McMullen: A New QB2 in Philly
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Let's make one thing very clear, the Eagles don't want anyone other than Carson Wentz playing quarterback in the 2019 season unless it's for mop-up duty at the end of the right side of a blowout.
Not Josh McCown, not Nate Sudfeld, not Colin Kaepernick, not even Nick Foles, never mind Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson.
That said if forced to play anyone other than the face of the franchise things shifted Saturday for Philadelphia when Howie Roseman convinced the 40-year-old Josh McCown to put off the broadcast booth for one more year.
While the Eagles have expressed confidence in Sudfeld taking the next step in his career and becoming the primary backup after Foles left in free agency for a big-money deal in Jacksonville, the caveat from early on was that Doug Pederson didn't want to be handing out jobs to anyone. The coach wanted Sudfeld to earn it.
"We're happy with Nate (Sudfeld), and we are excited for him," Pederson said back in the spring at the NFL Owners Meeting. "This is a big opportunity for Nate coming up. ... An opportunity to really show us again what he's capable of doing and can he handle the number two spot. I've always been, this has always been my career, you always want guys to compete for spots and not hand anything out. I think that's something that we will continue to explore, but we are really comfortable with Nate."
The problem with that way of thinking is that better backup QBs available at the time-- players with extensive starting experience like Ryan Tannehill or Blake Bortles -- weren't going to entertain coming to Philadelphia for a chance to compete. While failed starters those types of players had multiple suitors willing to guarantee jobs in a league with a dearth of signal callers.
Ultimately the "competition" brought in for Sudfeld landed on Kessler, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound west coast-style QB who was a three-year starter in college at Southern Cal throwing for 88 touchdowns vs. just 19 interceptions for the Trojans. That was good enough to turn Kessler into the 93rd overall pick by Cleveland when current Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry was in personnel with the Browns. Kessler started eight games with Cleveland as a rookie and had four more starts with the Jaguars in 2018.
The odds were always against Kessler and Sudfeld actually distanced himself from the nominal competition in the spring and early summer until breaking his left wrist in the preseason opener against Tennessee.
Once Kessler went down with a concussion in the opening minutes against the Jags on Thursday night it became DEFCON 3 at the NovaCare Complex for an organization which understands the championship window is open.
Enter McCown, who "retired" in the offseason for the ESPN booth, a career change with a catch. According to a source at the network, McCown had told the folks in Bristol if the right team came calling he would return to the football field.
Turns out that was the Eagles and the opportunity to win a Super Bowl ring, something that has alluded McCown despite 17 seasons over 10 others cities. That along with with another nice paycheck: $2 million when pen hit paper and up to $5.4M if he was forced to play and reached certain incentives.
Sudfeld, though, is expected back early in the regular season so the question becomes who is the real backup now?
McCown certainly isn't coming back to exercise for a couple weeks in the summer. His presence allows the Eagles to be far more cautious with Sudfeld's injury but if the team is forced to the backup whether it's Week 1, 8 or 17, McCown will get the first opportunity.
After all he's started 76 NFL games while Sudfeld had thrown all of 25 professional passes. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia was talking with McCown for weeks, according to a league source.
The Eagles are cognizant of how this looks for Sudfeld, however, and have been sure to affirm that bringing in McCown has nothing to do with their feelings about Sudfeld and more about adding a good player and a better person to a QB room that Jeffrey Lurie values above all else.
There some truth to that but the goal here is clearing the path for another championship not avoiding toes and massaging egos.
When judging an organization, it's always best to look at their actions and not listen to their words.
If the Eagles were completely comfortable with Sudfeld this is not a move that would have been made.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen