It’s Sunday night, Feb. 4 at around 10:30 in the evening. Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback, Nick Foles, is standing on a podium in the middle of US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Green and white confetti is falling on his Super Bowl champion cap, and he is hoisting one the most highly coveted trophies in professional sports. To top it off, he also is booked for a trip to Disney World after Dan Patrick announces his name as Super Bowl MVP. If I’d have told this scenario to you at the beginning of the 2017 NFL season, you’d have probably recommended that I check myself into a mental institution. Another unbelievable story that falls under the age-old cliché that anything can happen in sports.
Let us rewind this fairy tale back a few years. March 13, 2015: Foles is traded to the St Louis Rams in exchange for quarterback Sam Bradford. This seemed to be the beginning of the end of Foles’ limelight in the NFL. Despite going 14-4 in his 18 starts for Philadelphia, including an NFL record-tying seven touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders in 2013, it wasn’t good enough for head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly, who had a stranglehold on all personnel decisions, felt that an injury-prone quarterback coming off of a torn ACL in Bradford was a better fit for his offense.
The anomaly of Foles’ impressive and unexpected play under center was over for Eagles fans. It was time to turn the page. The Arizona graduate saw his play diminish severely under the coaching of “Mr. 7-9” Jeff Fisher, and found himself in a battle for the starting job with an unproven and inexperienced Case Keenum. He started 11 games and went 4-7. His seven touchdown passes were surpassed by his 10 interceptions and soon enough, Foles became a forgotten man in the league. It was clear that the Rams were moving on from the man who made the Pro Bowl back in 2013, when they drafted quarterback Jared Goff with the first overall pick in 2016. Seeing what was bound to come his way, Foles asked to be released by the organization and his wish was granted.
Foles, who was once touted as being the quarterback of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles, was now a bonafide journeyman in the league. Nothing more than a safe backup option for teams.
“After my time with a certain NFL team, I wanted to retire,” Foles said in an interview. “I wanted to retire from the NFL, and I really struggled. I couldn’t pick up a football for about eight months. I had no love for the game, and it was tough.”
After months of being on the open market, a familiar face decided to bring him onto his roster. Andy Reid, his former coach in Philly and now employed with the Kansas City Chiefs, signed Foles to fill the backup position behind Alex Smith. Foles didn’t accomplish much in Kansas City and declined to re-sign, which once again put him on the free agent market.
Like something out of a story book, the one and only Philadelphia Eagles signed him to backup their young, talented new QB Carson Wentz. At this point, Philly was free of the Kelly dictatorship and had a new coaching staff intact that included head coach, Doug Pederson, a disciple of Reid, who also coached Foles back during his first stint with the Birds.
Foles seemed to be happy to be back in a familiar environment and surrounded by a deep and talented roster that the world would soon be introduced to. The Eagles were 10-2 as they traveled to Los Angeles to play a talented Rams squad, who was also under a new regime. Wentz was an MVP candidate and the Eagles were Super Bowl favorites. Eagles’ fans are familiar to massive letdowns, and it happened once again on this bleak Sunday afternoon. After taking a hard hit running into the end zone, Wentz was taken out of the game with an apparent knee injury. Heartbroken fans would learn later that it was a torn ACL and he would miss the rest of the season. Every piece of momentum Philly had was shattered. Just like everyone had predicted, Foles was thrown back into the national spotlight, as it was his responsibility to save the Eagles’ season.
Despite having one the strongest rosters in the league, every NFL analyst you could think of declared the Eagles’ season to be over. How could Foles lead this team to a playoff win, let alone a Super Bowl berth?
No one could have predicted what followed in the playoffs. Philadelphia, the underdogs in all three of their playoff games, ran the table; dismantling the former NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, and demolishing the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings, where Foles passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns against a Vikings defense that was thought to be the best in the league. Foles was, once again, the talk of the NFL and the feel-good story of the playoffs. From an unrestricted free agent before the season started, he was now facing off against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Despite his impressive playoff run, there were still a slew of doubters that believed Foles and the Birds didn’t stand a chance against the Empire of New England.
The trend of Foles and Philadelphia blowing the minds of NFL fans everywhere continued as they played a near perfect game offensively and ultimately defeated New England at its own game. Foles matched every Patriots score with inexplicable precision, poise and accuracy, as he finished with 373 yards and three touchdowns. The identity of Foles had changed overnight. A washed-up journeyman who was on the verge of retirement, was now a Super Bowl MVP and an automatic legend in the eyes of Philadelphia natives everywhere. The rise, fall and resurrection of Foles is of Biblical proportions and I personally could not have been more exuberant to witness every moment.
Connor Sodak is a fourth-year student majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. ✉ CS824220@wcupa.edu.