The Question – Can the Eagles finally win the Super Bowl? – has an addendum now. With Carson Wentz, the answer was absolutely, without a doubt. But now Nick Foles is the starting quarterback and it’s impossible to be that emphatic.
Here’s what the answer to the new question should be: Sure. Why not? It has been done before.
In fact, seven of the first 51 Super Bowls were won by guys who did not open the season as the starting quarterback for their team. Kurt Warner is not included on that list, but when Trent Green went down with a season-ending knee injury during the 1999 preseason, the St. Louis Rams were the personification of gloom and doom.
“We’re cursed,” one Rams official told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time. “We’re bleeping cursed.”
Warner, in one of the greatest stories in league history, won the MVP award while leading the Greatest Show on Turf to the NFL title that season.
The list of the seven quarterbacks to open the season as backups and finish as Super Bowl champions is fascinating and quite impressive. The first two to do it – Roger Staubach with the 1971-72 Dallas Cowboys and Terry Bradshaw with the 1974-75 Pittsburgh Steelers – went on to become Hall of Famers who won multiple titles. The most recent – Tom Brady with the 2001-02 New England Patriots – will one day join them in Canton after winning more Super Bowls than any other quarterback in history. Another – Jim Plunkett with the Oakland Raiders in 1980-81 – won his first title against the Eagles and added a second three seasons later against Washington.
Doug Williams only started two regular-season games for the Redskins during the 1987-88 season, but he went on to become the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl that season with a record four touchdown passes in one quarter against Denver. The other two on the list were Jeff Hostetler with the 1990-91 New York Giants and Trent Dilfer with the 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens.
Nick Foles does not immediately come to mind when you hear the names Staubach, Bradshaw, and Brady. But if you look at the above situations at the time, it could easily be argued the Eagles are in a better position to win now with Foles than all of them.
Foles, 28, goes into Sunday’s start against the Giants with 56 career touchdown passes, 27 interceptions, and an 88.1 passer rating. His 60.5 completion percentage is slightly higher than Wentz’s 60.2 percentage this season. Foles is 20-16 as a starter, including 15-9 in his first stint with the Eagles. Remember, it was only three years ago when the Eagles’ season derailed because Foles and linebacker DeMeco Ryans suffered season-ending injuries in the same game at Houston.
Take away Foles’ numbers from his one disastrous season with an awful Rams team and he is 16-9 as a starter with 49 career TD passes, 17 interceptions, and a 94.8 passer rating. Oh, yeah, he also has playoff experience. He played really well – 23-for-33 with two TDs and zero interceptions — in the Eagles’ two-point loss to New Orleans four seasons ago.
More than half the teams in the NFL would be thrilled to have a starting quarterback with those statistics, but the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes with Foles go far beyond that.
The above situation that most closely resembles the one the Eagles are currently in was the 1990 Giants. Phil Simms was in the midst of his best season – 15 touchdown passes and four interceptions – when he went down with a foot injury in a Week 15 loss to Buffalo, who strangely also lost starter Jim Kelly to an injury that day. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich replaced Kelly for the remainder of the regular season.
Jeff Hostetler, 29, and with just two career starts under his belt, was put in charge of the Giants’ offense for the final two games of the regular season and three postseason games. Bill Parcells, the Giants head coach, recently talked about the move in an interview with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
“One of the main things I tried to do is explain to the team that Jeff Hostetler wasn’t going to be the reason why we didn’t succeed,” Parcells said. “I said, ‘If our team is good enough to do this, which I think we are, he’ll do his part.’ So I just tried to show confidence in Jeff, and I had confidence in him. You never really know what’s going to happen, but I didn’t feel like he was going to hold us back in any way.”
The Giants seemed to understand that.
“Yeah, we’re going to miss Phil because he is a great competitor,” center Bart Oates said at the time. “He’s been a good quarterback, particularly this year. But the nature of the game is you have to have quality people come in and get the job done and Jeff is (quality).”
Hostetler gave the Giants an added dimension at quarterback with his ability to scramble and run, which is something the Eagles lose with Wentz gone. But the Eagles have something else in common with most of the teams that won with backup quarterbacks. They have one of the league’s best defensive teams. They are No. 4 in yards allowed and have surrendered the fifth fewest points.
The first Cowboys and Steelers teams to win it all won more because of their defense than their future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who opened the season as backups. With apologies to Dilfer, there were a lot of quarterbacks that could have won with that 2000 Ravens defense, which allowed just 20 points in four postseason games.
So are the Eagles good enough to win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles at quarterback? Sure. Why not? It has been done before.
LeSean “Shady” McCoy? No. No. No. It should be LeSean “The Snowman” McCoy. The former Eagles running back has played in two blizzards in his NFL career and run 61 times for 373 yards and two touchdowns, including the overtime game-winner last Sunday in Buffalo’s 13-7 victory over Indianapolis. If he were a horse, he’d be a mudder.
Paul DePodesta’s days appear to be numbered in Cleveland. The former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager and front-office man with the New York Mets took his analytic strategy to the Browns in January of 2016. The team has gone 1-28 since, which is awful even by Cleveland’s laughably low standards. DePodesta’s boss, general manager Sashi Brown, was recently fired and new Browns GM John Dorsey did hold back when asked about the team’s ability to evaluate talent through analytics. “I’ll come straight out with it,” Dorsey said. “The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players.”
This week’s best
Early Sunday: Green Bay at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Aaron Rodgers is back from his fractured right collarbone and the 7-6 Packers still have an outside shot of making the playoffs. Cam Newton has run 71 times for 495 yards in the Panthers’ last eight games. Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt, who is second in the NFL in rushing, has run 121 times for 437 yards in that same stretch.
Late Sunday: New England at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. (CBS3)
The winner here will likely have home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. The Pats’ Tom Brady threw two interceptions in a game Monday night in a loss to Miami for the first time since the Patriots’ 2015 loss to the Eagles at Gillette Stadium. Since throwing five interceptions in a Week 5 loss to Jacksonsville, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has 18 TD passes and just six interceptions.
Sunday night: Dallas at Oakland, 8:15 p.m. (NBC10)
The Cowboys have kept their playoff hopes alive with lopsided wins over the Redskins and Giants and now play their final game before running back Ezekiel Elliott returns from a six-game suspension. The Cowboys have averaged 4.3 rushing yards per carry in Elliott’s absence compared to 4.8 yards when he was in the backfield.
Monday night: Atlanta at Tampa Bay, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
The 8-5 Falcons trail the 9-4 Panthers and Saints by one game in the AFC South, but if Atlanta wins its final three games it will win the division. The Falcons close out the season at New Orleans and home against Carolina.
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