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Think Eagles should start Nate Sudfeld? You're missing the point | Mike Sielski

Mike Sielski, STAFF COLUMNIST

Updated: Sunday, December 31, 2017, 7:05 PM

Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter on Sunday.

During the first half of the Eagles’ 6-0 loss to the Cowboys, Donnie Jones trotted out to the field for a punt, forgetting that he was still wearing his warm-up pants. Just before long-snapper Rick Lovato zipped the ball back to him, Jones yanked down and stepped out of his warm-ups, then caught the snap and punted. Ordinarily, the sequence might have been an amusing anecdote and nothing more. But it was an indication of the quality of the Eagles’ quarterback play Sunday that their best pre-snap read came when their punter remembered to take his pants off.

Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles is hit while throwing the ball by Dallas' #90, DeMarcus Lawrence, left, and pressured by #59, Anthony Hitchens, right in the first quarter of Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday December 31, 2017.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott dives trying for a first down as Eagles linebacker Najee Goode tackles him in the 2nd quarter in the game at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. Prescott came up two yards short but the Eagles lost 6-0. At right is Eagles lineback Mychal Kendricks. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld, center, is sacked by Dallas' #56, Datone Jones, left, and #90, DeMarcus Lawrence, right, in the second quarter. Dallas Cowboys at the Philadelphia Eagles on December 31, 2017. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles punter Donnie Jones takes off his warm-up pants on the field before punting the football in the second-quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson looks up at the scoreboard in the 4th quarter in the game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. Eagles lost 6-0. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Eagles receiver Torrey Smith can't catch this high pass from quarterback Nick Foles on 4th down and 7 yards in the 1st quarter as Cowboys safety Xavier Woods (left) and Chidobe Awuzie defend in the game at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. Eagles lost 6-0. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles yells out instructions to his teammates against the Dallas Cowboys during the first-quarter on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Jason Kelce reacts after he was flagged for a penalty as they play the Cowboys. Philadelphia Eagles lose 6-0 to the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, left, speaks to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, right, after Sunday's game. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, right, is dragged down by the chin by Dallas linebacker Sean Lee, left, in the first half of Sunday's game. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant catches the football past Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas during the second-quarter on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Dallas' receiver #19, Brice Butler, right, beats Eagles defensive back #32, Rasul Douglas, left, to haul in a touchdown pass in the third quarter to give the Cowboys the lead at Sunday's game. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles running back Kenjon Barner recovers his third-quarter fumbled punt against Dallas Cowboys Lance Lenoir on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagle quarterback Nate Sudfeld, #7, center, scrambles past Dallas' #50, Sean Lee, left, and Tyrone Crawford, right, for a 23 yard gain and a first down in the third period of Sunday's game. Dallas Cowboys at the Philadelphia Eagles on December 31, 2017. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles running back LeGarrett Blount, center, follows his blockers on an end around run in the second quarter of Sunday's game. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles running back Kenjon Barner fumbles a third-quarter punt against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliott dances for six yards late in the 4th quarter of the game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. Eagles lost 6-0. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Cowboys' Anthony Brown, right, sacks Eagles' Nate Sudfield, left, during the 3rd quarter. Philadelphia Eagles lose 6-0 to the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Challenger the eagle flies in during the pregame ceremony before the Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld has a pass batted down by Cowboys defensive end Datone Jones in the 3rd quarter of the game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. Eagles lost 6-0. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Eagles' Kenjon Barner, right, fumbles a punt as the Cowboys' Lance Lenoir, tries to recover the ball in the 3rd quarter. Barner recovered the fumble. LancePhiladelphia Eagles lose 6-0 to the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld heads upfield on a 3rd quarter scramble and picks up 23 yards in the game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. Eagles lost 6-0. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld gets sacked by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown during the third-quarter on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throws a pass that was intercetpted in the first quarter of Sunday's game against Dallas. Dallas Cowboys at the Philadelphia Eagles on December 31, 2017. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles' Steven Means celebrates after sacking Cowboys' Dak Prescott during the 2nd quarter. Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles' Nate Sudfeld slips as he tries to run during the 2nd quarter against the Cowboys. Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles backup quarterback #7, Nate Sudfeld, center,is sacked by Dallas’ #56, Datone Jones, left, and DeMarcus Lawrence, right, in the second quarter. Dallas Cowboys at the Philadelphia Eagles on December 31, 2017. MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles dives for the fumbled football during the first-quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles corner back Sidney Jones defends Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant during the first-quarter on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry exults after helping stop Cowboys running back on a 4th down play in the 1st quarter of the game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field December 31, 2017. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive tackle Beau Allen loses his helmet stopping Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in the first-quarter on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles tosses the football away as tight end Brent Celek tries to block Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence in the first-quarter on Sunday, December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles’ Carson Wentz, left, picks up a football as the team warms-up before the Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia, PA on December 31, 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: Photos from the Eagles' loss to the Cowboys

The situation – if there’s a more benign word to describe Nick Foles’ performance these last two games and the uncertainty it has inspired ahead of the postseason, we’re all ears – became so dire for the Eagles that it was understandable to start thinking wild thoughts and contemplating once-crazy scenarios. For instance: Should coach Doug Pederson start Nate Sudfeld instead of Foles?

Now, of course he should not. Foles is more experienced, and he has been Carson Wentz’s primary backup all season, and if Pederson were to bench Foles for Sudfeld – a quarterback who had never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game until Sunday – it would exhibit a measure of panic not seen since the citizens of Grover’s Mill, N.J., started preparing for a Martian invasion in 1938. Pederson is going to start Foles, and again, there’s no reasonable argument that he shouldn’t, especially if one took the most reasonable position in the wake of Wentz’s torn ACL: that without the prospective NFL most valuable player, the Eagles’ Super Bowl chances were pretty much burnt toast whether Foles, Sudfeld, Colin Kaepernick, or the ghost of Norm Van Brocklin was under center.

But after Foles’ abysmal play on Christmas night against the Raiders and on Sunday against the Cowboys, it is fair to wonder what it would take for Sudfeld to see action in a postseason game and what would happen if he did. What if Foles were to be injured? Hardly an outlandish possibility, given that he lacks Wentz’s mobility and that Jason Peters is no longer the Eagles’ starting left tackle. What if Foles were playing terribly again and the Eagles were trailing and Pederson were to grow desperate? That’s the more intriguing, and the more remote, hypothetical. But if you’re an optimistic sort, at least you can say that, if the Eagles had to go to their backup quarterback, there would be little drop-off, if any, from their starting quarterback.

Eagle quarterback Nate Sudfeld looks up at the Dallas defense after he was tackled on the last play of the game against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Within the context of a meaningless (with respect to the standings) game and all the requisite caveats that accompanied it, Foles completed 4 of his 11 passes for just 39 yards and threw an interception – though, in fairness, those numbers would have been better had Torrey Smith not dropped a crossing-route pass that should have gone for a long gain. After replacing Foles at the start of the second quarter, Sudfeld went 19 of 23 and did not commit a turnover, but he netted just 134 passing yards, an average of fewer than 6 yards per attempt. “There were maybe a few times where I could have taken a shot down the field,” he said, “but I wanted to play efficient today.”

Well. The kid did not lack for self-assurance, and he did show that he has a stronger arm and more evasiveness inside and outside the pocket than Foles, and now he has some real, live NFL snaps under his belt. Along the Eagles sideline, before he entered the game, he bounced around like a child at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning, but he insisted the bouncing wasn’t because of nerves or his eagerness to play.

“That wasn’t excitement as much as it was staying warm,” said Sudfeld, a sixth-round pick by the Redskins in the 2016 draft who never suited up for them. “It was so cold, you want to keep your body flowing. … When you’re playing, it’s really not bad at all. But when you’re on the sideline, watching it, your hands get a little cold. Fortunately, I had my little hand-warmer and was standing next to the heater and stayed locked in, ready to go. …

“Reps always help. I felt confident before today that I could go in and do my part and help this team, but stacking some reps together is awesome. So I’m more confident than ever in my ability, and I know I can help this team out if they need me.”

It’s a pretty thing to think: the young, John Doe quarterback, stepping into what seems an impossible situation, rescuing his team and leading it to a stunning and exhilarating moment of glory. It’s a lovely dream, the kind that people around here go gaga for all the time. The reality is something else entirely. The reality is that if Sudfeld sees any action in the playoffs for the Eagles, the smidgen of hope they had without Wentz is probably rapidly disappearing anyway. Pederson’s only choice here is to stick out his chest, play the We’re 13-3 and confident and have home-field advantage card, stick with Foles, and hope his defense can save his entire football team.

Start Nate Sudfeld instead of Nick Foles? No, you would not say that. You should not say that.

But what would you say?

Mike Sielski, STAFF COLUMNIST

Read full story: Think Eagles should start Nate Sudfeld? You're missing the point | Mike Sielski

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