Six weeks before the Philadelphia Eagles cruised by the Vikings to reach their third ever Super Bowl, the team’s championship hopes had appeared to wither. On December 11, the coach Doug Pederson had confirmed the league MVP candidate quarterback Carson Wentz would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, meaning the National Football Conference’s best team would be forced to confront the playoffs without its offensive centerpiece. “The Eagles just lost Carson Wentz, and their shot at the Super Bowl,” blared a Washington Post headline. “Eagles’ Super Bowl dreams are over,” echoed the New York Daily News.
As football fans everywhere furiously Googled to find out the Eagles’ back-up, it was hard not to at first chortle at the answer. With Wentz out, Philadelphia would turn to Nick Foles, the quarterback who in 2013 carried the Eagles to the playoffs, then collapsed the next year, lost his job, and bounced to two other teams before quietly returning to Philly this season, mainly to hold a clipboard on the sideline. The Eagles were entrusting a playoff-bound team to someone who had thrown almost as many interceptions (20) as touchdowns (23) over the past four years.
Now, Foles has the Eagles headed to the Super Bowl and stands one win from hoisting the trophy that Randall Cunningham, Ron Jaworski, Donovan McNabb, and every other previous quarterback in franchise history failed to capture. That Foles—or “Saint Nick,” as Eagles fans are calling him—will match up with Tom Brady and the Patriots in America’s favorite sporting event feels like a typo. The NFC is stocked with great quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford, to name a few). Yet many were wondering, this is the guy representing the conference in the Super Bowl? The guy who was benched by the lowly Rams in 2015 and could barely escape the sideline with the Chiefs in 2016? The guy who weighed retirement only 18 months ago? The guy who played so poorly in a Christmas-night win over the Raiders that home fans began to boo?