The city is delirious again. A backup quarterback is uncorking 80-yard touchdowns, stoically returning from unprotected gut shots and leading the team on game-winning drives. The Eagles, over the last two weeks, have beaten teams with a combined 21 wins, to keep their balance-beam hope of making the playoffs alive.
They are a reasonable contender now. After Sunday’s win against the Texans, and the Cowboys’ division-clinching win over the Buccaneers, Philadelphia’s best chance of reaching the postseason comes from downing a punchless Washington team on the road next weekend, and having the Vikings lose to the first-place Bears at home in the season finale. Is that any crazier than believing two weeks ago, the Eagles would have beaten two first-place teams to get themselves here?
During the last two weeks, Nick Foles has thrown for 741 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. During a similar end of season overture in 2017, he was a combined 43-of-76 for 400 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
When their season appeared to be veering into a typical post-Super Bowl slump, Carson Wentz’s year-ending back surgery was more about a missed opportunity. At some point, he deserves the chance to finish a season he started, given his immense talent, and the advantageous situations he’s helped put the franchise in. But now that they are on the precipice of turning 10 percent playoff odds into reality, the question becomes: Can they live without Foles?
What do they do if, somehow, he conjures magic a second time?
Philadelphia has traditionally valued the backup position under general manager Howie Roseman, so a crowded house isn't strange. Donovan McNabb had Michael Vick. Michael Vick had Nick Foles. Carson Wentz was bookended by Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel before Bradford was traded. But never has a scenario come alive like this and devoured any sense of logic or standard reasoning.
We’re not advocating the Eagles pivot course. Obviously Wentz, despite ACL and back injuries in consecutive seasons, is the right choice. He has another season on an affordable rookie deal before transitioning into the club option season in 2020. He’s mobile and has a stronger arm, allowing Doug Pederson a wider berth from offensive predictability if the run game isn’t functioning properly.
We’re simply pointing out that the Eagles reaching the playoffs and potentially having success there again raises a few pressing questions:
• With the Eagles stuffed against the salary cap for 2019 (even without counting Foles’s massive option), will they be able to either afford Foles’s option (roughly five times the cost of Wentz’s 2019 salary), or compete on the open market for a backup of similar talent? How long would it take for a backup to learn not only the nuances of Philadelphia’s playbook, but the nuances of a relationship with Wentz?
• If they manage to pair Foles and Wentz together again next season, would their be legitimate concern that Wentz would worry about his job performance costing him the gig given the now-repeated success of his backup?
The coolness down the stretch on Sunday, which saw the Eagles lose a lead late and battle back for a time-expiring field goal against one of the best defenses in the NFL, allows us to get ahead of ourselves a little bit. They’re good enough to slip into the playoffs and do some damage. The question is: What happens next?
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