When the news broke in early December that Philadelphia’s third year rising star quarterback Carson Wentz had suffered a stress fracture in his lower back, the same underdog title which the Eagles embraced so impeccably during the latter stages of the 2017 season, was once again being branded from the lips of NFL pundits and experts alike.
From terrestrial debates to podcast disputes, the NFL world tiptoed around the idea that football’s second coming had finally arrived.
Nick Foles had returned. Philadelphia’s 21st century Balboa. Clad in green and black with an unrivalled mental dexterity and calmness. And so the staged was set. The call given. The lights turned bright with Going the Distance on third-down repeat. German Shepard masks again permeating Lincoln Financial Field; a fancy dress party with one dress code only. Underdog.
Yet why aren’t things different this time? Why does the impossibility to not mention his name and the word magic in the same sentence continuously prevail and cease to exist? Why exactly is the current Super Bowl winning quarterback still labelled as simply a backup quarterback? A man whose story is seemingly nothing more than that of an underdog fulfilling his role in the greatest of modern football stories; the perfect pre-production for a future Hollywood feature-length.
After all he is the current Super Bowl MVP. An honour he earned when rallying his team to an historic win against the perpetually dominant Bill Belichick and Tom Brady regime despite the overwhelming odds. A man who this season embraced the challenge of leading an inconsistent and depleted 6-7 team to three consecutive wins which saw the Eagles fulfil the NFC’s final wildcard spot. A process consisting of Foles throwing for a franchise record of 471 yards, completing a fourth quarter comeback win against Houston, despite J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney smelling blood, and also tying the NFL record for the number of completed consecutive passes; 25 to be exact.
It’s a kind of magic? No. Absolutely not. This isn’t faith or fiction. This is aptitude of a different level. Talent unfazed in the face of adversity. A man who compliments his team better than strawberries with cream.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Carson Wentz is an outstanding talent, a man who before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the latter stages of last season, was undoubtedly the league’s MVP and somehow capable of escaping a pocket prison consisting of 315 pound steel bar defensive tackles. But winning takes more than that. No matter your ability to extend a single play for eternity. And one day Carson WILL be there. He will take his place alongside the greats of the game.
But with an ageing offensive line made up of the Jason Kelce and Peter’s duo, and a near non-existent running game, Foles understands his job. Release the ball early. Find the inside slant route-running receivers and keep moving them chains. The momentum and chemistry ready to ignite fiercely and be ready for any elite secondary.
And so under the Sunday night lights of Soldier Field, a seemingly windless paradise for seasoned kickers, Foles rendered the members of this season’s leading defence near redundant. Absorbing a barrage of multi-million dollar pressure before proceeding to complete a fourth quarter sixty-yard comeback drive which concluded with a West Coast-styled offence play call to seal the game and a divisional spot. Foles again had achieved the possible.
Whether Carson Wentz would also have been able to achieve the same feat will remain a mystery. His ability to turn the Eagles 2018 season around will remain in constant debate. And for those reasons, whether the ruthless New Orleans Saints destroy the hopes and dreams of the city of Brotherly Love, or another Super Bowl winning season waits patiently on the distant horizon for them, an overbearing shadow will hang upon the Philadelphia Eagles off-season.
Stick or Twist. The second-choice draft pick with indefinite upside or the man who took his chance with one precise and unfailing right-hand upon arrival. Money is a factor. Draft picks too. Howie Roseman’s number on every GM’s speed dial. And so it now begins to be seen, do the Eagles continue with the best quarterback in Philadelphia or the Super Bowl MVP?
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