It wasn't long ago when 2017 was a dream for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fueled by MVP-caliber play from Carson Wentz, the team was cruising to an NFC East title, the Eagles' first since 2013, and into the playoffs, maybe even to challenge for its first Super Bowl appearance in more than a decade. A shootout win over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday helped the cause, but buried within that long-awaited clinching victory was an equally tragic loss in the form of Wentz's ACL injury.
Coach Doug Pederson isn't the only one talking up Wentz's backup, Nick Foles, as the man capable of keeping Philadelphia's title hunt alive -- even LeSean McCoy tweeted from afar that his ex-teammate "is a true baller." And there's some merit for hope, as Foles was the team's quarterback when the Eagles last appeared in the postseason (in 2013, before he was traded to the Rams).
But what about behind Foles? The most pressing, most dismal concern, of course, is the loss of Wentz, whose second-year magic was a big reason for the Eagles' on- and off-field growth. But if Foles is "the guy" moving forward, at the helm of a club that's still very much in play for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, he needs to be protected just as much. For the Eagles, that means, in the footsteps of the similarly scrappy Minnesota Vikings, ensuring the quarterback room is as deep as can be.
Unless Nate Sudfeld, a former sixth-round draft pick who has yet to be active for a single NFL game, gives the team enough peace of mind as the arm behind Foles, here are several late-season backup options for the Eagles:
Whatever your feelings about the former San Francisco 49er as a social activist, you simply cannot have a conversation about available quarterbacks and overlook Kaepernick. If you're a front office in a dire QB situation and don't at least think about a former Super Bowl starter who's sitting on the open market, you're doing yourself and your team a disservice.
Kaepernick, of course, is no world beater on the field. His 16-touchdown, four-interception run in 2016 was the anomaly to his post-Super Bowl days in San Fran, where he fell out of favor for a variety of reasons, and he obviously hasn't taken a single snap in 2017. But we're talking about backup possibilities here, and is anyone -- outside of maybe a select few NFL owners -- truly prepared to say that Nate Sudfeld, the Eagles' own No. 3 and a second-year Washington Redskins castoff, gives you more potential than Kap?
If Kaepernick is actually bent on returning to the NFL in any role and at any cost, backing up Foles shouldn't be a problem for him. Fair or not, though, the biggest question probably revolves around the team's willingness to invite the attention that comes with Kaepernick, who infamously sparked pregame protests in 2016 and has been publicly distant from other community-minded players like the Eagles' own Malcolm Jenkins. Interestingly enough, as much as Philadelphia probably wouldn't prefer the chaos that comes with putting a veteran behind Foles, there might not be a roster better suited to handle Kaepernick and his inevitably accompanying media circus than that of the Eagles -- a group that's been touted as much for its culture as its on-field success. Let's not forget: This was the franchise that gave Michael Vick his second shot at the NFL.
Robert Griffin III
Like Kaepernick, his big name alone makes him an enigmatic option -- someone who's bound to bring an excess of headlines to an emergency role on a playoff team. But just like Kaepernick, he's at least got to be in consideration if you're serious about putting something behind Foles. Despite his own injury history, there's an argument to be made he's got more in the tank than Kap, and he's got a little bit of playoff experience.
Still, it seems far-fetched that the Eagles would go to this extent for a new No. 2.
No one's clamoring for the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft pick, now better known as one of the NFL's most traveled journeyman backups, and for good reason. Johnson hasn't actually thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2011, and his last game-day contributions came as a runner the following year. When you find a way to earn backup jobs for seven different teams in the six years after, however, you gain a reputation for adapting to new systems, albeit on the bench. If the Eagles are looking purely for someone who can come in and get acclimated on a dime, Johnson might be worth a look.
As far as Johnson's on-field ability is concerned, that's another question entirely. But such is life for a team seeking a backup for its backup in Week 15.
Like Josh Johnson, his resume doesn't promise much in the way of starting production. The former undrafted New York Jets project once competed for the Buffalo Bills' No. 1 job but has only appeared in four games, throwing just 39 total passes with the Jets. Simms was recently in touch with the Eagles thanks to an in-season workout, however, and he spent a year on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad during the team's 2016 run to the Super Bowl. If anything, he could be a slightly more experienced alternative to Sudfeld.
His name may very well elicit eye rolls from Eagles fans who saw Pederson try -- and fail -- to use the ex-Penn State starter as a third-stringer this preseason. His performances weren't that much different, in fact, than when he replaced an injured Derek Carr for the Oakland Raiders in 2016, and his career TD-to-INT ratio (11:11) exemplifies his run as a so-so reserve.
He's fresh off a stint with the Houston Texans as a backup, though, and he represents the most familiar option to the Eagles' coaching staff after spending the entire offseason preparing alongside Wentz and Foles.