When Pederson took the podium for his regular media session, he was immediately asked the question foremost on the minds of his team’s fans: Had he made a decision on who would start at quarterback when the Super Bowl champions kick off the NFL’s regular season Thursday against the Falcons, and if so, who would it be?
The 50-year-old coach responded by sarcastically thanking the media for “putting words in my mouth this week,” with reports that Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, as expected, was set to get the start as Carson Wentz continued to rehabilitate from knee surgery. “Therefore, I’m not going to discuss it,” Pederson asserted.
Pressed on who, exactly, among the assembled reporters had put words in his mouth, Pederson twice interjected, “Next question,” before elaborating a bit. He said he was not going to “publicly” announce his starter, but he did acknowledge that Wentz had not yet been cleared for contact.
That would seem to all but guarantee that Foles will get the start, unless his shaky preseason has suddenly put third-stringer Nate Sudfeld in the running. “We’ve got a lot of days left [before the opener],” Pederson said, prompting a question about whether he was trying to maintain an edge on an opponent that wouldn’t know which quarterback it would be facing.
“A little bit, yeah, a little bit. Trying to win a football game, you know?” Pederson replied. “I don’t want to put my game plan out there for everybody to see it and read it, and teams can scheme. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Later in the day, Falcons Coach Dan Quinn had some fun with situation. In a conference call with reporters, Quinn began his remarks by saying, “I understand you guys have some quarterback questions. Matt Ryan will be our starting quarterback.”
Quinn claimed that his team was more concerned about preparing for the Eagles’ offense overall, rather than for Foles or Wentz. He noted that there wasn’t as stark a difference between the two quarterbacks’ playing styles as when the Philadelphia had Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham in the 1980s.
In his second season last year after having been the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Wentz had put himself in the MVP conversation before suffering a severe knee injury in Week 14. Foles took over at that point and played exceptionally well in three postseason games, leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl crown while completing 72.6 percent of his passes for 971 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
However, Foles did not carry that level of play into his preseason appearances, when he completed 16 of 26 passes for 171 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also took six sacks, including one for a safety during a dismal outing in the Eagles’ third preseason game, when his team lost to the Browns, 5-0, and left Pederson reportedly describing Foles’s performance as “very disappointing.”
Thus Philadelphia might strongly prefer to give Wentz the start if that were possible, but while reports have been very positive about his mobility, he doesn’t appear to be quite ready yet. That makes sense, given that full recoveries from the kind of injury he suffered tend to take closer to 12 months than nine, and the Eagles have every reason to take a cautious approach with a player they want to build around for the next dozen years or so.
In the short term, though, Pederson is clearly getting frustrated with the constant questions about his quarterback situation. We’ll get a definitive answer Thursday, and, assuming it’s Foles, the coach can only hope the Eagles will see the postseason, not preseason, version.