When the Philadelphia Eagles were handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the quarterback who was supposed to lead the team to pro football's promised land was not on the podium. Instead, Carson Wentz was in the crowd with the rest of his teammates watching his replacement be named the most valuable player of Super Bowl 52.
Nick Foles' journey to the top of the NFL mountain was a rocky one that saw him play on three different teams before returning to Philadelphia, where his career began in 2012, last offseason. Back with the Eagles, the former third round draft pick was not supposed to see lots of snaps behind second-year quarterback Wentz, who was picked second overall just one year earlier.
However, then came week 14: Wentz tore his ACL against the Los Angeles Rams and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. In came Foles and the veteran, surrounded by what might very well have been the league's most talented team, led the team not only to the NFC's number one playoff seed but a three-game winning streak throughout the tournament en route to the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl title.
In winning the game against the New England Patriots, the Eagles did not only join the club of NFL championship franchises. The team also became the third Super Bowl winner in a row to rely heavily on a backup quarterback in order to earn a victory on game's biggest stage: Just like the 2015 Denver Broncos and the 2016 Patriots, the 2017 Eagles saw their number two passer play considerable snaps.
The Broncos turned to Brock Osweiler midway through the 2015 season when it became clear that Peyton Manning was a mere shell of his former self. Osweiler started six games for Denver, leading the team to a 4-2 record, before being relegated again. With his team in a 13-7 hole in the regular season finale, Osweiler was benched in favor of Manning. The veteran – with a big assist by an outstanding defense – then led his team to three playoff wins.
One year later, it was New England's turn to start a backup. With Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension as the result of the Deflategate farce, the Patriots started Jimmy Garoppolo in weeks one and two of the 2016 regular season. With Garoppolo suffering a shoulder injury in his second game, the Patriots turned to Jacoby Brissett. Behind its backup quarterbacks, the team went 3-1 and set the team up well on the road to the number one playoff seed and eventually a Super Bowl title.
Now, Foles is the third straight backup passer to start a considerable number of games for the championship-winning team – further proof that the backup quarterback position, no matter how accomplished the starter is, should never be underestimated. And moving on to the 2018 season, this is something the Patriots should and likely will have in mind despite Tom Brady coming off an MVP season and Brian Hoyer under contract for another year.
As some degree of uncertainty is surrounding the Patriots entering the offseason, one thing is sure: Brady is not getting any younger and Hoyer is not his heir as the franchise quarterback. And with the current backup still one year under contract, now would be the perfect time to address the issue and add another quarterback to the fold – something the Patriots have done multiple times in similar situations.
When the team drafted Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo in 2011 and 2014, respectively, the sitting backups – Hoyer and Mallett – had one year left on their deal and would ultimately be replaced by the younger option. Seeing the same unfold over the course of 2018 and possibly 2019 seems like a realistic scenario no matter if the quarterback added ultimately succeeds Brady as the starter or not.
But no matter how it unfolds, the Patriots will one day need somebody to step into Brady's massive footsteps and take over for the greatest quarterback of all time. And chances are, this somebody has served as the backup before.