On Sunday night, at approximately 7:15 p.m. PST, an Earth-shattering event occurred. Tom Brady’s last-second Hail Mary pass hit the turf at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and for the first time in history, the Philadelphia Eagles became Super Bowl Champions.
Their immaculate season ended in the most improbable way imaginable: The Eagles pulled off a massive upset as their defense stopped Brady, a robot who just won his third NFL MVP award at age 40.
The newfound hero of Philadelphia, backup quarterback Nick Foles, threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, caught a pass for a touchdown on fourth and goal, and threw the game-winner to tight end Zach Ertz with less than five minutes remaining, on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP.
The story is a true fairy tale ending, and Foles emerged as a classic archetypal hero. Let’s take a look at all the ways he fills the role, and examine the path he took to winning it all in 2018.
The first similarity between nearly all classic heroes are the long, arduous journeys they must endure. Often, heroes undergo these journeys as a strenuous and painful rite of passage, and it leads to a more mature role in life.
Foles’ journey began six years ago during his first stint with the Eagles. After being drafted out of Arizona and playing his way into a starting role in 2012, he had a Pro Bowl season with Philly in 2013.
But it quickly went downhill for the quarterback, who experienced serious regression in 2014 and was traded to the St. Louis Rams the following season. For Foles, St. Louis represents the dark, terrible, underground place that many heroes must often visit on their journeys.
He played poorly from the start, and his struggles with the Rams only worsened with each game. Eventually, he was benched in favor of Case Keenum. The Rams drafted a new, younger quarterback, Jared Goff, in 2016, and Foles demanded his release, upset with the Rams decision to move on at quarterback with their move to Los Angeles.
It didn’t get any better that season, as Foles served as the backup quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs and rarely saw the field. The Chiefs declined his option after the season, and Foles was once again without a team.
At this point, Foles had hit an all-time low. It appeared unlikely that he would ever start for an NFL team again, and it wasn’t even guaranteed he would ever step onto the field another time.
However, Foles did what many archetypal heroes do, and returned home in his time of trouble. The Eagles signed him to a small contract at the beginning of the season, so that Foles could serve as the backup to wunderkind Carson Wentz.
Showing great maturity — undoubtedly learned during his journey — Foles fully embraced the role behind Wentz, and watched excitedly as the Eagles began to play incredible football in 2017. They started 10-1, and Wentz emerged as the clear MVP candidate in the NFL.
It appeared Foles was set to watch from the sidelines as Wentz made a run at history, but destiny intervened. In Week 14, as the Eagles took on Foles’ former team, the Rams, Wentz tore his ACL, knocking him out for the rest of the season.
All of a sudden, Foles was thrown into his final quest, and had the chance to lead Philadelphia to a Super Bowl.
Immediately, Foles faced intense scrutiny. Even though the Eagles were 11-2 when Wentz went down, they became the instant underdogs in the NFL with Foles under center. Experts and fans alike rightfully doubted him, and it was obvious the Eagles’ dream season was suddenly in great peril.
But the Philadelphia faithful embraced the new underdog mindset with passion never seen before. People around the city began to wear dog masks in homage to the hometown heroes and specifically to Foles, the new leader of their Eagles.
All of a sudden, the Eagles became the “Dogs.”
Foles represented this underdog mentality better than anyone. Left for dead, he came back to his original NFL home seeking redemption, and was improbably granted an incredible second chance.
He led the Eagles well throughout the rest of the regular season, and the team captured the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
And after a scrappy 15-10 win in the divisional round over Atlanta, Foles took center stage in the NFC Championship game. Coach Doug Pederson dialed up some deep shots, and Foles delivered, leading the Eagles to a 38-7 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings. He threw for over 350 yards, and gave Philly their first Super Bowl berth since the days of Donovan McNabb.
Yet, our hero still faced one massive challenge. The evil empire, the New England Patriots, loomed on the horizon. And Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, arguably the greatest coach-quarterback duo of all time, were waiting to take down Foles on the biggest stage.
However, as the game progressed Sunday night, it became clear that Foles was going to have his chance to make history.
The rejuvenated gunslinger spent the game throwing deep bombs, making tough throws on the run, and executing the run-pass option to perfection. Foles called the “Philly Special” play that led to his touchdown catch from tight end Trey Burton, which was arguably the most important play of the game — and of the season.
Aided by some seemingly supernatural help — Brady uncharacteristically fumbled on what could have been a game-winning drive — Nick Foles became a Super Bowl champion. Against all odds, he brought the city of Philadelphia a championship after a 52-year wait.
This improbable defeat of an evil force was the final accomplishment that cemented Foles’ status as a hero forever.
The future is unknown for Foles, as he likely will be playing for a new team next season when Wentz returns. Yet, for now, this hero can sit back, relax, enjoy this journey of a lifetime, and admire the legacy he has created.