Nick Foles knew it was coming, but now it's reality. The Super Bowl MVP is a backup quarterback.
Carson Wentz's return date has been the source of speculation for months, and it left Foles as the most decorated placeholder in the NFL. For the first meaningful game since December, Foles will exchange his helmet for a hat on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
"Even if you know something is coming, once you're in it, there is an adjustment," Foles said Thursday by his locker — a different setting than the starting quarterback's news conference. "But realizing it is about the team, it's not about the individual. Carson being healthy, and me going to a different role, helping the scout team, doing what I can to help the team, but from a different role. Focus on that, sort of embrace that day to day."
Foles said the biggest adjustment will be to keep his mind from wandering to other possibilities. He knows his role. He must help Wentz during the week and on the sideline. He must run the scout-team offense to help the defense prepare. He must be ready to enter the game in an emergency, but if the Eagles have their way, Wentz will be the starter for the rest of the season – and the rest of the decade.
It's a unique situation – Foles has suggested it's unprecedented – and he heard enough opinions about pushing for a trade and a chance to start elsewhere. Foles didn't do that. He was on board with returning to Philadelphia this season, even with the knowledge that this week would come.
"A lot of people say, 'Why didn't you demand this?' " Foles said. "Well, that's just not who I am, and that's who I don't want to be. At the end of the day, I want my kids and my daughter, when she gets older, to look back and be proud of her daddy. So, I focus on that with every decision I make."
Foles could have made this transition messy. The way he has dealt with the changing-of-the-starter has not gone unnoticed. He's earned the praise of Wentz, coach Doug Pederson, and his teammates. And it doesn't need to be aggrandized, because even if there's altruism on Foles' part, he's still a professional quarterback who wants to be the one playing. It's not as though he's running out of the way. But he knows Wentz's role, he knows his role, and he has decided how he wants to act.
"There's going to be different feelings that you feel, because, at the end of the day, I am a competitor. You want to help your team," Foles said. "But, sometimes being a leader and being in a role, you don't always have to be on the field to do that. I can help the guys in the locker room, I can help the guys [with] how I act in this situation, going from starting games and playing a lot to scout team, helping the scout team, helping our defense, helping the guys in our locker room, helping the younger guys develop, helping Carson prepare for the game. This is a different role, but it's a great role to be in. That's something I choose to do. I choose to act that way."
Foles does not know what will happen the rest of the season. It's possible he has started his final game in an Eagles uniform. There's a mutual option on his contract next season, and the expectation is that he will find a starting job elsewhere if Wentz remains healthy.
Foles did not necessarily look like the Super Bowl MVP in the Eagles' first two games, going 54 of 82 for 451 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He does not know how the other 31 teams will rate his performance, but he considers the way he "fought" the big takeaway. Certainly, the way he played throughout the playoffs will generate a more-robust market than the last time he was a free agent.
It has also made him an icon in Philadelphia. When it was pointed how much he means to the city, Foles responded, "This city has meant a lot to me and my family, as well."
He goes on weekly date nights with his wife and realizes his role in Philadelphia history.
"We'll never forget that, no matter what happens," Foles said.
But this is not the time for an obituary on his Eagles career. He pointed out that there's a lot of season left. He remains a Wentz injury away from taking snaps and needs to prepare to play each week. Even if that does not happen, he finds value in the role he'll play behind the scenes for Wentz.
"All of us want to play," Foles said, "but at the same time, I'm going to embrace it and find the joy in it."