Quickly

  • With Carson Wentz’ injury timeline uncertain, Philadelphia needs to keep Foles in the fold—unless some team blows them away with a deal
  • Mailbag topics include: a coach of the year alternative; the Zach Ertz catch debate; Malcolm Butler's benching; and much more
By Peter King
February 06, 2018

In the coming weeks, it’s likely a few general managers just doing their homework will pick up the phone, punch in a text message to Eagles GM Howie Roseman, or actually call him (yes, people in the United States still converse) and throw out this line: Any interest in a high pick or picks for Nick Foles?

Run away, Howie. Drop the phone.

Unless the offer is two number one draft choices plus that team’s backup quarterback (if the Eagles like him), Roseman should not consider trading Foles, a man who, by midseason at the latest, and perhaps even by Week 1 in 2018, likely will be the Eagles backup quarterback.

But Foles is the Super Bowl MVP too, and he just had the most magical month he’ll ever have in his career, so there’s much to consider.

I’ll make this clear: I don’t think Roseman will trade Foles. He knows what he has—the best quarterback situation, by far, in the NFL. And I don’t see him changing that. But he might be tempted, and I want to be the unpaid (and unwanted) guy on his shoulder reminding him to not do it.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Let’s consider the Nick Foles timeline. Last March, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, GM Howie Roseman and coach Doug Pederson all agreed on one thing: Chase Daniel was a nice player, but if Carson Wentz ever got hurt, the triumvirate thought Nick Foles was a better option for the Eagles to keep winning games. Problem: If the Eagles got rid of Daniel, he’d cost a boatload (more than 3 percent) of the team’s salary cap in dead money … $6.1 million.

“It was our top priority in the offseason,” Lurie told me. “People on the outside maybe didn’t see what we saw. But Nick was on our team when Doug was here, before he went with Andy to Philadelphia [after Foles’ rookie season, 2012], so we all knew him. We knew the kind of person he was, and we knew the kind of player he was. We always wanted to bring Nick back. We loved him. Loved him. It wasn’t that we didn’t like Chase, because we did. But Nick was a guy who thought would keep us going, and keep us winning, if we needed him. We just decided we were going to go all-out to get Nick.”

So they signed Foles to a two-year, $11-million deal last March, and they took the $6.1-million salary-cap bath on Daniel for 2017. W-w-what? That was the prevailing sentiment around the league. Foles, that guy who had the one fluky great season with Chip Kelly, but struggled since leaving Philly with a 74.2 passer rating in two forgettable seasons with the Rams and Chiefs?

“We didn’t see it that way,” Lurie said. “We trusted Nick.”

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You know the rest of the story: Foles had a 3-0 postseason, a 115.7 rating and 73-percent completion rate. Foles is the toast of football, and rightfully so. He’s been brilliant under the hottest of lights.

In 2018, Foles will be due a $3 million roster bonus on March 18. He’s due to make $4 million in salary. So do you want to pay a guy who could be your backup quarterback $7 million?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

The 2018 salary cap is slated to be $178 million. Would you spend 3.9 percent of your salary for a backup quarterback who has demonstrated he could lead you to a Super Bowl if needed? It’s cheap!

But the biggest reason I give this unprompted advice to Roseman (who, I should add, is doing just fine without me) is this: Carson Wentz underwent surgery to repair two ligament tears on Dec. 13. He is evidently doing well in his rehab. After surgery, it was estimated that Wentz would need nine to 12 months to recover fully and be in peak football shape to continue his career.

Nine months is Sept. 13, 2018. Opening night for the Eagles is Sept. 6, 2018.

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It’s entirely possible that Wentz is a great patient and his surgery was flawless and his rehab is great. So he could be cleared even sooner than the most optimistic timetable, and he could play on opening night, a week earlier than anyone could hope.

But they don’t sell insurance for things like that in Roseman’s world. Let’s just say that Wentz is fully ready to play 10 months after surgery. That would be Oct. 13. The Sunday of Week 6 is Oct. 14.

My point is simple: Philadelphia signed Nick Foles to ensure the long-term future at quarterback. In the shock of shocks, but within the parameters of reasoning for why Roseman did this in the first place, Foles replaced an injured Wentz and led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory ever. Does that mean the Eagles should change their minds now, and get draft-greedy and take a big deal for Foles?

Not unless it’s a sick deal. Not unless it’s two ones.

If that happens, I understand Roseman taking it. If not, he can’t be tempted. He has to keep Foles.

Now for your email...

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ERTZ VS. BRYANT
While watching the Zach Ertz touchdown catch, I couldn't stop thinking about the Dez Bryant catch in the playoff game in Green Bay. Both caught the ball around the 5-yard line. Both were facing their QB. Both turned up field. Both got three steps. Both lunged for the goal line (Ertz made it and Bryant was short). Both had the ball pop up after hitting the ground. Both caught the ball after it hit the ground. Both had Gene Steratore as the referee. Yet one was a catch and the other was not. Thankfully, the League will open up the rule and define what is a catch yet again because whatever rule they use, Bryant, Ertz and Calvin Johnson caught the ball.​
—Brian

I saw it differently. And I just watched Bryant again. Bryant was lunging from the time he caught the ball; Ertz took two upright steps with clear possession of the ball. Bryant lunged and reached for the goal line and hit the ground around the 1, and by the time his momentum took him into the end zone, he was clearly already down and the ball was loose. I did not think he was a runner, and I did not think he broke the plane of the goal line with the ball. I am very iffy on whether he completed the act of the catch—I would say he did not. Ertz was close. But the way I saw it on replay is catch, two steps, lunge for the end zone, break the plane, hit the ground in the end zone, ball is jarred loose. I think Al Riveron, the VP of officiating, and Gene Steratore, ref in the game, got it right. Glad they didn’t overturn it.


THE BILL BELICHICK MYTH
It turns out that it is just a myth. He was bewildered and confused. His ego was exposed by not playing his best defensive player and his babble about always doing what’s best for the team is shattered.​
—Jeffrey L.

Right. The bum. Just a fluke that he’s won 107 more NFL games than Paul Brown.


FOLES’ TOUCHDOWN
Peter, there’s video of Foles’ high school team running that same play to him. So maybe the play came from Foles?​
—Danny H., Ketura, Israel

I don’t think so. I saw that too. But I believe it came from the assistant QB coach, Press Taylor, studying NFL trick plays, and the exact play was run in Week 17 in 2015. At least that’s what the offensive coordinator who makes up the game plan, Frank Reich, thought.


BUTLER’S BENCHING
Malcolm Butler’s unexplained benching is the biggest “coaches decision” story out of this game. Some intrepid reporter, unafraid of Belichick, is going to get a real explanation instead of the boilerplate garbage that he spewed at halftime and post-game.​
—Billy R., Conroe, Texas 

Looking forward to hearing it in the coming days. It’s going to have to come from a reporter who has a very good relationship with Bill Belichick, and that’s not me.


THIS IS THE END
I am an ardent Pats fan, but mark my words, the Patriots dynasty is over. It ended shortly before kickoff of SB LII. You can have Seattle on the one-yard line; my money is on the decision to bench Butler as the worst coaching decision ever. Brandon Browner is spot on: Belichick poisoned his locker room. The Eagles and Foles feasted in the void left by Butler, making first downs at will, often only by inches while the best tackler inside the line to gain stood helplessly on the sidelines. It's over. Key players will want out; those who remain will wonder why they should lay it on the line every week only to get benched when they approach the ultimate goal.​
—S.S.

Read this letter in six months, S.S., when your emotions are a bit soothed. Benching Butler certainly seems like a bad decision, but because nobody knows why it happened, I’ll reserve judgment that Belichick is an idiot for doing so. The myth about this game is that Butler playing would have solved everything. The Patriots were gashed for 6.1 yards per Eagle rush (27 carries, 164 yards, 34:04 Philadelphia time of possession), and the pass defense was flawed all game. But having their second-best cornerback benched certainly was a dagger.


PATS COORDINATORS HAD ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR
It is always a pleasure to read your work and I look forward to it every Monday. Without taking away anything from the Eagles victory, I think there is something missed in all of the Super Bowl hoopla. Having all of the hiring for head coaching positions done before the Super Bowl puts coordinators in an awkward position of time management and brain management. Does it really make sense that Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels are as completely dedicated to the game as they would be without interviews in the week beforehand or thinking about a coaching staff that they would assemble around them? There is a simple solution of not allowing any team to take part in any interview processes at all until after the Super Bowl.​
—Curtis P., Baltimore

Interesting point. Didn’t look to me like the Josh McDaniels’ side of the ball (33 points, Super Bowl-record 613 total yards, Super Bowl-record 505 passing yards) was too distracted. If you kept Super Bowl coaches from talking to coach-needy teams before Feb. 5 (this year), you’d be promoting cheating by teams that simply would not wait.


DEFENSE STILL WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Even with Nick Foles doing his best tight end impersonation, the key play in the game was the strip sack late in the fourth that allowed the Eagles to bleed a little more clock and add another three points. In a game with little defense, one sack/turnover was the key. We can talk about the Foles reception all we want, but Brady was going to march down that field and win it if not for the defense finally making a stop. Defense still wins championships. Oh, and Brady can’t beat the NFC East in the Super Bowl (Eagles, Giants twice.) Interesting. Somewhere, Bill Parcells is smiling.​
—Dave H.

I suppose. Hard to throw a parade for a defense that allowed 613 yards and 33 points.


GENE STERATORE AND CREW
Your coverage of SB 52 was excellent. Back in 2013, you did an extensive profile of Gene Steratore and a week in the life of an NFL officiating crew. Sunday, Gene officiated his first Super Bowl. Have you considered doing a followup with Gene, to see how he and his crew approached the Super Bowl and how the game went for them?​
—Dan E., Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Dan, the NFL does not allow its officials to talk to the media, generally. I got special permission for my week in the life of an officiating crew in 2013. Since then, I’ve never seen an official quoted in depth, or talk about the duties of job in any major detail. I’m grateful the league, and officiating VP Dean Blandino at the time, allowed me full access to the crew so I could see how their real lives worked with the officiating gigs.


ON BOSELLI
Regarding Tony Boselli, PK wrote, "I feel like there hasn’t been a better left tackle in the game, post-Muñoz, in the 34 seasons I’ve covered the game." Jonathan Ogden is a glaring omission to PK's feeling. By no objective measure was Boselli better than Ogden. Boselli's peak was shorter than Ogden's, not as high, his overall career was shorter, and he earned fewer rings. Boselli left the game because he had injury issues, while Ogden was quite durable. Ogden left while still near the top of his game, though certainly not in his prime. Boselli belongs in the Hall of the Very Good, like a lot of NFL players. Putting him among the likes of Munoz and Ogden cheapens the entire Hall.​
—Kyle H.

Everyone has an opinion, Kyle. You’re right in saying Boselli’s career was shorter, and that should factor. I just think of the left tackles I’ve seen, Boselli’s upside was the best of them all. The fact that it was for a short time obviously will be a major roadblock in getting into the Hall.


WHERE’S THE O-LINE LOVE?
I know there’s a ton to cover and you got so many of the major storylines, but the Eagles O-line allowing zero sacks and run blocking superbly was as much a part of the team’s success as Foles’ superb play. They came into the season as the number one offensive line from Pro Football Focus and despite losing Jason Peters still went out that way at the end of the year. The Patriots O-line was also great all the way up to the game clinching strip-sack, and as a former college offensive lineman it made me very happy to see such a great game in the trenches. Can you give the O-line some love please?!?​
—Jordan W.

Excellent point. The Super Bowl column is essentially a fire drill. I wrote maybe 40 percent beforehand, then didn’t sit down to write the rest till about 12:30 am ET, and then it’s a sprint to 5 a.m., trying to write 4,500 words that hopefully do not stink. The Eagles’ line certainly deserves credit, as it has all year.


COACH OF THE YEAR
I propose they rename the award to "The Doug Pederson Coach of the Year Award" to correct the score for future years. Great win with great character by the coach and his team.​
—Bill

Lots of debate about Pederson not winning coach of the year, or at least not getting more than one of the 50 votes from those who vote for the season awards. Problem is, balloting is done at the end of the regular season. When the voting was done, my vote was Sean McVay of the Rams. And I think if you take the time machine back to Jan. 2, it’s hard to not vote for McVay. He took a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2003 and won the NFC West, and turned the worst offense in football last year into the best in 2017. If post-season was a factor, I’d have voted Pederson. Just my thought.

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