Two years and eight months ago, many of us wondered the same thing after the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII, thanks largely to the insanely great play of temp-QB Nick Foles.
That is, shouldn’t the Eagles give at least SOME consideration to sticking with Foles as starter, once Carson Wentz returned later in 2018 from a torn ACL?
The club time and again that off-season immediately shut down such talk. It was understandable. The Eagles had surrendered a small trainload of draft picks for the right to select Wentz No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL draft. And before he blew out a knee just one season later, in a December 2017 game at Los Angeles, Wentz had performed at an MVP level all season long.
At that point Wentz’s backup, Foles — who had bounced around from Philly to St. Louis to Kansas City since 2014 —had impressed no one anywhere, other than for a time in his early days in Philly.
Yet Foles took the baton from Wentz and shockingly willed the Eagles to their first NFL championship of the Super Bowl era with one of the greatest, three-victory post-season performances by a QB in NFL history.
Now fast-forward to the last couple of days …
Wentz is stinking it up worse than ever in Philly. He ranks 33rd in the NFL in passer rating (63.9), 33rd in average gain per attempt (5.6 yards), 32nd in interceptions (six), 29th in percentage of passes for touchdowns (2.3), 29th in completion percentage (59.8) and 36th in fourth-quarter passer rating (a horrible 48.9). He seems to be regressing by every possible measure, statistical or otherwise.
Lamely tying the winless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was the nadir of Wentz’s career. He’s now the first Philly QB since 1961 to throw multiple interceptions in each of his team’s first three games.
“Carson’s our quarterback,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson insisted. “We’re going to get it fixed. He’s going to get it fixed.”
Meanwhile, Foles — after a forgettable year in Jacksonville — jumped off the bench on Sunday to rescue the Chicago Bears from certain defeat in Atlanta, then on Monday was named by Bears head coach Matt Nagy as the team’s starting quarterback this week against Indianapolis, in place of ever-struggling Mitchell Trubisky.
You have to wonder: What might have happened to the Eagles had they stuck with Foles as starter in 2018, and traded away Wentz? Or just kept Wentz around for when Foles ran out of steam?
As it was, Wentz in 2018 played in only 11 games, from Weeks 3-13. He wasn’t fully recovered from his ACL tear to start the season (Foles did), and a fractured vertebra ended his season for the second straight year in December. Foles then led the Eagles to an upset wild-card playoff win at Chicago, before losing narrowly to New Orleans a week later.
With Foles gone via free agency to Jacksonville, the Eagles last season made the playoffs again, but Wentz was knocked out on the second drive of a wild-card playoff loss at home to Seattle.
So, from 2017-19, Foles was 4-1 in the playoffs and won a Super Bowl for the Eagles. Wentz started one playoff game and completed one pass in a meek first-round exit.
Did the Eagles make the right choice in the days and months following Super Bowl LII in 2018?
It’s getting harder and harder to say yes.
FIVE FAST FACTS
Arizona WR DeAndre Hopkins leads the league with 32 catches and 356 yards … The Seahawks have scored points on all nine red-zone trips … The Colts have allowed a league-low 396 pass yards … The Packers have yet to commit a turnover … Four teams have turned it over seven-plus times: Philadelphia (8), Minnesota (7), New York Giants (7) and Washington (7), and all are winless.
The NFL made one change to the Week 5 schedule, moving Denver at New England from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m., as Cam Newton will draw more eyeballs there … Jacksonville is signing former Seattle and Buffalo PK Stephen Hauschka, NFL Network said … Washington head coach Ron Rivera said there is a “cut-off point” as to when he’d bench struggling second-year QB Dwayne Haskins, but they’re not there yet … Denver head coach Vic Fangio said it’ll be Jeff Driskel or Brett Rypien starting Thursday night at the New York Jets, not newly signed Blake Bortles … Pederson on whether he has considered giving up offensive play-calling duties: “No I haven’t. I love doing it … I haven’t thought about that at all.”
DEAL WITH IT
Sorry to haul out this old cliché, but it’s really true. The more the Dallas Cowboys change, the more they stay the same.
They have a new head coach this year in Mike McCarthy. And they boast (oh, do they boast) about having even more talented offensive playmakers on hand, especially sizzling rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb.
Yet the Cowboys for the life of them this season still cannot grab an early lead and hold onto it. They’re 1-2 on the season and are extremely fortunate to be that; they needed to recover an onside kick in Week 2 (chances of which are south of 10%) to beat those choke specialists from Atlanta.
In their past 16 games over a calendar year, the notoriously slow-starting Cowboys have trailed 12 times either after the first quarter or at halftime. Three of the four exceptions came against awful teams last season: the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and Washington.
For the love of competence, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott cannot be expected to perform quadruple back flips in third and fourth quarters every dang week just to will his team back into contention against any foe with a pulse.
But that has been his lot in life for much of the past 2-3 seasons in Dallas.
Because Prescott must pass so much, (a) he’s leading the league by far in 2020 with an average of 396 passing yards per game, and (b) star running back Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t get to lug it as much, and he’s averaging a career-low 3.8 yards per carry, which is another concern.
No matter, Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones surely will keep trying to convince us his team is Super Bowl ready. He just doesn’t get that when you’re life-and-death just to make games competitive again by the last 10 minutes, you’re not.
TAKING A KNEE
Measured takes on Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen are as rare this year as political leaders saying “I don’t know.”
Before the season kicked off three weeks ago, NFL observers who thought Allen sucked never let an opportunity pass without asserting as much.
Ditto, those who thought he was ever being unfairly maligned.
The truth lay somewhere in between, as I tried to get across in a feature on opening weekend.
Twenty-two days later, anyone who cannot readily see, or admit, that Allen is performing through Week 3 at an unmistakably elite level are being stubbornly obtuse.
The third-year gunslinger is the first Bills QB in more than a quarter-century — since Jim Kelly in the middle of the Bills’ run of four consecutive AFC championships — to pass for at least 300 yards in three straight games.
What’s more, Allen is just the fourth QB in NFL history with at least 1,000 passing yards, 10 passing TDs and a rating of 120 or higher through Week 3 — joining Peyton Manning (2013), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) and Patrick Mahomes (2019).
And Allen is the first NFL player ever with at least 10 passing TD and two rushing TDs from Weeks 1-3.
Is this all for real? Is he for real?
Sure appears so. But let’s just wait a bit longer before concreting him in as a top 10 NFL QB.
For instance, it might turn out that the three defences he has faced — Jets, Dolphins and Rams — all stink. Or maybe he’ll revert to past gnawing tendencies to let big moments overwhelm him, or let his mechanics go all to hell when under the gun, etc. But so far, so good. Really good.
Allen’s turnaround this season has been nothing short of stunning. By every measure. He’s pinpoint everywhere, he’s clutch on third downs from start to finish, and he’s running only as a last resort — things sorely missing from his game in Years 1 and 2.
If Allen is still doing all this, or something close to it even, a month from now, you can start mixing the cement, water, sand and gravel.
At minimum, Allen has earned himself tens of millions more dollars whenever the club gets around to locking him up long-term following this season.
STEELERS WINNING WITH DEFENCE
One team actually IS winning with defence in 2020: The Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offence have yet to score 30 points in a game, which in this year’s NFL could easily have you winless right now. Just ask the New York Jets and Giants.
But Pittsburgh is 3-0 mainly because of its snarling defence.
Entering Monday night, the Steelers ranked first in the NFL in sacks (15), rushing yards per game allowed (54.0) and yards per rushing attempt allowed (2.7). They also ranked second in lowest pass completion percentage allowed (59.8%).
In their 28-21 defeat of Houston on Sunday, the Steelers in the second half allowed zero points, two first downs, eight yards rushing, 43 yards passing and one third-down conversion.
Now you know why Big Ben said a big reason he opted to continue his career following his off-season elbow surgery and long rehab was because this is one the best Steelers defences he has played with in 17 years.
Impact NFL performers continue to drop at an alarming rate.
Monday’s injury updates included the following, per team announcements and reports.
Cleveland WR JoJo Natson tore an ACL and is done for 2020.
Chicago RB Tarik Cohen indeed suffered a torn ACL and is gone for the season.
Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin’s hamstring injury is so concerning he was to undergo an MRI on Monday, head coach Bruce Arians said. Same with CB Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Denver DT Jurrell Casey suffered a biceps tear, head coach Vic Fangio confirmed, and is done for the year.
Washington DT Matt Ioannidis also has a torn biceps and is out indefinitely.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told a Seattle radio station that star safety Jamal Adams suffered a “first-degree” groin strain and is “day to day.” And starting running back Chris Carson has a “first-degree” knee sprain, but Carroll was vague on when he might play again. NFL Network reported Carson might even be able to play Sunday at Miami.
Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel would not provide an update on the status of left tackle Taylor Lewan’s shoulder injury, other than to say Ty Sambrailo ably took his place at Minnesota.
All 32 starting QBs, after Sunday games, with last week’s rankings in brackets:
1. Russell Wilson, Seattle (1). Record 14 TD passes thru Week 3.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (2). Played Monday night.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (3). NFL-best 308 third-down yards.
4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (4). Played Monday night.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans (5). Hesitant at times but still fab.
6. Josh Allen, Buffalo (13). Convincing. Electric. Elite … So far.
7. Jared Goff, LA Rams (12). What a comeback at Buffalo.
8. Dak Prescott, Dallas (14). What more can the man do?
9. Cam Newton, New England (6). Passing warts popping up.
10. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (7). Better, but missing easy throws.
11. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (8). D is making it look easy.
12. Kyler Murray, Arizona (9). Three TDs, but three win-costing picks.
13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (10). Again, imagine if Falcons had a D.
14. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis (16). Good enough is good enough.
15. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (15). Doing enough … Just enough.
16. Derek Carr, Oakland (19). 74% COMP, 6 TDs, 0 INTs.
17. Deshaun Watson, Houston (11). Most disappointing QB so far.
18. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (17). Happy to have Golladay back.
19. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina (24). Sharp play earns win No 1.
20. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati (23). Learning fast, via volume.
21. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (25). Playing smarter. Efficient.
22. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (18). 59% COMP, after 69% in ’19.
23. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami (32). September is FitzMagic month.
24. Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville (20). Up, down. All around.
25. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (22). Playing terribly. Regressing.
26. Daniel Jones, NY Giants (26). This ranking is generous.
27. Justin Herbert, LA Chargers (NR). Learning fast. Real fast.
28. Nick Mullens, San Francisco (NR). Did fine in temp role.
29. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago (27). The end is nigh. It’s Foles time.
30. Sam Darnold, NY Jets (28). In a sad spot, but he’s not helping.
31. Dwayne Haskins, Washington (30). Struggling. Not there yet.
32. Jeff Driskel, Denver (29). Can’t play. Sacked way too much.
Quick thoughts on Week 4 games (all on Sunday unless noted):
Broncos at Jets, Thursday, 8:20 ET: First of two Owen-Three Bowls this week. As in 0-3. Gase’s swan-song?
Cardinals at Panthers, 1 ET: Kyler Murray looks to bounce back from maybe his worst performance as a pro.
Colts at Bears, 1 ET: Every Bears fans hopes Nick Foles’ heroics at Atlanta are genuine. And repeatable.
Jaguars at Bengals, 1 ET: Which Gardner Minshew shows up for the Jags? Could be win No. 1 for Joe Burrow.
Browns at Cowboys, 1 ET: Could Cleveland actually improve to 3-1, and dynamic Dallas actually fall to 1-3? Maybe.
Saints at Lions, 1 ET: The Lions exist to occasionally repair your evaluation of them, only to destroy it a week later.
Vikings at Texans, 1 ET: Both 0-3. Wow. Texans rank last in rush defence. Dalvin Cook will run wild.
Seahawks at Dolphins, 1 ET: Russell Wilson already has tossed 14 TDs. Miami’s pass D ranks 25th. Right.
Chargers at Buccaneers, 1 ET: Bucs offence is getting on track. Still so much room to grow.
Steelers at Titans, 1 ET: If you don’t have either team’s kicking in fantasy, this could be a field-goal fest.
Ravens at Washington, 1 ET: Take the Ravens. Take the points. Hide the children.
Giants at Rams, 4:05 ET: Take the Rams. Take the points. Hide the children. Blindfold the grandparents.
Patriots at Chiefs, 4:25 ET: Second straight week Bill Belichick can scout his next foe on MNF.
Bills at Raiders, 4:25 ET: Game 2 at Allegiant Stadium.
Eagles at 49ers, 8:20 ET: Philly is anything but special. This is what is called full circle. Niners should roll.
Falcons at Packers, Monday, 8:15 ET: Elite receivers? Aaron Rodgers don’t need no stinkin’ elite receivers.
BYES: None. They start next week.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020