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February 19, 2018

Nick Foles is a luxury the Eagles can no longer afford

Opinion Angelo Cataldi
020418_Foles-MVP_usat Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles celebrates with daughter Lily after defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Now that the jubilation over Philadelphia's first championship parade has dimmed to a warm glow, it's time for Eagles fans to deal with a slice of harsh reality: Nick Foles must go. That's right. The Super Bowl MVP has to be traded before he ever takes another snap here.

Since I have already floated this notion on my WIP radio show, I am well aware of the venomous reaction those words will elicit. Foles went from a backup quarterback to a folk hero in roughly one month, and now an adoring city must say goodbye? No way! Why?

OK, let's start with why the Eagles should keep him: He is a terrific insurance policy in case franchise quarterback Carson Wentz falters in his rehab from a torn ACL.

Want some more reasons? There are none.

On the other side of the argument is a wall of logic, starting with the basic idea that Foles needs to convert his current fame into fortune with a new contract, and a new opportunity, that he cannot hope to get in Philadelphia while Wentz is blocking his path.

In fact, Foles was already hinting at that direction on the Jimmy Kimmel TV show last week - one of several high-profile appearances he has made since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Instead of fending off questions of his future by invoking family or religion, this time he said his agents would take care of it.

Hmmm. Do you think there's any chance his agents would prefer that he spend the next season holding a clipboard, or do you think they'd advise him to maximize his earning potential now, while he is as hot a commodity as he ever hoped to be? After all, he is 29, in a league desperate for quarterbacks who can do what he just did.

The case for trading Foles is equally compelling from the Eagles' perspective. They lack second and third-round picks in the 2018 draft, and Foles might be able to fill both of those voids in a trade, if not more. Remember, GM Howie Roseman got a first-round selection last season for Sam Bradford, who is not a Super Bowl hero.

And then there's the issue of the salary cap. At the moment, the Birds are $9 million over it, handcuffing Roseman from filling any holes until he makes some room. Trading Foles for draft picks would immediately clear $5.4 million, a more appealing prospect than cutting starters Jason Peters ($6.3) or Vinny Curry ($6).

Finally, the Eagles appear to have a solution to the loss of Foles already on the roster. A month ago, fans were openly suggesting that Nate Sudfeld might be a better option than Foles as Wentz's backup. We know now how ridiculous that idea was, but it doesn't mean Sudfeld is a bad quarterback. It just means he didn't win the Super Bowl.

The bottom line on this issue is simple: The Eagles can lose Nick Foles to free agency a year from now for nothing, or they can add significantly to their roster and reduce their salary-cap squeeze by finding a new home for their national hero.

Other than the realistic concern that Wentz may not be ready for the opener, or that he'll get hurt again once he does return, the only reason to keep Foles this season is emotion - fans love him now, and he loves them right back. A trade would be jarring to everyone.

Unfortunately, the emotion of this extraordinary moment cannot overrule the only smart thing to do. If the Eagles want to improve their chances for another parade, they're going to have to say goodbye to an overnight icon we will all remember forever.

It's just business, Philadelphia - the steep price you must pay for being the best.

***

Maybe the Eagles' improbable Super-Bowl victory over the Patriots has driven everyone insane up there in New England. Maybe that's why a top sports station in Boston, WEEI, shut down live programming for 12 hours last Friday to give its hosts a crash course in sensitivity training.

Maybe, but probably not. Far more likely a scenario is that the sports-radio industry - something I have been a part of for three decades - has forgotten how to entertain an audience without embarrassing itself. In the desperate search for hot takes and big laughs, hosts are losing sight of what makes good sports talk.

The formula is very simple, really. It all starts with a basic knowledge of the facts and then presenting an opinion that is provocative and logical. Add some humor, a smidge of bombast, and voila. You've got a career blabbing about sports.

Thirty years ago, when I started out at WIP, my far more experienced and level-headed partner, Tom Brookshier, would shoot me a glance from time to time suggesting that I was getting too close to the line between entertainment and bad taste. I can only imagine what he would have said or done if I had made fun of the daughter of a player or tried a racist role-play the way the WEEI hosts did.

Nowadays, in a far more competitive media environment, everybody wants to be a mixture of Stephen A. Smith and Dave Chappelle, but they lack the instincts and talent. The best humor is organic anyway. On our show, listen to Al Morganti or Keith Jones; they don't need a skit to entertain. They often do it with one spontaneous line.

In my time at WIP, I have been approached twice by WEEI to move our show up to New England, where Al and I grew up. The first time, a quarter-century ago, I was ready to go but Al wasn't. He said our show would never work in Boston. We were too loud, too coarse.

Today, we would be too tame. But at least we wouldn't need sensitivity training.

***

One week into spring training, fans have almost no choice but to pick a side in the bipolar hierarchy of the Phillies. Has there ever been a team's front office and manager with such divergent approaches to speaking in public?

At the top of the organization are two double-talkers named president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak. Both of them show no urgency to win, despite six straight seasons of failure. MacPhail and Klentak both held news conferences last week, for no apparent reason.

MacPhail, who pokes his head out every February just like the groundhog, actually gushed about a special room he set aside for meetings before every series. Who needs free agents when you have a room where the coaches and players can get together? As for the rest of his gibberish, there's no timetable for success. Of course.

Klentak may be even better at saying nothing than his boss. He was actually a bit more optimistic about the prospects for the team in his third season controlling personnel, but not so much so that he is raising expectations. The Phillies will use some of their financial heft only when the time is right - as if he would know when that is.

On the other side of the madness is Gabe Kapler, a new manager whose every utterance is headline material. This new-age advocate is nothing if not unpredictable, and he works his verbal magic with no timidity. Apparently, he has no desire to emulate the blasé style of MacPhail and Klentak.

Last week, just before pitchers and catchers reported, Kapler actually said: "Rather than having an alarm clock wake you up in the morning, get up when you get up."

When Latin broadcaster Ricky Ricardo heard that comment, he said, "We'll never see Maikel Franco before noon!"

Kapler's introduction to Philadelphia came at a remarkable time, just as the Eagles were captivating the city with an improbable run to win the Super Bowl. To his credit, he is using the Eagles' success to challenge his own disrespected team. If you listen to him long enough, you might actually believe a similar run by the Phils is possible.

Therefore, after a careful study of all of the voices, I hereby declare that I'm on Team Kapler. I have no idea if any of his outlandish ideas will work, but I know he'll make the journey a lot more fun than the two dullards who hired him.

By the way, if my column is late next week, don't blame me. I'm done with alarm clocks.

And finally ...

     • Doug Pederson needs an offensive coordinator. With Frank Reich taking over as head coach in Indianapolis, Pederson is hedging on whether he will fill the vacant position, and I know why. The Eagles head coach doesn't want to slight either of the top two candidates, Duce Staley or Mike Groh. Well, I have a solution. Name Staley the coordinator and Groh the assistant head coach. They both get big salary bumps, and the respect they deserve. See, that wasn't so hard.

     • There are some people I'm still waiting to hear from after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. First is Chip Kelly, the UCLA coach who botched his chance here. Second is Andy Reid, who couldn't do in 19 years what Doug Pederson did in two. And third is Cris Collinsworth, the NBC analyst who still hasn't explained why he wanted so badly for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Stay tuned. They can't hide forever.

     • If we're going to skewer all of the so-called experts who got the Eagles so wrong this season, we must also honor the one man who saw the championship coming. Two months ago, NBC studio analyst Tony Dungy said the Eagles would make it to the Super Bowl despite the injury to Carson Wentz, and then, when they got there, he predicted the Birds would beat the Patriots. Dungy called the Eagles "a team of destiny" before they started the playoffs. Kudos to him.

     • The best story of the week went completely under the radar. Former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has finished paying back the $17 million that he owed when he declared bankruptcy 10 years ago after his imprisonment for animal cruelty. Every day, the public is fed phony stories about fallen sports heroes who have genuinely changed their lives. Vick actually did it. Kudos to him, too.

     • In case you're worried that Dallas could accomplish the same thing next season that the Eagles just did, rest easy. As long as owner Jerry Jones is in power, the Cowboys are doomed. Last week, he reflected on his decision two years ago to sign Kellen Moore over Nick Foles as a backup quarterback. "I'm very proud of that decision," he said. Foles is the Super Bowl MVP. Moore is a scrub. And Jones is proud of the decision. Life is good, isn't it?

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