The ball slipped through Alshon Jeffery’s fingers and the game and the Eagles’ season slipped away with it.
But that playoff loss to New Orleans, as bitter as it was, is in the past. The Eagles won’t repeat as Super Bowl champions and now all Eagles fans have to look forward to is what should be an interesting NFL off-season, as players come and go and the Eagles build and mold their team for 2019.
The position that gets most of the attention, as always, is quarterback, and the Eagles have stated emphatically that Carson Wentz is their QB of the future, which means Nick Foles is their QB of the past.
Foles became a local folk hero for his exploits the last two seasons, when he twice took over for an injured Wentz. He won the Super Bowl last season and this season he rode the Eagles into the playoffs and a dramatic victory over Chicago.
Plus, Foles has won the hearts of Eagles fans with his humility and sincerity. He’s a soft-spoken, God-fearing family man who just happens to play the most glamorous position of the most popular sport in America. That combination of talent and temperament – and, of course, that Lombardi Trophy – have elevated Foles to a special status around here that I don’t think any athlete has ever had.
It’s a match made in heaven that will soon end. How Foles leaves Philadelphia – the Eagles could simply release him or he can buy out his contract for a mere $2 million or perhaps the Eagles will work out a trade for him – remains to be seen, but it’ll be big news when he does.
That brings us to the future, and a look around the NFL only sees a handful or teams that are looking for a starting quarterback, and Foles will probably have market competition from the Ravens’ Joe Flacco and the Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater.
Most of the teams have either an established veteran (Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck) or an emerging young player (Patrick Mahones, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson). So, Foles – and Flacco – will probably have five to perhaps seven teams from which to choose.
The most obvious team is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are finally admitting the franchise-crippling decision to make Blake Bortles their franchise quarterback. The Jags were terrible in 2018, finishing the season 5-11, but they were in the AFC Championship Game just two years ago, so there is some young talent here. Plus, Jacksonville is far from the national media spotlight, so there wouldn’t be as much pressure there as some other places.
The other team that will almost certainly sign a starting-caliber quarterback is the Washington Redskins. Nobody even knows if Alex Smith will ever play again after his devastating broken leg and the subsequent problems he’s had since his surgery. Colt McCoy is an OK back-up, but the Redskins’ front office and coaching staff is under heavy pressure to win now, so they have to find a front-line quarterback.
That, of course, brings up the awkward possibility of the Eagles having to face Foles twice a season, something they certainly don’t want. It’s doubtful the Eagles would trade Foles to Washington, but if he becomes a free agent, who knows?
There’s another, equally disturbing possibility. Nobody knows whether the New York Giants will stick with ancient Eli Manning for one more season. He led the Giants to a 5-11 record this past season and even Giants fans – many of whom were irate in 2017 when then-coach Ben McAdoo benched Manning for a few games – seem to want Manning put out to pasture. A recent Twitter survey by Gary Myers, a sportswriter for The Athletic, asked New York fans a simple question: Who do you think gives the Giants a better chance to win in 2019 – Eli Manning or Nick Foles?
Almost 5,000 people responded to the survey and Manning received 13 percent of the vote while Foles received 87 percent.
The other possible landing spots for a free-agent QB depend on whether teams are ready to get rid of long-time starters who have worn out their welcomes – Cincinnati (Andy Dalton), Oakland (Derek Carr) and Miami (Ryan Tannehill). Another intriguing possibility would be Denver if general manager John Elway decides his one-year marriage to QB Case Keenum isn’t worth saving after the Broncos finished 6-10.
But that’s pretty much it. And all of those places have something in common – every one of those teams had a losing record in 2018, which is not surprising — good teams don’t go out scrounging for new quarterbacks in the off-season.
So, Nick Foles will probably never have it as good as he had it with the Eagles. But he’s earned the right to carve out his own future, no matter where it is.