Written By: Scott Goranson
“If Nate Sudfield can string together some drives for points, the discussion should be had as to who should start heading into playoffs.”
At the time that I uttered these words to my buddies on NYE in a Philly Pub, the PBR pitchers were flowing in, my fingers were just regaining sensation, and Foles had just departed the field after consecutive failed drives. They looked at me like I had three heads. A rookie who has never thrown an NFL pass had just stepped into game and completed his first attempt and I’m over here saying the team needs to have a discussion about who should start two weeks from now. It was abrupt and rash statement but the more I thought about it, the further I became pessimistic about Foles. It was a “What if..” moment but there was some substance behind the thought. So I ran with it. If Nate shows promise, competence to the extent of what Foles possesses, how should we just dismiss the possibility that Nate “STUDfield” could lead the team further in the playoffs?
I think I justified a possible Sudfield start because I couldn’t convince myself that Nick Foles could lead the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory.
SPOILER: The Sudfield-led Eagles didn’t score a point the entire game so the conversation can be put to rest.
But the concern around Foles and the Eagles offense, lingers.
Without Carson Wentz (the obvious MVP), the Eagles path to Minneapolis will be determined by the play of their defense, the three running backs (Ajayi, Blount, Clement), and at the very least, Trent-Dilfer-esk play from their backup quarterback. Nick Foles started a playoff game in Philly four years ago –but that was four years ago. The same year he threw for 27-2 and earned his one-and-only pro bowl. And if it wasn’t for a Riley Cooper drop, Foles would have done enough to beat the Saints.
Here are some highlights of that game if you need a reminder:
Foles was the clear starter heading into playoffs that year. His job was secure after stuffing the stat sheet in the regular season and his teammates trusted him to get the job done. Fans and media in Philadelphia had hope in Foles, thinking maybe he was the future.
Now we flip to this year.
Foles has to replace the clear MVP of the NFL after he leaves the field (walking) in the third quarter of week 14 with an ACL tear. His future career as an NFL starter will be determined by his play come January 13th and besides a 4-touchdown performance against a “cancerous”-depleted-leaderless-Giants team, Foles hasn’t put together consecutive first-down drives.
Fans and media in Philadelphia are discussing hypothetical scenarios where a Rookie-Sudfield replaces Foles in the Divional Round if he can’t produce points in the first half.
The narratives are vastly different.
The Philadelphia Eagles finished the 2017 season with 13 wins, champs of the NFC East, and the #1 seed in the Conference, yet it feels like they’re a #6 seed. The Eagles were the best team in the NFL during the regular season with a balanced offensive attack and a top-5 defense but with the second coming of Jesus Christ (Wentz) studying rigorously in the booth, the Eagles Super Bowl hopes look bleak. But there’s always hope. The Eagles defense is the best it has look since Super Bowl 39 and with their depth and versatility in the front-seven, there is room to be optimistic about an appearance at 52.
We saw a Broncos team win with similar D-line strength and less offensive fire-power at Super Bowl 50. I get it. Peyton is Peyton but Peyton lacked mobility and arm strength in his final season and if it wasn’t for “The Broswieler” absorbing the blows in the second half of the season, Peyton may have been in a wheelchair come February.
And if you think Trent Dilfer is a better quarterback than Nick Foles because he won a Super Bowl, think again. More accomplished? I guess. But Dilfer’s stats exemplify his mediocrity. Hell, you give ANY quarterback Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes, a defense led by veteran Rod Woodson and MLB GOAT Ray Lewis, and they too, can have a segment on ESPN about throwing “dimes”.
Dilfer replaced Tony Banks halfway through the season. Threw for 12 TDs and 11 INTs, completed 59.3% of his attempts, and finished with a rating of 76.6. For comparison, Mitchell Turbisky threw 7 TDs and 7 INTs, completed 59.4% of his attempts, and finished his ROOKIE season with a rating of 77.5.
If that’s not enough, peep Dilfers stat line for the 2000 Super Bowl run.
Dilfer can thank his defense for the ring– who allowed 5.3ppg in the playoffs– and his running backs for the offensive success.
I’m not a lunatic. I’m aware that the 1999-2000 Raven defense is one of the best defensive ensemble ever created so I’m not going to try and tell you that this Eagles defense resembles that powerhouse but look at this comparison:
Ravens (1999-2000) Eagles (2017-2018)
Def. Passing YPG: 8 Def. Passing YPG: 16
Def. Rushing YPG: 1 Def. Rushing YPG: 1
Off. Passing YPG: 22 Off. Passing YPG: 13
Off. Rushing YPG: 5 Off. Rushing YPG: 3
It’s not absurd to think the rushing attack and defense can carry this team deep into the playoffs yet I had to sit here and compare Nick Foles to Trent Dilfer just to remain somewhat optimistic heading into the divisional round with a 13 win, #1 seed. Whatta season it’s been.
In the meantime, #FlyEaglesFly