NFL teams hope to avoid some headlines like the plague. Quarterback controversies are usually one of them.
In 2007, the Philadelphia Eagles did their best to eliminate discussions about their starting quarterback after Jeff Garcia, in 2006, had led the team two rounds deep in the playoffs upon taking over for an injured Donovan McNabb.
Garcia became a cult hero in Philadelphia and embraced the love shown by his new city. Several teammates supported bringing him back.
But the Eagles, conscious of McNabb’s ego, moved on and brought back A.J. Feeley, a good backup but one whose resume wasn’t nearly as impressive or threatening as Garcia’s.
It’s safe to assume the Eagles anticipated early struggles for McNabb when coming back from ACL surgery. They moved to curtail any chance of fans calling for Garcia and making the locker room uncomfortable for everyone involved.
But the idea of a potential quarterback controversy brewing between Carson Wentz and Nick Foles in 2018 shouldn’t be a motivating force for executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman to hurry Foles out of town.
Wentz tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Rams in Week 14, but also his lateral collateral ligament, which required a surgery and lengthy rehab that could keep Wentz on the sideline until late October and perhaps into November.
Although Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson have expressed cautious optimism about the franchise quarterback being ready for the opener, if there’s even a chance that Wentz will miss the first few games, what sense would it make to trade Foles?
A Philadelphia-based orthopedic surgeon said recently in an interview with Philly sports-talk station 94.1 WIP that it’s overly optimistic to expect Wentz to be ready for the opener.
Dr. John Kelly, a professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at Penn Medicine, didn’t perform the surgery on Wentz but compared the quarterback’s surgery to the one performed on former Redskin quarterback Robert Griffin III. He suggested Wentz would need to wear a knee brace upon return to action.
Kelly estimated a timetable of 9-11 months from the time of Wentz’s Dec. 13 surgery, which would mark for Wentz to return Sept. 13 as the best case and Nov. 13 if Wentz needs the full timetable.
Given the uncertainty, it makes even less sense to trade Foles right now, unless another team is willing to blow Roseman away with an offer he can’t refuse.
ESPN’s Bill Polian, a former NFL general manager, was probably carried away when he recently said Roseman shouldn’t accept anything less than two first-rounders and two second-rounders for the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but the compensation would have to start with a high first-round pick for the deal to make any sense.
Unlike most Super Bowl champions who struggle to replicate success the following season, the Eagles have an excellent chance to repeat – or at least be in the conversation about legitimate title contenders – with so many impactful players slated to return.
The Eagles have more than a dozen players set to hit free agency, but of the 13, only linebacker Nigel Bradham is a starter. Running back LeGarrette Blount, slot corner Patrick Robinson, and defensive tackle Beau Allen all played significant roles but belonged to rotations and play positions where the Eagles have depth.
Because the Eagles aren’t yet paying any of their quarterbacks anywhere near top quarterback money, they have the luxury of spending in ways that most teams with good quarterbacks can’t, which is why receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan were able to sign in-season extensions.
Roseman should be seizing the opportunity to win the Super Bowl again next season. Keeping Foles, who has one year left on his deal, is the best way to keep the Eagles strong at the game’s most important position, even if Wentz won’t be ready for the first few weeks of the season.
If that means some awkward moments when Wentz is ready to come back and take the job, so be it.
That is a small price to pay for the very real potential of another parade down Broad Street.
– Geoff Mosher, a longtime Philadelphia sports reporter, is also a host on @975TheFanatic in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.