The corner of the locker room has become my place, more than it has ever been. I’ve had a corner locker, both in the NovaCare Complex and at Lincoln Financial Field, since at least the beginning of the 2017 season. It’s the domain of the Eagles' starting quarterback, their franchise quarterback, as if it were his throne. Now, it’s my sanctuary. I dress there after every game in peace, my back to the room and the celebrating behind me. Everyone wants to talk to Nick now. Everyone wants to talk about him.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m proud of my teammates and coaches for everything we’ve accomplished over the last two seasons: the Super Bowl last year, our winning streak to get back to the playoffs, the victory over the Bears on Sunday. But it’s bittersweet. Of course, it’s bittersweet. I sit there in that corner, and I can hear the revelry. I can hear the questions that the reporters ask my teammates: What more can you say about Nick Foles? How amazed are you by Nick Foles? How can you explain the magic of what Nick Foles does once Carson Wentz gets hurt? Heh, I’m starting to feel a little like Jan Brady, the middle child who would like a bit of the attention and recognition that an older sibling always receives.
It’s not that Nick doesn’t deserve the attention and the praise. He does! He’s a Super Bowl MVP. He has played great since Howie and Doug decided to sit me down because of this back thing I’m dealing with. And it’s not that Nick and I aren’t friends. We are. But we’re not best friends. It sounds great to say that we are. It’s a lovely narrative. But it’s just not true. There is a distance between us, always, the kind of gulf that only pride and competition create. He wants to play well. He wants to be a starter. He wants to win another Super Bowl. I want those things, too, though, and we’re kind of standing in each other’s way when it comes to getting them.
Because I know this: If I had been completely healthy, if I had been out there playing, we would have won the Super Bowl last year and returned to the playoffs this year. That’s not a slight against Nick. That’s just how any elite athlete thinks. Yes, I know I was lousy in New Orleans when we lost by 41 there in November. Yes, I know we were 5-6 when I was playing this season. But I know we could have and would have rallied, which is why, I have to admit, it can be tough at times to watch what’s been happening while I haven’t been playing.
For instance, Mike Groh, our offensive coordinator, said Tuesday that I’ve been filling my role as a “typical backup.” Now, I know that Mike didn’t mean any harm by saying that, but come on. “Typical backup”? We were 11-2, and I was probably going to win the NFL MVP award last season, before I got hurt. Is that typical for a backup quarterback?
See, that’s the part that irks me. It’s not an ego thing. It’s a confidence thing. The Eagles traded up to draft me second overall. We were rolling last season before I hurt my knee against the Rams. I’m glad the team is rolling again, ahead of Sunday’s game against the Saints, but because I’m not one of the reasons it’s rolling, I feel a step removed from everything. The situation is difficult to explain if you’ve never experienced it. When you’re injured in the NFL and can’t play, things just aren’t the same. Fans like to say that they’re along for the ride, and I suppose an injured player is, too, but it’s as if you’re sitting in the pickup’s flatbed. Besides, I’m not an Eagles fan. I’m an Eagles quarterback. I’m supposed to be the Eagles quarterback. Right now, I’m not.
Why do you think I wanted to come back so quickly from my rehab? Why do you think I was out there during those organized team activities in May, bouncing and shuffling and backpedaling and throwing? I wanted to remind everyone that this was still my team, that I’m the alpha dog here. I have to think that’s part of the reason Doug won’t put me on injured reserve but also won’t activate me for any of these games. He knows how I feel: If I’m active, that means I’m healthy enough to play. And if I’m healthy enough to play, I’m healthy enough to start. That competitiveness hasn’t gone away. If you don’t think I want to be out there, leading my team, you’re crazy.