The Eagles could have Colin Kaepernick.
The Eagles should have Colin Kaepernick.
Instead, they have Nate Sudfeld.
The Eagles are in position to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years, and for the third time ever. The Eagles also are in position to have to play Nate Sudfeld.
One big hit to Nick Foles — a sprained ankle, a cracked collarbone, a concussion — and it's Nate's show.
It could be Kaep's. It should be Kaep's.
Better than Nate Sudfeld
Sudfeld was fine as developmental roster fodder. He was fine as long as he was stashed behind Carson Wentz and backup Nick Foles. Now that Wentz's left ACL is torn, Sudfeld is not fine. OK, he's fine as Foles' backup for the next couple of weeks. But is Sudfeld the player you want a heartbeat behind Foles when the Seahawks come to Philly for a playoff game?
And about Nick Foles. The last time he was a full-time starter, with the Rams in 2015, he lost his job after a seven-game stretch when he went 2-5, threw two touchdown passes against nine interceptions and compiled a 55.5 passer rating. He looked better last year in Kansas City, and he was fine in relief of Wentz on Sunday, but there is a chance he's not the right guy for this job. Depending on how long it takes Wentz to return, the Eagles might need a starter for most of next season, too. They have a window to win it all, right now. If Foles doesn't work out, why not give Kaep a shot?
Granted, that situation might never materialize. Kaep shouldn't even be the second-string quarterback right away. They should make him third-string and deactivate him while he acclimates himself, but they need him ready for January. Any reticence is completely understandable, but the time is now. You can't go all-in and keep a few chips in your pocket.
If, in this moment, you don't want Kaepernick to wear an Eagles uniform because he kneels during the anthem, then you prefer hollow, misdirected patriotism to winning. He has flaws, but kneeling isn't one of them, so enough of that baseless argument. If Kaep wants to kneel, you should neatly fold a towel and place it on the ground so his knee stays clean.
This is more urgent than it might seem.
On Sunday the Eagles will start Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle for the seventh time in the NFL. He has not been good. They will start Stefen Wisniewski, on a bad ankle, beside him. If Wiz aggravates his ankle they'll have to replace him with Isaac Seumalo or Chance Warmack. Both played Sunday after Wiz got hurt.
There are other issues on the line, and the receivers are not exactly technicians. Foles, immobile as ever, cannot make that line and those receivers look good the way Wentz could. Foles is a sitting duck. So is Sudfeld. Kaep is not.
Kaepernick’s numbers don’t lie
Kaepernick remains unsigned after he knelt during the national anthem last season to protest police brutality. That doesn't change his pedigree. He took the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, then took them back to the NFC Championship Game after the 2013 season. He wasn't as good the next two years, but he averaged 34.9 rushing yards per game from 2012-16, scored 13 rushing touchdowns and compiled an 88.9 passer rating. He was at 90.7 last season, when he threw 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions in 12 games. He rushed for 468 yards and two touchdowns.
Sudfeld? He spent last year deactivated for every game after Washington drafted him in the sixth round. He began this season on the Eagles' practice squad, then was signed to the active roster last month, but he has spent the last five games with the inactives. Sudfeld threw 61 touchdown passes for 7,879 yards at Indiana, but he has never thrown a pass in an NFL game.
With all due respect to Nate Sudfeld, he is no Colin Kaepernick. Few players are, or have ever been.
Yes, Kaepernick has flaws, but he also has rare talents. He is out of work partly because he didn't play well enough to warrant a team making him their starter this year, especially considering the baggage he brings. There were even plausible arguments against signing a backup whose signing would cause a significant uproar. In fact, the Eagles could make this argument for choosing Foles over Kaepernick, considering Foles' resume and the fact that the bones of the Eagles' offense is similar to the Chiefs', where Foles played last season.
All arguments vanish when a Super Bowl is within reach. Politics evaporate when winning is what matters.
If you think Sudfeld is a better option than Kaepernick for the Eagles at this moment, well, you simply cannot be helped. On a lot of levels, you just cannot be helped.
Do it, do it now
The NFL is a business, not a grammar school. It employs domestic abusers, scallywags, and all sorts of liars and cheats. You want morality, don't watch football on Sunday. Go to church. You want patriotism, fly your flag off your porch. You want to win in the NFL, climb down off your soapbox and sign the best player available.
If you're serious about winning in January, do it, and do it now.
It gives you four weeks to teach him what he needs to learn.
It also gives the NFL a defense in Kaepernick's collusion claim. As a matter of fact, the Eagles should fully publicize their negotiations with Kaepernick. If he declines, so be it.
The Eagles have swum in turbulent waters before. They signed a convicted felon, Michael Vick, to be McNabb's backup in 2009. Signing GQ's Citizen of the Year for 2017 shouldn't be a big deal.
Sure, there will be uncomfortable moments. Foles might not like having Kaepernick around. The Eagles are 11-2 and might be the best team in football. Foles' sensibilities should be the Eagles' last concern.
Kaep and Eagles activist Malcolm Jenkins are at odds after Jenkins and his Players Coalition secured an $89 million commitment from the NFL to fight the discrimination Kaepernick protested but did not secure Kaep a job. Their lockers would be 20 feet apart.
That's OK. You don't like everybody you work with, either.
As for the rest of the locker room, it's supposed to have unassailable chemistry. Adding a No. 3 quarterback as insurance in a playoff run should not create a problem.
Certain accommodations could be made to minimize distractions. For instance, Kaepernick could be absolved from his weekly media commitments unless he plays. His is, after all, a special case.
Fan fallout? Don’t count on it
There might be fallout, but thousands of Eagles fans swore off the team when Vick signed. Most of them returned. The others are not missed.
Would Eagles fans boycott the Birds because of Kaep? Would a single one of them miss a playoff game because a backup passer kneels before the game?
You constantly hear how Eagles fans would do anything to get a chance at a first Super Bowl win. You constantly hear pledges from owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman to do anything to compile the best roster possible.
Is that so? Fine.
Put your money where your mouth is.