I don’t remember who said it – it would probably be easier to try to recall who didn’t.
When Carson Wentz went down with a severe knee injury on Dec. 10, as the Philadelphia Eagles were in the process of beating the Los Angeles Rams, it was said that Philly’s hopeful season was over.
The Eagles were 11-2 at the time. But when a starting QB is lost, so usually is a season.
Especially since Philadelphia’s backup was the universally and unfairly disparaged Nick Foles.
There was great despair in Phiadelphia after Wentz’s injury and Philly is a town that knows despair. The city’s sports fans are fidgety and flagrant even in the best of times.
But with Wentz down amidst such promise to a season, the Liberty Bell’s crack widened. Hope was lost. Philly fans threw up their cheesesteak-stained hands.
Nick Foles? Nobody was getting behind that notion.
But today, the Eagles are Super Bowl champions. They slayed the New England Patriots, 41-33, on Sunday night. And most incredibly, it was Foles who took down Tom Brady in their quarterback tussle.
Yes, Brady passed for a ridiculous 505 yards. But he also lost a late fumble, a misplay that ultimately not even the Greatest Quarterback Who Ever Lived could recover from.
Foles, though, played like anything but a back-up, a player who had been cast aside by the Chiefs, Rams and even the Eagles, for whom he started his career. Against the Pats, Foles completed 28 of 43 pass attempts for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
Two weeks earlier, in a 38-7 NFC Championship win over Minnesota, Foles was 26 of 33 for 352 yards and three touchdowns.
This is no Trent Dilfer, people. Dilfer, you remember, is the QB who improbably guided the Baltimore Ravens to a championship season in 2000. But in the Ravens’ four wins, including a 34-7 win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, Dilfer was entrusted only to keep the train on the track.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson – more about him in a moment – gave Foles the keys to the Ferrari and did not impose a curfew. It was very Andy Reid of him.
It’s no coincidence that Pederson, Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City from 2015-17, put such faith in Foles. He undoubtedly built up empathy for backup quarterbacks during a 10-year NFL career during which he carried a clipboard for the likes of Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Brett Favre.
When Pederson did get opportunities to start, for Philadelphia in 1999 and Cleveland in 2000, he went 3-14 with nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
Pederson’s offensive brain, though, is superior to his right arm. And there’s no doubt that his years as a QB subordinate paid off in the things he watched and learned.
It was Pederson who helped ignite Alex Smith’s career in Kansas City, mind you. He also worked with Foles with the Chiefs in 2016 and pounced on bringing him to Philadelphia this season after the Chiefs declined to pick up his contract option.
Pederson’s star shot across the universe this season, first with the obvious development of Wentz and then with the confidence he bestowed on Foles.
Let’s remember, too, that Foles wasn’t some deer in the headlights. He was 14-4 as the Eagles’ starter in 18 games during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and as a second-year quarterback in 2013 passed for 27 touchdowns and threw only two interceptions.
He was then traded to St. Louis in a deal that brought Sam Bradford to Philly. And as with so many players in St. Louis during Jeff Fisher’s years as coach, Foles lost his way.
But he was lucky. He ultimately landed with Pederson in Kansas City, then in Philadelphia.
The Eagles, who had never won a Super Bowl with quarterbacks such as McNabb, Norm Snead, Randall Cunningham, Ron Jaworski, Michael Vick or coaches such as Dick Vermeil, Buddy Ryan and Andy Reid, won one with Foles and Pederson.
Not to mention the Eagles dethroned Brady and the mighty Patriots in doing so.
Only two quarterbacks in the 52-year history of the Super Bowl have passed for more than the 373 yards Foles amassed Sunday. Brady has done it twice, including Sunday, and Kurt Warner did it twice.
Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and Foles.
Isn’t football great. Aren’t sports great.
This Foles performance, under the tutelage of a pretty great coaching performance, is why we’re so drawn to this stuff.
When Wentz was wincing on the turf in Los Angeles after suffering his knee injury, you could make out the collective moan from 3,000 miles away in Philadelphia.
It was over. The Eagles’ dream season was over.
Back-up quarterbacks don’t win Super Bowls.
Except sometimes they do. Brady and Warner were once back-ups who won Super Bowls. So were Dilfer, Earl Morrall, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Doug Williams and Jeff Hostetler.
Add Foles to the list. With a bullet.