One of the lasting images of Sunday night's NFC Championship victory will be when the camera flashed to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz on the sideline during the early part of the fourth quarter of a dominant win over the Minnesota Vikings. Wentz didn't look unsure of what emotion to exhibit as Nick Foles was in the midst of a career-defining performance - he simply shrugged his shoulders and flashed a big smile.
After Wentz tore his ACL in the Eagles Week 14 win over the Los Angeles Rams, no one could have blamed Wentz if he elected to just lay low for the rest of the season. In the midst of an MVP caliber season, one where it appeared his team was becoming the favorite to be the NFC's representative in the Super Bowl - Wentz suffered a season-ending injury. On top of that, he had surgery later that week to repair his torn ACL, while also correcting damage that was done to his IT band and meniscus. Ask anyone who has ever had a procedure done to any of those three areas how much of your day you have to spend to do the subsequent recovery. Ask them how many times they wake up in the night because their knee hurts too much to sleep. It probably wouldn't have even been viewed as selfish if Wentz largely disappeared from the team's day-to-day operations for the rest of the season to focus on rehab after an extensive surgery.
Instead, he appears to have struck the perfect balance between assisting his replacement and allowing Foles to take the lead in the quarterback's room. Foles told FOX's Chris Myers just as much, which Myers relayed during Sunday's telecast.
Certainly, a variety of factors have contributed to Foles' success over the past two weeks. But it's probably not a coincidence that Foles, who played miserably for the final five quarters he played in during the regular season, has caught fire over the past two weeks, Wentz's first two games back on the sideline. He's stayed active on social media since his injury, praising Foles and many of his other teammates. You get the sense that he's genuinely as excited for the Eagles to play in the Super Bowl as he would have been if he was still healthy, which is remarkable.
The role that Wentz has played despite being out for the season and in the midst of recovery from a major knee surgery is commendable. Many of us would struggle to root for our replacement to lead the franchise that we are the face of to a Super Bowl in our absence. (Heck, there was a small portion of fans that wondered a few weeks ago if winning a Super Bowl with Foles wouldn't leave them, as a fan, with an awkward feeling.) Wentz has decided to play a major role in helping his backup succeed in his absence. Some will attribute this to Wentz simply being a class act and a great teammate, and they would be correct, but only to a degree. Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks are among other veterans who have remained involved with the team, which is a testament to the culture that Doug Pederson has built inside the Novacare Complex. But they've been able to do it in the background, as opposed to Wentz, who the camera pans to 10 times a game.
As crazy as this sounds, Wentz's time out may prove to simply be a blip on the radar. Whether the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 or not, there will eventually be an expiration date on the duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. With the help of Pederson, who has been one of the five best coaches in the NFL this season, the Eagles may very well become this generation's dominant team. It's hard to imagine anyone becoming as accomplished as Brady, but Wentz has a chance to build an excellent legacy of his own. Somehow, he's turned a season-ending ACL tear into a positive part of that legacy, and that may help bring Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title.