HAYES: Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl dreams not dashed, despite Carson Wentz injury
Enough of this moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Enough with the assumption that the Philadelphia Eagles cannot advance in the playoffs; that they cannot reach, and win, the Super Bowl.
When the Eagles fully reassemble on Wednesday, they should be 52 angry men. Well, 52, plus a coaching staff and front office that will have dealt with two days of diminishment and disrespect. Carson Wentz got hurt. He suffered a torn ACL Sunday in Los Angeles. So it goes.
His understudy, Nick Foles, led two field-goal drives, which won the game. The defense twice stopped a premier offense in the fourth quarter, playing at home. The Eagles still beat the Rams.
This isn’t quite losing Randall Cunningham in Game 1 of the 1991 season. Wentz is a big part of what the Eagles try to do, but he isn’t anyone’s Ultimate Weapon. Not yet.
Only two teams in the NFL cannot survive without their quarterback: New England and Green Bay. That’s it. Neither team is as complete as the Eagles, and Wentz isn’t as good as Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
“You can’t lose faith,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said at his Monday press conference, noting that his team has sustained injuries at left tackle, running back, kicker and middle linebacker. “If there’s ever been an opportunity as a football coach to rally the troops, now is the time.”
Eagles still have strong cast: Quarterback might be the most important position in sports, but it’s a position. This isn’t golf and it isn’t tennis. Carson Wentz has teammates who are as good or better at their jobs as he is at his. No, Nick Foles isn’t one of them, but Lane Johnson is. Fletcher Cox is. Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins and Zach Ertz might be, too.
What are they supposed to think as the Eagles Nation contemplates a mass bridge jump because Wentz has a bad knee?
How are they supposed to feel amid this festival of fatalism?
A caller to the Morning Show on SportsRadio 94.1 WIP on Monday actually dissolved into tears, distraught as he bemoaned the perceived bad luck that curses Philadelphia sports. Please.
Pederson, Jim Schwartz and Frank Reich composed an offensive attack and a defensive philosophy around a diverse array of players with particular strengths and weaknesses, including those of Wentz. To assume they can’t do the same incorporating Foles is a blatant insult to them and their players. The defense is first against the run, fourth against the pass and sixth in points allowed. Schwartz, Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo should get interviews to be head coaches after the season. Their knees are fine.
Howie Roseman and his front office acquired two 1,000-yard rushers, made the defensive backfield a viable thing and invested heavily in the defensive line, which, even when Wentz was healthy, was the most accomplished part of the assemblage. Suddenly, their efforts are for naught?
Great teams win titles: Great teams win championships, not just great players. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, managing the Ravens’ offense while its defense, running game and special teams did the heavy lifting. Dilfer had a 70.2 career passer rating. It was 76.6 in 2000, when he replaced Tony Banks.
Foles’ rating is 88.1.
The Eagles stand atop the NFC at 11-2, and they might still be the best team in the NFL, with or without Wentz. On Sunday they have a glorified scrimmage at the Meadowlands against a 2-11 Giants team that might not be as good as it record reflects.
Foles isn’t as big, as strong or as athletic as Wentz, but he completed as big a pass as has been completed this season when he won the game on Sunday. It only traveled 9 yards, but his dart to Nelson Agholor on third-and-8 was hugely significant. It iced the game, of course, but it also gave a taste of the improved quarterback Foles has become. The play also bore evidence that he and this team — now his team — are able to gird themselves in a moment of crisis, desperation and urgency.
Eagles still a great team: To be fair, Wentz’s toughness, strength and mobility masked the deficiencies along the offensive line. Wentz’s talents often hid the receivers’ inability to get open quickly. The line will have to play better and the receivers will have to be sharper.
They have three weeks, and probably a bye week, to get that done. That’s a month. If you can’t get better in a month, you don’t deserve to win a playoff game.
Wentz is wonderful, but he isn’t Michael Jordan or LeBron James. He’s not Rodgers or Brady. Not yet. The way Roseman built this team, he hasn’t had to be. That’s how great teams are built.
And this is still a great team.