Carson Wentz is gone. Doug Pederson announced Monday he has a torn ACL and is out for the season. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When Wentz left Sunday’s win with a season-ending knee injury, most Eagles fans passed right through the denial phase and onto anger and depression. Some, however, are stuck in the bargaining phase. And that’s where Colin Kaepernick lives.
Kaepernick is the best free agent quarterback on the market and the Eagles, without their MVP, are suddenly in desperate need of a quarterback. Sure, Nick Foles has been there and done this before, but it’s been a while since Foles was called upon to lead a team with so much on the line. He has played in one playoff game in his career — a loss in 2013 when he was with the Eagles — and since 2015, Foles has thrown just 69 passes over two seasons. That’s not to say Foles won’t be able to manage the Eagles through the NFC playoffs. He has excellent skill position players to work with, a solid offensive line when healthy and one of the best defenses in the entire NFL to help him. The Eagles could be fine with Foles. They very well could be.
But, let’s get real, they probably won’t be. And so people want Kaepernick.
No matter what Foles says about being ready for this moment, he is a backup in the NFL for a reason. Even if he is serviceable, Wentz was having the best season an Eagles quarterback has ever had. The team can’t just replace that with a guy like Foles and expect to win a Super Bowl. That just doesn’t happen as easily as some Eagles fans think it could. But that doesn’t mean the Eagles will sign Kaepernick. In fact, it probably guarantees they won’t.
Let’s be clear about something: This isn’t about whether or not Kaepernick should have a job in the NFL. Even addressing that point seems patently ridiculous given the landscape of quarterbacks in the league right now. Kaepernick is, was and always will be a better quarterback than Foles. That’s obvious. He has, in my and many other people’s opinions, been blackballed out of the NFL, if not by conspiracy from the NFL owners than by cowardice. But the Eagles are division champs with Super Bowl aspirations. The last thing any NFL owner wants at this point is another distraction, and fair or not, that’s what signing Kaepernick would be.
I’ve written about Kaepernick in this space on several occasions, now, including pointing out in September how problematic it was that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie compared him to Michael Vick, not someone like Tim Tebow.
At the time, Foles was injured so the Eagles were going into the regular season with Wentz and a backup who hadn’t taken a snap in the preseason. Naturally, the question of Kaepernick came up, and Lurie said at the time:
“We are completely happy with our quarterback situation. So like every position situation, I mean, if that happened, we’d have to fully evaluate it. With [former Eagles QB] Michael Vick, there was a complete vetting of how is he as a teammate? What is his character? What is his potential? What is his football intelligence? Can he be a backup, in Michael’s situation, or a third string, in that time period? It’s a whole series of evaluations. That’s how we approach any player acquisition. I don’t want to talk about any specific player.”
Obviously, Lurie isn’t happy with his quarterback situation now, but the questions he posed in September still remain. In fact, for a team this late into the season, the questions he posed become even more important to answer.
No one should question Kaepernick’s character, but how is Kaepernick as a teammate is a legitimate question to ask at this point in the season. It’s not “would he be a good teammate?” It’s “would he be a good fit with an 11-2 Eagles team that has three weeks left in the season?” And if the answer could even possibly be no, is that worth the risk? No.
This may be a whole heap of nothing at this point for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Kaepernick went at Malcolm Jenkins very publicly in late October, ostensibly blaming him for not being invited to a meeting with NFL owners. Both players have been staunch advocates for the NFL taking a stand for social injustice — Kaepernick by taking a knee during the national anthem and Jenkins by raising a fist — but it stands to reason the potential for tumult alone isn’t worth Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman taking this risk.
Again, to be clear, this isn’t about should. It’s about will. And reading what they’ve said in the past and given how this season has played out, it doesn’t seem like the Eagles would.
If this was a month ago and the Eagles were 8-1, maybe. With half the season to go, Kaepernick would have plenty of time to learn the offense in time for the playoffs. But with three weeks left in the regular season, it’s just too late. Pederson’s team is still fighting for a first-round bye, so the final three games are very meaningful. The last thing a second-year head coach needs is the distraction of bringing in a quarterback with as much of a spotlight on him as Kaepernick has.
This just does not happen in December…especially if it didn’t happen in September, October or November. General managers and head coaches in the NFL do not take risks like this, no matter how desperate they are. It almost never happens, and that’s why it won’t here.
Besides, whether fans do or not, the Eagles like Foles. He’s been with the team all season and he knows Andy Reid’s offense as good as any quarterback in the NFL. This is essentially the same offense Pederson runs, so even if the Eagles do sign a veteran quarterback, there’s little chance he’d come in to take the starting job from Foles at this point in the season.
Again, we need to stress this, the Eagles are 11-2 and the entire locker room went into Sunday’s game against the Rams knowing a win would give them a bye and possibly home field. With Wentz under center, they were going to the Super Bowl this year, so now the coaching staff’s main goal this week will be to maintain calm with the other 52 players. They’re still on pace to do great things, and the last thing anyone wants to do is panic.
Signing Kaepernick would be a panic move.
Remember, the San Francisco 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo this season and sat him for two games so he could learn the offense. They had zero wins at the time, but they still didn’t play a guy with no knowledge of the offense, instead going with rookie C.J. Beathard until he got injured and Garoppolo was forced into duty. There was of sitting Garoppolo the entire season so he had time to learn the offense. For a winless team!
No, Pederson’s offense is nowhere near as complex as Kyle Shanahan’s, but if a winless team wasn’t willing to put in a player they think is the franchise quarterback of the future, why in the holy hell will the Eagles put a guy in who hasn’t thrown a football in almost a full calendar year, who would not only have to learn the entire offense in time for the playoffs, but also get into game shape?
And moreover, some people want the Eagles to bring the national circus to town — we’re talking thousands of media, mostly non sports if he’s signed — so Kaepernick can be Foles’ backup?
This is the bargaining phase of grief. It makes no sense. And everyone saying what the Eagles should do knows they won’t.
I mean, look. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve already hit stage five: acceptance. Life sucks and then you die, and if you’re a Philly fan your football team will never win a Super Bowl before you do. (Okay…maybe this is still the depression stage.)
The Eagles have Nate Sudfeld on their roster after signing him from the practice squad. Pederson said the team has faith in Sudfeld, pointing out they promoted him because other teams were interested in signing him. “Not only are we getting Nick ready but also Nate.”
Matt McGloin, who was terrible for the Eagles in preseason, is a free agent. The team will have to make a move in some capacity, and I will happy eat crow if Roseman pulls the trigger on bringing Kaepernick in to lead this team to a Super Bowl.
It just doesn’t make any damn sense given those making the decisions for this team. And as much as some fans may think Kaepernick is the answer to replacing Wentz, it’s almost impossible to think it will happen. There is no level of grief that deep for the Eagles.