Follow all the threads that led to the NFC Championship Game matchup between Nick Foles and Case Keenum.
The NFL is a smaller league than you might realize, and that will be fully evident in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Eagles and Vikings. Nick Foles and Case Keenum, at one point teammates with the Rams, will start the game at quarterback. Sam Bradford, a former Eagle, will be Keenum’s backup.
That’s the short version. The long version is a Pepe Silvia-esque spiderweb of trades, benchings, injuries, cuts and signings that seems almost too perfect to be a coincidence. Below is an attempt to sort through it all.
March 10, 2015 — Rams trade Sam Bradford to Eagles for Nick Foles
(The Eagles also acquired a 2015 fifth-round pick; the Rams received a 2015 fourth-rounder and 2016 second.)
Foles and Bradford were both damaged goods after the 2014 season. Bradford had just missed the whole season after tearing his left ACL for the second time in two years. Foles had fallen back down to earth after a stellar 2013 season in which he threw for 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Both teams saw an opportunity for a fresh start at quarterback and pulled off a swap.
March 10, 2015 — Rams acquire Case Keenum from Texans
Keenum had spent a portion of the 2014 season on the Rams’ practice squad, but was picked up by Houston when Ryan Fitzpatrick broke his leg. The Rams got Keenum back on the first day of the new league year by giving up a future seventh-round pick.
Nov. 16, 2016 — Rams bench Foles for Keenum
After a blowout loss to the Bears in which Foles completed less than 50% of his passes and didn’t have a touchdown, head coach Jeff Fisher announced he was giving the reins to Keenum. Keenum didn’t prove to be the answer, either, so the Rams entered the 2016 offseason looking for a quarterback.
April 28, 2016 — Eagles and Rams select their quarterbacks of the future
The Rams and Eagles both made trades to climb to the top of the draft order with the intent of selecting a quarterback. Los Angeles took Jared Goff and Philadelphia took Carson Wentz.
July 27, 2016 — Rams cut Foles
Not content with remaining in L.A. while Goff was breathing down his neck, Foles asked the Rams to cut him just before the start of training camp. The team honored his request, while Keenum stuck around to keep Goff’s seat warm.
August 4, 2016 — Chiefs sign Foles
In a Philadelphia reunion, Andy Reid brought Foles in to be Alex Smith’s backup for the 2016 season. While Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson had just left to become head coach of the Eagles, Foles was able to learn a similar offense under the newly promoted Matt Nagy.
August 30, 2016 — Teddy Bridgewater is injured
The Vikings’ hopes of repeating as NFC North champions for the first time since 2009 were largely dependent on the continued development of Teddy Bridgewater. So when Bridgewater blew out his knee during practice, they were desperate to find an upgrade over Shaun Hill.
Eagles GM Howie Roseman insisted before the draft Bradford was still Philadelphia’s starter, but he saw an opening when Bridgewater went down and decided to take a chance.
Sept. 3, 2016 — Vikings trade for Sam Bradford
Philadelphia shipped Bradford to Minnesota for a 2017 first-round pick and fourth-round choice in 2018. The trade meant the Eagles would roll with Carson Wentz, just one year removed from playing FCS football, as their starting quarterback.
Nov. 15, 2016 — Rams bench Keenum
Though Goff was waiting in the wings, Keenum bought himself some time by getting off to a 3–1 start. The Rams went 0–7 after Goff took over as the starter, but when quarterback whisperer Sean McVay was hired as head coach after the season, Keenum saw the writing on the wall and looked for another opportunity.
March 16, 2017 — Eagles sign Foles
Things came full circle for Foles when Philadelphia brought him back before this season to be Carson Wentz’s backup. With any luck, he wouldn’t be needed. So much for that.
April 4, 2017 — Vikings sign Keenum
With Bridgewater still not ready to return from his devestating knee injury, Minnesota needed a backup for Bradford and so Keenum signed on a one-year deal.
Sept. 17, 2017 — Bradford out for Week 2 game with knee injury
Bradford played brilliantly in Minnesota’s Week 1 win over the Saints and showed no signs of injury, but he was unable to play the next week due to what the team called a sore knee. He sat out three games before trying to give it another go in Week 5, but he was forced out of that game in the first half.
Nov. 7, 2017 — Bradford has knee surgery
The fact that Keenum had led the Vikings to a 6–2 start in Bradford’s absence made the news that he had arthroscopic knee surgery and was placed on injured reserve easier to stomach. The other silver lining was that Bridgewater was healthy enough to be activated when Bradford went on IR, giving Minnesota additional security at quarterback.
Dec. 10, 2017 — Wentz tears his ACL
Wentz was in the middle of an MVP-caliber season when he tore his ACL against the Rams in Week 14. Foles didn’t exactly inspire confidence with his play over the last three weeks, leading the Vegas oddsmakers to make the Falcons a road favorite in the divisional round. Though the Philadelphia offense managed just one touchdown against Atlanta, Foles completed 23 of his 30 passes for 246 yards.
Jan. 21, 2018 — Foles, Keenum and Bradford meet with a spot in the Super Bowl at stake
It wasn’t exactly a master plan, but 34 months after the Eagles set this in motion, one of these quarterbacks will be starting in the Super Bowl. That’s crazy, right? And I didn’t even get into how Pat Shurmur has been an offensive coordinator for all three.