Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles faces an uncertain future despite winning his Super Bowl shootout with Tom Brady on Sunday.
Foles, 29, went toe-to-toe with New England Patriots counterpart Brady in a thrilling 41-33 upset victory for the Eagles at the US Bank Stadium.
But in a rare twist of circumstance, MVP Foles is likely to find himself relegated to a back-up role next season when the Eagles’ first choice quarterback Carson Wentz recovers from a knee injury.
Foles, a devoutly religious Texan who plans to be a pastor when he retires from the NFL, was thrust into the starting role when Wentz was injured in December.
After a shaky start, Foles improved steadily, producing a dazzling performance against Minnesota in the playoffs before serving up Sunday’s masterpiece, which included three touchdowns and 373 passing yards.
If he reverts to being a back-up next season, he would be the first Super Bowl-winning quarterback not to have a starting spot since Trent Dilfer, who was cut by the Baltimore Ravens after their 2000 Super Bowl win.
The Eagles may now choose to hold onto Foles as insurance in case Wentz does not recover from his injury, or seek to cash in with a trade.
On Sunday, however, Foles was happy to bask in his success, reflecting on the crowning glory of a career that he almost walked away from two years ago.
“About a couple of years ago, there was a time where I was thinking about hanging up the cleats,” he told reporters.
“And I think as people, we deal with struggles. And that was a moment in my life where I thought about it, and I prayed about it.
“I’m grateful that I made the decision to come back and play.”
Foles’s performance on Sunday even included a touchdown when he turned receiver to collect a looping pass from tight end Trey Burton in a clever trick play, nicknamed a “Philly Special.”
The bold move on fourth down reflected the aggressive nature of Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who said his faith in Foles as a back-up had never wavered.
“I’m so happy for Nick,” Pederson said afterwards. “A lot of people counted him out and didn’t think he could get it done. I believed in him, the staff believed in him, the players believed in him.
“We just needed time together.”
Eagles centre Jason Kelce said few had doubted Foles’ talent, even though his career had appeared to be fizzling out after being released by both the St Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs before landing at the Eagles last year.
“We all knew he’s a good player,” Kelce said. “And that if we could protect him, give him time to throw, with the receivers and arm that he has, he would get the job done,” Kelce said. “I’m so happy for that guy.”
London-born running back Jay Ajayi, who appeared before reporters draped in a British flag, added: “Everyone doubted Nick and talked about him. He just continued to step up to the plate and hit home runs. You saw what he did tonight. A special player.”