McMullen: Nick Foles Keeps Complicating Eagles Decision Making
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - While coaches and personnel executives will tell you the NFL is a meritocracy, pedigree is a valuable bullet point on any player's resume.
Ultimately performance will decide your legacy whether you're the No. 1 overall pick in the draft or an undrafted free agent. The difference is the former is going to get more than one opportunity to prove his worth while the latter may never get a real chance if the player is lucky enough to be given the ball in a figurative sense the results must be immediate.
Neither of those descriptions fit Carson Wentz or Nick Foles, although Wentz was awfully close to being a top overall selection when the Eagles traded up twice to land him with the No. 2 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Foles, on the other hand, was also a so-called priority pick at No. 88 overall in 2012, as Andy Reid's consolation prize after Russell Wilson, the player the former Eagles coach really wanted in the third round that year came off the board 13 picks earlier.
Foles, though, got opportunities even if Reid's successor, Chip Kelly, didn't really believe 27-and-2 in 2013 and a 14-4 record as a starter spanning 2013-14 was anything more than a mirage.
Then came the trade for the former No. 1 overall pick in Sam Bradford and while that didn't work out for Philadelphia, Foles' troubles with a bad team in St. Louis solidified Kelly's perspective to many, arguably even Foles himself who entertained retiring from football until Reid convinced him to come to Kansas City as the backup to Alex Smith.
By 2017 Foles was back in Philadelphia with another familiar face -- his first QB coach under Reid, Doug Pederson -- and the rest is history with Foles closing things out for an injured Wentz last season by taking the baton and racing through the postseason with legendary performances in both the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LII, the latter of which Foles actually outdueled Tom Brady en route to the first Lombardi Trophy in Eagles history.
The reward was a tip of the cap, some incentives, and the reins only until Wentz was ready to return from ACL and LCL surgery.
That happened in Week 3 this season but the Wentz who returned wasn't the MVP-level version of 2017. While still effective at times and putting out more than competent numbers, the team success didn't follow and when Wentz exited the lineup this time with a stress fracture in his back the Eagles were a playoff longshot at 6-7.
Enter Foles and three straight wins later the Eagles are preparing to play Chicago in the wild-card round on Sunday while the backup has already won as a two-touchdown underdog in Los Angeles, set a franchise record for passing yards in a game against Houston, and matched the NFL standard with 25 consecutive completions against Washington.
More impressive than that is the bottom line. In his last 29 starts as the Eagles QB Foles has won 23 of them, a more-than gaudy .793 winning percentage.
When you add up all the Foles superlatives, how in the world is this even a discussion?
The answer is that pedigree. When lesser players do get on the field, however, one thing can keep them there and it's success.
Keep winning and Foles remains the starting QB but the margin of error is razor thin and a setback to Chicago reboots the entire conversation with Wentz comfortably atop the organizational depth chart and Foles on his way to free agency.
Another magical run, though, and all bets are off.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen