By winning Super Bowl 52 on Sunday, Nick Foles pulled the city of Philadelphia out of football purgatory, dumped the “Nick Fails” moniker forever, became a folk hero in the city, and… created a QB controversy in the process?
Look, it’s inarguable that Carson Wentz is better than Foles. Wentz is younger, he was the probable league MVP before his season-ending ACL injury in December, he’s better on his feet, his arm is stronger, and the team has significantly more invested in him than they do in Foles, a guy on a cheap contract that they already gave up on once before, when they dumped him after the 2014 season to the Rams. Philly also traded five draft picks to Cleveland to move up to the number two slot in the draft and take him in 2016. He was the unquestioned future of the franchise until Foles's performance on Sunday.
But if Foles could continue to play close to the level he displayed in his last ten playoff quarters, should the Eagles instead be looking to… dare I say it, move Wentz?
Admittedly, it’s a zany proposition. Wentz is the best 25-and-under QB in the league, he’s a clean cut kid, and he looks to be well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. And a month ago, if any team had called the Eagles to inquire about his availability, every Philly executive would’ve looked at each other in bewilderment, before bursting into laughter, followed by a quick hang up of the phone. But now, isn't it plausible to say that they'd at least be willing to listen to offers?
So let’s say Cleveland wants a redo. They realize they screwed up by trading down two years ago, and they call up the Eagles and offer them the following trade: the number one overall pick in this year’s draft, the number four overall pick in this year’s draft (which they acquired in a trade with Houston), and their first round pick next year, in exchange for Wentz. Philly would be adding two top four picks to an already stacked roster, plus another additional first rounder next year. That’s potentially three new starters, who would be young, but more importantly, cheap. The Eagles would at least have to have an internal meeting about this, right?
And what if Cleveland sweetened the deal even more? In addition to their two first rounders this year, the Browns have 10 other picks over the final six rounds, three of which are in the second round (No. 33, No. 35, and No. 64). What if they offered the same deal, only they also included No. 33 and No. 35 in this year’s draft? Could Philly really turn down three first rounders, and five top 35 picks, for guy that plays a position where they might have redundancy? Pushing all in totally makes sense for the Browns, by the way. They’ve screwed up the quarterback position so many times in the draft (Johnny Manziel, Brady Quinn, Tim Couch, Cody Kessler, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Charlie Frye) that they might as well try to steal someone else’s blue chipper. You put Wentz on next year’s Cleveland team, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be an 8 win squad. They’d still need a lot of help, but they’d have their franchise quarterback, something they’ve been searching for since they returned to the NFL for the ’99 season. Look how good the 49ers were the last five weeks of the season once they started playing Jimmy Garoppolo. Wentz is better than Jimmy G, and the rosters of Cleveland and San Fran are at least comparable.
Of course, if I’m the Eagles, do I really trust Nick Foles long term? I know he was incredible in the playoffs, but is he going to be that guy again next year when the whole league has six weeks of tape on him? Is the Run-Pass Option offense going to be as unstoppable with him at the reigns once the smart defensive minds of the league spend a whole off-season scouting it and him? Never forget how great Foles was in 2013 that first Chip Kelly season when he finished with 27 passing TDs and only two interceptions. Foles had never really been a starter before, and no one in the NFL had seen Kelly’s spread offense on the professional level. But then 2014 rolled around, and Foles suddenly fell off a cliff, broke his collarbone, and threw five times as many interceptions that year as he did in 2013, despite playing half the number of games. Philadelphia quickly gave up on him that off-season. Football coaches are smart (unless they're Butch Jones), and they’re going to be sitting around watching film of Foles and Eagles all off-season, all while spending hours and hours and hours scheming and thinking up ways to beat the RPO. The same thing happened after the 2013 season, and we all saw how the next year turned out for him. Does Nick Foles have a second act? He didn’t before. Then again, he reached higher highs at the end of this season than he did at any point in 2013, and he’s also 29 now, meaning he's been around the block more than a few times at this point. Why couldn’t he be Kurt Warner all over again?
Here’s something else to consider: I think the Eagles win the title this year with any QB, as long as he’s at least slightly above average. They had arguably the best offensive line in the league (even after their Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters went down with a season-ending injury in Week 7), they had three good running backs, a couple of solid receivers, and a top 5 defense that only got torched once all year, in the Super Bowl against Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time. Foles was great in that game, but I think there’s at least 20 other quarterbacks that could’ve won on Sunday with that roster.
Which leads me to this: If Carson Wentz suddenly disappeared from existence, Philly is still the NFC favorite next year with Foles, assuming his play doesn't completely torpedo. And if they were able to flip Wentz for five draft picks, four of which would be on the team next season, we’re talking about another one seed for the deepest and most talented roster in the league, with an elite offensive coaching staff led by head coach Doug Pederson.The other side of that though is that in five years, Philly probably won’t have the most the best overall team in the league anymore. Their players will get old, or too expensive, or retire, and eventually they’ll have to rely on the quarterback position even more. At which point you’d be wishing you still had Wentz, who will only be 30 at that point. And if you just decided to bring back Wentz next year, your overall roster would still be incredible, though not as deep, and yet, you’d be better at quarterback. And I think you’d rather have Wentz coming back with a slightly older version of the roster from this year, than Foles and better, deeper roster than what you had this season. Plus you can always trade Foles for whatever you can get (maybe a first rounder?), and then continue to rally and build around Wentz, all while contending for the next decade.
At this point, what NFL team has a brighter future than the Eagles? I can't think of one.