NEW ORLEANS — A flight back home after a loss can feel interminable. Nick Foles probably wanted the trip back to Philadelphia to last forever.
“I am just going to do whatever I can to enjoy this flight back with my teammates and we will see what happens,’’ Foles said Sunday night after a hot start gave way to a frigid finish in a 20-14 loss to the Saints in an NFC divisional playoff game inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Before too long, the Eagles figure to be a former team for Foles. It is a strange scenario but there is virtually no chance he can return, given he will not supplant Carson Wentz as the franchise quarterback and he has a $20 million option if he is on the roster next season. As much as the Eagles appreciate him, that is not a price tag a team can assign to a backup, even one who stepped in for an injured Wentz last season and steered the Eagles to their first Super Bowl triumph with an MVP performance against the Patriots.
“The hardest part about it is you develop relationships with your teammates and for it to end is tough,’’ Foles said.
What comes next is either a trade or an outright release to send Foles to free agency, where he will be a fascinating option on the open market. Eagles coach Doug Pederson has stated Wentz, 26, is the man moving forward but that does not mean he does not have great appreciation for Foles, who will turn 30 on Sunday — the day the Saints and Rams battle for the NFC title.
“I told him I appreciate everything he has done,’’ Pederson said. “I just told him that I loved him. We will probably visit in the next couple of days.’’
That will be a time of reckoning, as both sides seem to understand what must happen.
After saving the day subbing and starring for Wentz in 2018, Foles, incredibly, was forced onto the field, again, late this season when Wentz went down with a back injury. He won every start down the stretch to get the Eagles in the playoffs, threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute last week in Chicago and was up to his old tricks against the Saints, tossing one touchdown pass and sneaking in for another to put the Eagles ahead 14-0.
“It felt like that magic was going to continue,’’ Pederson said.
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After completing 8-of-9 passes for 113 yards, Foles bottomed out, hitting on only 10-of-22 for 88 yards after his torrid start. The Eagles did not score in the final 49 minutes and what is expected to be Foles’ last pass for the Eagles deflected off the hands of Alshon Jeffery and into the grasp of cornerback Marshon Lattimore to send the Eagles home.
“It hurts right now, but I guarantee we will be back next year,’’ Jeffery said.
He will be back. Foles awaits his fate and, most likely, his exit.
“We went out there and gave it everything we had,’’ Foles said. “Everyone is going to keep their heads up high. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but ultimately, you give it everything you have. That is what it is about.’’