Bloomington, Minn. • The saddest sight of the Super Bowl opening night was Carson Wentz’s surgically repaired leg, stretched over the seats of a hockey rink as the Philadelphia quarterback sat in the corner and spoke good-naturedly while being interviewed.
Wentz would have been an even more popular subject of Sunday’s Super Bowl LII as a native of nearby North Dakota, quarterbacking the Eagles vs. New England. His injury in December ended a potential MVP season before Nick Foles took over and produced two playoff victories with excellent passing statistics.
Now comes a meeting with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Mix in the twists and turns of Foles’ career, and he becomes the most compelling story of this Super Bowl.
Weird how life works. Foles was backing up former University of Utah quarterback Alex Smith in Kansas City just last season. That job came only after Foles strongly considered quitting football. And now he’s starting in the Super Bowl.
Such an opportunity keeps eluding Smith, who now will be competing against the Eagles in the NFC East after being traded to Washington. Smith has come close a few times in this decade, losing an NFC championship game as San Francisco’s starter, backing up Colin Kaepernick in a Super Bowl after being injured, then losing at various stages of the playoffs in Kansas City, where he played some of his best football.
Smith will enter his 15th pro season in Washington, merely trying to lift a current 7-9 team into the playoffs after giving way to the Patrick Mahomes II era in Kansas City. Wentz will reclaim his job at some point next season as he recovers from his injury and Foles presumably returns to a reserve role in Philadelphia.
Sunday, though? The stage belongs to Foles in downtown Minneapolis.
He may become just another QB who lost to Brady in the Super Bowl, joining the list of Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme, Donovan McNabb, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. But what if he pulls off this upset? Eli Manning (twice) is the only quarterback who topped Brady in a Super Bowl, thanks to two spectacular winning drives.
Nothing like that should be unimaginable after what Foles has done in the playoffs. He has completed 77.8 percent of his passes for a total of 598 yards with no interceptions against Atlanta and Minnesota. That’s good stuff for a QB who nearly walked away after the 2015 season, when he was going nowhere in the NFL as a then-St. Louis Rams backup.
“If my heart’s not in it,” Foles said this week, looking back, “I’m not going to do it.”
The self-assessment “became the greatest thing in the world for me,” he said, “because it changed my perspective.”
So he rejoined Andy Reid in Kansas City, four years after Reid had drafted him as the Eagles’ coach in 2012. Foles had completed an outstanding career with 10,000-plus yards passing at the University of Arizona, although the Wildcats crumbled in a 4-8 senior season that included a 34-21 loss to Utah. Utes cornerback Conroy Black can claim to have made a clutch interception of a pass thrown into the end zone by a future Super Bowl QB to secure that victory.
Not even Eagles fans had complete faith in Foles’ ability to take the team to Minneapolis after Wentz’s injury, but here he is. He’s deserving if you ask anyone who knows him. “He’s such a good person, first of all,” said Nate Sudfeld, who’s now Philadelphia’s No. 2 QB. “Nick is really smart, just has a great feel for the game, and he’s able to quiet his mind and play within himself and make big plays.”
In Foles’ own words, this is his job description Sunday: “You don’t need to be Superman. You just need to go out and play.”
Actually, as Manning showed in two Super Bowls, beating Brady in this setting may require a superhuman trait. The Eagles only can hope Foles has that in him.