Sunday isn't all about Nick Foles and his first-start, first impression, but the "wonder" factor is off the charts. This is the first time since, well, 1999 that the Eagles have turned the offense over to a rookie quarterback.
It is the first time, and maybe I'm being overly dramatic here, that the Eagles and their fans have had the moment to consider if the quarterback, in this case Nick Foles and in 1999 Donovan McNabb, could be the franchise quarterback of the future. And, yeah, at the same time it's the first opportunity to consider if the rookie quarterback is not the franchise player of the future.
See, we've learned to look at the quarterback position in a much larger window. Because of the long-term success of McNabb, and then the not-as-bumpy-as-it-could-have-been handoff to Kevin Kolb and then Michael Vick, the Eagles have been fairly blessed at the quarterback position for much of the last 14 seasons.
Now Vick is sidelined and nobody really knows how long the "significant" concussion he suffered last Sunday will keep him off the field. Right now, and that's all you can really, truly think about at this stage in the season, Foles is the guy.
There is, then, an undeniable elevation in energy and focus and evaluation with Foles in. A 3-6 season in which the Eagles have been unable to snap out of a five-game funk now takes on a different tone.
Foles isn't expected to be the savior of the 2012 campaign. But then, he's not expected to handle the responsibility poorly. Foles is expected to go in and start and play good football and beat the Redskins. The Eagles aren't going to restrict the game plan with Foles in there; in many ways it would surprise nobody if the offensive coaching staff expands the approach and goes wiith full gusto after a Redskins secondary that has been up and down this season.
It's been an awfully long time since the Eagles' quarterback picture was this unclear. Even after McNabb was traded on Easter of 2010, we knew the answer to the question: Who will the starting quarterback be next year? It was Kolb, of course, until Clay Matthews hit Kolb and he went down and suffered a concussion in the opening game and then it was Vick, Vick and more Vick.
Until now. Until Vick was concussed against Dallas and couldn't return. Oh, there was all the rumbling in the background prior to that -- Foles was just too impressive in the preseason to ignore, and with the following struggles by the offense, the speculation was too obvious to ignore -- but head coach Andy Reid stood strong when asked about the position, and he steadfastly backed Vick.
Now, there Vick just isn't healthy enough to play. And Foles completed 22 of 32 passes in relief duty against Dallas and now had a week to practice with the starters and so he is hours away from the big moment in his career against the Redskins.
Foles has been impressive in every week this week, albeit it in a limited sampling. We don't watch practice. Our access to Foles is when he walks the hallways of the NovaCare Complex and when he's in the locker room during two 45-minute media sessions. Foles has handled the media calmly and refreshingly, and his teammates have talked of how Foles has added energy and a push during the week of practice.
Hey, there are a lot of things going on with the Eagles. Three and six doesn't feel good. That has to change immediately. The offensive line is still unsettled because of all of the injuries and slot receiver Jason Avant isn't going to play on Sunday. The defense, as inconsistent as its been in the last month, has a new, hip and very effective weapon to contend with in quarterback Robert Griffin III.
There are plenty of stories here, but Foles is clearly the most identifiable. He has to run the offense, show poise, score points and win a football game to accomplish the mission he has set for himself. Foles aspires to be a great quarterback, and he's working toward that goal.
So Sunday isn't all about Foles, but in many ways, and for many people out there, it is. The Eagles just want to win a football game and start to turn the season around. Sunday is the time. Foles is the guy. A rookie quarterback hasn't started a game for the Eagles since 1999 (I know that A.J. Feeley played in the meaningless regular-season finale in 2001 at Tampa Bay), the last time the position changed so significantly.