Just like every week, the media crowd formed a semicircle Wednesday around the locker of the starting quarterback in the long, narrow dressing room at the Eagles' practice facility, and just like every week, the words were positive and the outlook for a win seemed pretty awesome.

This is a different week, however, and it was even a different quarterback attracting the attention. One locker over from Michael Vick's empty stall, Nick Foles said, "I'm ready."

Vick was still resting at home, recovering from a concussion suffered in the second quarter of the most recent loss, to Dallas. The NFL's protocol for returning to play after a concussion almost certainly doesn't leave enough time for Vick to pass all the daily tests prior to Sunday's game against the Redskins.

So, it will be Foles making his first NFL start, and that makes the game a little bit interesting, but only in an academic sense. It will be interesting to see what he can do, and to get a better idea whether it was the good things or the bad things he did against the Cowboys that will be considered out of character for his career.

"When you play quarterback, you're going to make mistakes. The key is you've got to keep firing," Foles said. "You can't let the last play beat you."

However well he does, there isn't much that can change the disappointing nature of the season itself. As far as that goes, it doesn't matter who is playing quarterback. The Eagles are 3-6 and have earned every bit of that record. The season has been so bad it is a matter of common assumption that Andy Reid, as stubborn a barnacle as ever clung to a hull, will be scraped away soon after the season ends.

That might be a good thing for the franchise, but there is no guarantee. Owner Jeff Lurie whiffed on his first head coach selection when he chose Ray Rhodes and, after getting 14 useful seasons out of Reid, he appears likely to step into the unknown again.

Whether the step will be taken with confidence in Foles as an NFL starter is what these last seven games should be about. There's no guarantee about that, either. If Reid's history is any indication, he will go back to his original starter when Vick is cleared to play.

He made an exception two years ago when Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion and Vick's spectacular play earned him the starting job, but there is little to suggest that Foles might pull the same trick. Those who think Reid would stay with Foles in some convoluted effort to save his own job are misjudging the man's stubbornness and loyalty.

It might play out another way, if Vick's concussion is so severe that he misses three or four weeks. Then there would be the matter of getting him back into playing shape again, and, at that point, assuming Foles is still ambulatory, switching once more wouldn't make sense.

This week, there was no urgency to get Vick through the league's procedures, and that apparently was related to the severity of the concussion. A year ago, Vick suffered a concussion against Atlanta and was back on the field the following game.

This isn't last year, however. The sense that Vick can lead the team to something special, a hope still alive last September, has vanished. It certainly isn't two years ago, either. This Sunday's game marks almost the exact anniversary of the 59-28 demolishing of the Redskins that helped changed the course of the Eagles franchise. Not that game alone, but almost. It secured a new contract for Vick. It sent Kolb out of town. It put the team on a road that has now run into the weeds. And it seemed like such a good game at the time.

That was then. Foles is now. He might not be next year, but he is now, and that is how the Eagles should finish out the season. Reid won't say. There's no reason for him to let down and share his inner feelings now. Maybe the team will just quietly decide that Vick never passes his tests. Maybe that won't bother Vick at all.

Next to the empty locker, peering into the lights of the semicircle, Foles said he would do his best until Vick gets healthy and comes back.

"He's the leader of this team. He's the quarterback," Foles said.

Not this week, he isn't. Not this different week.