— By Brian Hall, The Sports Xchange —
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles had just won Super Bowl LII and were on the podium in the middle of the field at U.S. Bank Stadium for the customary trophy presentation.
Pederson’s quarterback, Nick Foles, was named the game’s MVP after going toe-to-toe with Tom Brady.
During the celebration, Pederson sought out Carson Wentz, the franchise quarterback who guided Philadelphia to an 11-2 start before a season-ending knee injury.
“Just told him to take this in, enjoy this moment,” Pederson said. “He’s a great quarterback and he’s a big reason, I told him, ‘You’re a big, big part of why this team won this championship and won this game.’ I told him hopefully we’ll be back in this game with him leading the way.”
The Eagles won their first Super Bowl without Wentz, who was on a possible NFL MVP track and was still named second-team All-Pro. Winning without Wentz might have further demonstrated what Philadelphia was about this season.
As Pederson mentioned in his press conference Monday morning, his team didn’t win the sport’s biggest prize with a bunch of superstars. Sure, Philadelphia is plenty talented across the board, the work of football boss Howie Roseman. But Pederson molded a group with a team-first mentality.
A 13-3 record and the top seed in the NFC led to two first-team All-Pros, though the work of center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson largely go unheralded along the offensive line.
Wentz and tight end Zach Ertz, who had the final touchdown reception, were the only offensive skill players named to the Pro Bowl. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and safety Malcolm Jenkins were the only Eagles named to the Pro Bowl from the league’s fourth-ranked defense.
There was the loss of Wentz, key running back Darren Sproles, left tackle Jason Peters and linebacker Jordan Hicks during the season. There was a timeshare at running back that continued in the Super Bowl as LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and rookie Corey Clement all made major impacts.
Ertz and receivers Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith all had their important moments during the regular season and playoffs. The defensive line terrorized quarterbacks in part because of their willingness to rotate seven players endlessly.
“It wasn’t about one individual, as I kept saying to the team this entire season,” Pederson said. “The leadership in the locker room, part of the message this season was putting it back on the players. Players owned their jobs, owned their responsibilities and not having selfish coaches and selfish players gives you a chance to win this game.”
Perhaps no player embodied the team’s selfless nature quite like Foles, the 29-year-old quarterback who admitted to considering giving up the game before signing in Philadelphia to be Wentz’s backup.
Foles was 28 of 43 for 373 yards passing and three touchdowns on Sunday, and he added a receiving touchdown to his MVP performance.
“It goes back to everyone wants to point one individual and I’m fortunate to be the MVP of this game,” Foles said Monday. “But as you’ve seen this year, we’ve had so many MVPs throughout the course of this team, different guys stepping up. It’s just a great honor to be up here to accept this on behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Foles, a third-round pick by the Eagles in 2012, had a breakout sophomore season in Philadelphia only to be later cast aside and follow with one-year stints in St. Louis and Kansas City. He came back to the Eagles and was pedestrian in three regular-season starts — a 77.7 quarterback rating — only to shine in the postseason.
He completed 72.64 percent of his passes in three playoff games including Sunday’s Super Bowl, averaged 323.7 passing yards a game, had six passing touchdowns to one interception and a 115.7 quarterback rating.
“Nick has been the same guy that I can remember going back to when we drafted him,” Pederson said. “He doesn’t change. He does not change. The things he did back then when we had him in Philadelphia to today, he’s just a better quarterback today. He’s a smarter quarterback today. He’s a veteran quarterback today. But Nick is Nick. Nick is who he is. You just saw up here how genuine he is.
“I have a lot of guys on that roster that are just like Nick and very unselfish. Call them role players, call them whatever you want to call them, backups, these guys helped us win this game, this championship and my hats off to Nick for what he’s gone through, for what he’s had to ordeal and sort of blocked out this probably last two months. Excited for him and his family and well-deserved.”
After the Super Bowl, Foles held his young daughter on the podium. He said he joined the team’s party later that night but ducked out early to devote time to his family.
On Monday, he was asked what he hopes outsiders take from his rise from backup to Super Bowl MVP.
“I think the big thing is don’t be afraid to fail,” Foles said. “I think in our society today, Instagram, Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all the good things and then when you look at it, you think like, ‘Wow.’ When you have a rough day, your life’s not as good as that, you’re failing.
“Failure’s a part of life. That’s a part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of time, made mistakes. … I’m not perfect. I’m not Superman. I might be in the NFL and we might have just won the Super Bowl. But we have daily struggles, I still have daily struggles. But that’s where my faith comes in. That’s where my family comes in. I think when you look at a struggle in your life; just know that’s just an opportunity for your character to grow.”
Foles, Wentz and the Eagles’ character grew all season; a big reason Pederson and company were standing tall on the podium Sunday night.