With the exception of the trophy and Jason Kelce’s leprechaun suit, there isn’t much at this dreary moment that still shines brightly from the Eagles’ thrill ride that ended 10 months ago in Minneapolis.
One remaining comfort for some fans through this trying season, however, has been “The Legend of Nicky Foles,” a drama fit for the hill country of central Texas from which he emerged. Yes, one man standing tall against the odds, overcoming his unremarkable past, leading the townsfolk to safety from renegade bands of savages, outlaws, and Bill Belichick.
It was quite a tale, and so realistic at the time that a lot of people believed it wasn’t just the product of a magical moment, but a story that could even have a sequel. One should not judge what is rational by emails and comments from fans, but more than a few called for Foles’ return this season as the Eagles stumbled along.
Well, friends, be careful what you wish for.
Get ready for “Nicky Foles: Should Have Quit While He Was Ahead.” It really isn’t his fault, and hopefully that will be remembered, but what is about to happen to last season’s savior might not be pretty.
At least Foles will get paid for the trouble. His reworked contract provides for a $250,000 bonus for each game he plays significant snaps and another $250,000 for each of those games that results in a win. With an unguaranteed salary of $20 million scheduled for 2019 – an option the Eagles aren’t expected to exercise – these last three games will almost certainly mark the end of Foles’ second term here. A good showing would help him in the free agent market, of course, but, man, it could really go the other way, too.
“He’s the Super Bowl MVP. He’ll be fine,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said, and that glib answer will serve until Sunday night in the Los Angeles Coliseum where the legend of the backup began and where it could come to a crashing end.
Until the sun sets heavily over the western wall of that ancient building, there is still a giddy narrative available to the true believers: The Eagles rally themselves once again for an improbable finish led by the taciturn deputy who takes over for the fallen sheriff. After all, it did happen once.
The problem is that it happened for Foles with a far different team and from a position of strength. The Eagles didn’t have to play their way into the postseason a year ago. They merely had to finish the schedule and figure out what to do next. This time, on the fly, the team has to run the table in the last three games, or win two of them at the very least. Helping them is the fact that the rest of the contenders for the final wild-card spot in the NFC are also flawed, but the schedule is not their friend.
Just looking at the next two weeks – because there’s no way to tell which opposing teams will have a reason to play their starters in the final game – it is sort of bleak. The two upcoming opponents for the Carolina Panthers have a combined 15-11 record. For the Redskins, the figure is 11-15; for the Vikings, 12-14; for the Packers, 13-13. The Rams and Texans, the next two opponents for the Eagles, are a combined 20-6. As an added bonus, Carolina and Minnesota hold a tiebreaker over the Eagles. In other words, ugh.
This would not be a good moment to ask head coach Doug Pederson, “Boy, I guess you wish you still had Frank Reich to help you sort this out, huh?” That was just about the only indignity Pederson was spared on Friday when the head coach reported, among other head-scratchers, that Wentz will require three months to heal, but was listed as “questionable” for the Rams.
If you trace the fault line of Wentz’s back injury, he first missed a practice following the Oct. 7 loss to Minnesota in which he was sacked three times and absorbed a total of eight hits behind the line of scrimmage. Wentz was limited in practice in each of the two following weeks, but that was the last official word on any injury. It’s not surprising the team didn’t tell opponents, “Hey, our quarterback has a bad back, so don’t hit him there,” and the notion that Wentz was not informed of his condition is beyond ludicrous.
You can fault the team for a lack of transparency if you like, but nothing it did was abnormal by NFL standards. Still, it was a quick ride from Monday when Pederson said of Wentz, “He’s feeling as healthy as he’s ever been,” and the end of the week when the coach had to stumble through his talking points about how the stress fracture had “evolved.”
“I’m the head coach, so I get the pleasure of coming up here,” Pederson said.