It’s safe to say that there is a sense of unrest in the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles have deservedly clinched the NFC East and a playoff berth, but they now embark on the next stage of their journey without the man who pushed them down that path to begin with. Carson Wentz tore his ACL in the win over L.A, leaving Nick Foles as the next man up. The more things change, the more they stay the same. There’s one man inside the Eagles locker room who has been in a very similar situation, and that man is the team’s offensive coordinator, Frank Reich.
The year was 1992. Houston had defeated Buffalo in the final game of the season before the team’s would meet again in the Wildcard game. Warren Moon led the Run-n-shoot offense to the playoffs with ease, capping off the regular season with a dominant 27-3 win over the Bills. During that game, Buffalo’s quarterback, Jim Kelly, suffered a knee injury that forced none other than Frank Reich into the game. One week later, Reich would be expected to rally his team to a win that carried far more than playoff implications. The Bills were embarrassed by the league’s top passing offense and elusive running back Lorenzo White.
Shades of the game before shined through in the Wildcard. Warren Moon entered halftime with a 28-3 lead, surging his offense into life with 4 touchdowns. What happened next, went down in NFL history. Reich started the second half slow, throwing a bounced interception to Bubba McDowell…but it wouldn’t stop him from making history.
Reich bounced back stronger than ever. A string of high percentage throws pushed the Bills down the field for their first touchdown of the game, before Reich threw a beautiful strike to Don Beebe after the Bills recovered their onside kick. That strike went 38-yards and into the end zone.
The comeback continued. The Bills decimated the third quarter, holding Moon and the Oilers to just 3 plays for as many yards, while putting up 21 points in 10 minutes. The game would later go to overtime after Reich, with the help of a defense playing for pride, threw a 17-yard touchdown to Andre Reed, who amassed 136 yards that game with just 3 minutes left to give Buffalo their first lead.
It was the Defense that secured the win in overtime and Reich would go on to push his team all the way to the Super Bowl, where they fell at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles will be hoping that they can replicate a similar success in the absence of Carson Wentz, but for Reich, it was all about a mentality…and one he believes Foles shares.
“With the utmost confidence because of the team surrounding me at the time.” Reich said about his emotions when he was called upon in such a vital situation. “The team, just like this team, had already put itself in a position where we were on top, by good defense, good special teams and a really talented offense where we could spread the ball around.”
“The good thing with Nick is he’s been there, done that.” Reich went on to say. “When I had an opportunity to step in and play, I had never done all the things that Nick had done as a starter. Nick knows he needs to just go be himself. One of the great things, anybody that knows Nick, knows he’s very, very comfortable in his own skin, and is very confident in his own abilities and is an excellent quarterback. And he exudes that confidence where the guys on this team see that, they feel that. You just know this guy’s been successful. Just look at what he’s done.”
Many have naturally questioned just how much the offense will change without an MVP candidate who has turned dead plays into touchdowns and rushed for 299 yards this season. Reich, like Foles, was in a similar situation. He didn’t just replace anyone back in 1992. He filled in for Jim Kelly. A 5-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer who pioneered the Bills and took them to four consecutive Super Bowls. Kelly flourished in the original ‘no-huddle’ offense as an athletic quarterback with all the tools to dominate.
“I remember when in that year, everybody thought, well, hey, [former NFL QB] Jim Kelly, no-huddle offense and it was like, now the offense is going to have to change because the franchise quarterback was out and this backup was coming in who didn’t have the same skill-set.” Reich explained on Tuesday. “I remember as the backup going in and talking to our coaches and saying, ‘Don’t change anything. This is the offense that I know. This is the offense that I want to run. This is the offense that our players are used to. Let’s just keep this thing rolling. We’ll get it done. We got the guys in this room to get it done.’ This is our DNA. This is what we’ve built this upon, so let’s just go in there and play ball. So that’s what I expect from Nick.”
There have been whispers, there have been opinions. But the Eagles will not look for outside quarterback help for now. At the end of the day, Foles was not only drafted by the Eagles due to the heavy influence of Doug Pederson, but he went on to be the MVP of a Pro Bowl and have a historic season before reuniting with Pederson in Kansas City a few years later.
If there is any quarterback who can pick up this team and put them on his back, it’s Nick Foles. The Eagles will be hoping Foles can rekindle some of the magic his offensive coordinator used back in 1992 and whether he has the poise to lead this team into a playoff run is a different debate entirely. But what isn’t up for debate is that nothing changes. The Eagles will run the same offense with the same ideas and the same goals. All that changes, is the Eagles will need a little more magic to complete their fairytale.
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Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Hickey, File