remaining before the Saints won the game on a last-second field goal.
But even with the disappointing result, the seeds were there — Foles could do great things. He’d finish the year by winning Pro Bowl MVP. Pretty good for a backup quarterback.
Foles’ return to the Eagles feels heaven-sent in retrospect.
After a rough year with the Rams, Foles almost quit the league. "I wanted to retire from the NFL, and I really struggled," Foles said. "I couldn’t pick up a football for about eight months. I had no love for the game, and it was tough."
But after leaning on his faith, Foles decided to carry on, spending time with the Chiefs before rejoining the Eagles in 2017 to serve as a backup to Carson Wentz.
AP Photo/Michael Perez
The role of a backup is to be good enough.
Expectations are usually low, and always at least reasonable. If you can come in and not ruin a good thing, you’ve done your job.
The 2017 Eagles already had a good season going. When Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams, the team was 10-2 thanks to his MVP-level play and one of the most fearsome defensive fronts in the league. Foles entered that first game and played hero, leading Philadelphia on two field goal drives in the final 10 minutes to seal the win and the NFC East.
The Eagles were in the playoffs. And then the magic began.
With Carson Wentz, Philadelphia was seen as a real contender, but as soon as Foles stepped into the starting role, the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia as a whole was able to step back into the familiar comfort of our underdog narrative. Free from expectation and just three games away from lifting the Lombardi Trophy, the vibe amongst Philly fans could best be described as "well, why the hell not?"
I attended the Eagles-Raiders game on Christmas night in Philadelphia that year — an ugly affair at which Foles was dreadful in the bitter cold. Despite the underwhelming performance, every fan I spoke with was confident in our chances.
Confidence only grew through two playoff wins, first with a defensive stand on fourth-and-goal in the final seconds against the Falcons, and then with a trouncing of the Vikings in the NFC Championship. When the Super Bowl came around, with Foles throwing for three touchdowns and catching one more, the most surprising aspect of the outcome was how unsurprised we were.
I’m convinced that it could have only happened with Foles steering the ship.
Wentz is the quarterback of the Eagles future, and he’s certainly capable of winning a Super Bowl or three in Philadelphia over the next decade, but Foles and the ease that he brought was a critical element to getting the first one in franchise history.
When facing down the evil empire of the NFL led by the Palpatine-Vader combination of Belichick and Brady, I’m convinced that the only path to triumph was behind our smiley, hilariously well-endowed backup quarterback whose faith in God and himself as His vessel made him unflappable.
In the biggest moment of his career and the history of Philadelphia football, he was perfect.
My emphasis on Foles as a backup is not a knock on his ability as a player. His talent is that of a starter, as he has shown through his years stepping into the role in Philadelphia. But for the Eagles to break through and lift the Lombardi Trophy against the greatest franchise in football history, we needed our hero to be a backup — an underdog that we could rally behind with blind faith and nothing to lose.
If Foles isn’t a backup, and if the Eagles aren’t playing as wildly brash underdogs in the Super Bowl, there is no Philly Special. You have to be a little bit crazy to call a trick play on fourth-and-goal in the waning seconds of the first half of a Super Bowl, and having Foles under center gave Philadelphia the freedom to get a little bit crazy.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Foles kept the magic going in 2018. After a shaky start to the season, and eventually handing the reigns back to Wentz after his recovery, Foles once again was called to action in a must-win situation. He rattled off three straight wins to get the Eagles back to the postseason, and as a final act with the team, led them to an upset victory in the wild card thanks to yet another act of God.
Heading into 2019, it became clear that keeping Foles on the roster would be untenable. His play over two years had proven he was worthy of becoming a starter in the NFL and getting the contract that comes with it. After the team passed on the opportunity to franchise tag him and trade him for a pick, Foles hit the open market, with the Jacksonville Jaguars putting together a winning bid in the form of a four-year, $88 million deal that includes $50 million in guaranteed money.
Foles is no longer a backup quarterback. He’s graduated to starter, and with a talented roster and potentially elite defense in Jacksonville, he won’t have the benefit of playing burdenless football as he did during the Eagles’ playoff run.
In Jacksonville, he will instead take on the responsibilities that the starting role entails, leading his team through good times and bad, and setting the tone for an offense looking to turn things around.
Foles is a starter in his new home, and Eagles fans could not be happier for him, but in Philadelphia, he’ll always be our beloved backup — and the most popular guy in town.
- Read more from Tyler Lauletta:
- NFL FREE AGENCY: The winners and losers of a busy start to the offseason
- NFL free agency had a wild first 48 hours — here are all of the biggest moves
- The top 14 quarterbacks of the 2019 NFL draft class, ranked