Nick Foles will remain the Eagles’ starting quarterback for Sunday’s season finale against Washington, giving him the chance to keep whatever magic he’s tapped into alive during a weekend in which the Eagles must win and need the Minnesota Vikings to lose to the Chicago Bears in order to make the playoffs.
Coach Doug Pederson said that Foles, who took a vicious hit to his ribs on the final drive of his record-setting performance in the Eagles’ 32-30 win over Houston, feels “fine.” Foles said after the game that he was sore, but it wouldn’t keep him from playing against Washington.
Carson Wentz is still recovering from the stress fracture in his back, although he will remain on the 53-man roster. Pederson did not say whether they are keeping Wentz on the roster as a potential starting option in the playoffs, and the coach continues to avoid a decision about which quarterback would start if the Eagles play beyond Sunday. All they can focus on at this point is Sunday, and Foles will start that game.
“Right now, Nick is the guy, and we're going to finish at least this last game with Nick,” Pederson said, “and then we'll evaluate next week again.”
Pederson said “nothing has really changed” with Wentz. The Eagles are simply waiting for Wentz to heal. He would not give a timeframe on Wentz because the team must allow Wentz time to heal.
Of course, if the Eagles make the playoffs, it would mean they have won three consecutive games with Foles. If that’s the case, it would seem difficult to pull the hot hand.
“Those are obviously conversations we have to have,” Pederson said. “Those are tough decisions to make. I've said all along that Carson is our guy and if he's cleared and 100 percent and ready to go, then we'll address that at that time.”
The “100 percent” standard creates leeway to play Foles and still remain committed to Wentz.
Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, threw for a franchise-record 471 yards and four touchdowns against the Texans. He also had two turnovers. Foles has been more successful throwing downfield than Wentz was in recent weeks, and one of the reasons appears to be Foles’ willingness to allow his skill-position players to make plays on 50-50 balls. The Eagles averaged a season-high 9.1 yards per pass attempt on Sunday.
Foles’ basketball background is discussed often, with him being compared with a point guard creating plays for teammates. But the point guard only gets the assist if the scorer finishes, and Foles is giving the receivers chances to make contested catches.
“That's that mentality that Nick has right now, and he just wants to distribute the ball,” Pederson said. “He doesn't want any credit. He gives the credit to his teammates and he does a lot of good that way, a lot of positive and that's a lot of what a backup quarterback-- right now he's a starter, so he’s not necessarily a backup, but the mentality is you want to be able to come in and execute the offense and let the offense work. You don't have to be or do anything other than that and that's what you're seeing right now.”
Pederson clearly knows how to devise an effective game plan for Foles, who is comfortable in Pederson’s offense. And the Eagles’ teammates believe in Foles, who has won high-pressure games with the team dating back to 2013 – not just the playoffs and Super Bowl last season. But his storied Eagles career might be facing its expiration date.
Unless the Eagles reach the playoffs, Sunday will likely be Foles’ final game in an Eagles uniform. And if Sunday works perfectly for the Eagles and they earn a wild-card berth, Pederson would have a decision to make. Even if it might seem obvious, he’s not yet ready to make it.
“It's hard to answer that just because we have Washington,” Pederson said. “We have to win. We have to win this week, and then we'll answer these questions next week, but I hope we're in that position.”