Willes’ Musings: Old kid in town takes Eagles on a long run

 

 
 
 
 
Head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate their team's 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Penn.
 
 

Head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate their team's 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Penn.

Photograph by: Rob Carr, The Province

Saturday night in Edmonton, Sunday night in Winnipeg … after a weekend in the fast lane, we return to earth with the musings and meditations on the world of sports:

Of all the bits of statistical ephemera to emerge from Sunday’s NFC Championship game, here’s my favourite:

There are now two quarterbacks in NFL history who’ve completed 75 per cent of their passes in back-to-back playoff games: Joe Montana and Nick Foles.

The Eagles’ quarterback, of course, emerged as something of a folk hero following his 352-yard, three-touchdown performance-for-the-ages against the Vikings, but to dismiss him as an out-of-nowhere oddity misses the point.

In his career Foles has been a good quarterback. He just hasn’t been a very good quarterback recently. In 2012 and 2013, he twice wrestled the starter’s job in Philly away from Michael Vick and in 2013 he made the Pro Bowl after throwing 27 touchdowns against two interceptions. He recorded the third-highest quarterback rating in NFL history that season.

But he slid in 2014 before being traded to the Rams for Sam Bradford, starting a four-teams-in-four-seasons odyssey that typecast him as a backup.

This year he re-signed with Philly and took over the starter’s job when Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury in Week 14.

You know what’s happened since.

The stage is now set for a classic David versus Goliath showdown in The Big Game, the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady versus the unlikely Foles. That storyline will make this year’s Super Bowl appointment viewing. Virtually every football fan outside of New England will be pulling for the underdog in this one.

You hope the Foles story plays out. You hope the 29-year-old journeyman steps to centre stage and delivers another epic performance. Super Bowl history suggests that’s unlikely, that your Rex Grossman-, David Woodley-, Stan Humphries-types are exposed when the world is watching.

Don’t know if Foles will be any different. Do know I’ll be watching to find out.

Speaking of which, it’s difficult to root for the Patriots of Bill Belichick and Brady but, geez Louise, they are remarkable.

The comeback win over the Jaguars Sunday was just another entry in a story that’s been going on for the past 16 years, when the Pats won their first Super Bowl in New Orleans — the story of the best coach and the best player in NFL history.

You don’t have to like it but you do have to admire it.

It’s one thing to be bad. It’s another thing to be bad and boring, and that’s the unfortunate — and familiar — place in which the Vancouver Canucks now find themselves.

The Canucks’ season, as everyone knows, went south when Bo Horvat went down Dec. 5. But in addition to going 4-13-2 since Horvat’s foot injury, they’ve barely averaged two goals a game over those 19 games.

Sunday in Winnipeg, they also had their full lineup intact for the first time since losing their No. 1 centre, and they were still shut out.

OK, nobody expected the team to flip a switch and get back to where they were before the bodies started piling up. But, somehow, some way, the Canucks have to demonstrate they can play creative, entertaining hockey.

This market can’t stand another 2½ months of 3-1 losses. They’ve endured enough over the last two-plus seasons. They need a sign that things will get better.

And yet, the Canucks still seem to have a problem with their messaging. Michael Del Zotto stays in the lineup but Ben Hutton is scratched. GM Jim Benning talks about extending Thomas Vanek. These are not signs things are getting better.

Question: What is the new .500 in the NHL? As of this writing, there are just eight teams in the 31-team league that have lost more games than they’ve won.

Gary Bettman loves the parity. And he’s got it now.

Interesting to watch the Flyers honour Eric Lindros last week. In my time covering the NHL, Lindros remains one of the two or three most fascinating characters to come into the league.

Coming out of junior, Lindros was more hyped than Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, a larger-than-life figure before he played a game. At times he was the NHL’s best player. At others, he was a bitterly divisive figure who tore the Flyers apart.

In the end, injuries robbed him of his power but, at his best, he was a force unlike any the game has seen. He’s 44 now and starting to show some grey. It was nice to see him make peace with the Flyers and the Flyers make peace with Lindros.

And finally, the great Red Fisher died over the weekend at age 91 and with him something died with the game. Fisher started covering hockey for the Montreal Star in 1955. His first assignment on the Habs’ beat was The Richard Riot.

Over the years, he would cover the game’s immortals and the game’s great characters and he did it in a true, clear voice that represents the best of our business. In 1991 he won his second of three National Newspaper Awards for a piece on visiting former Habs coach Toe Blake, who was in the grip of Alzheimer’s.

That piece belongs in any collection of Canadian literature.

“Toe — who always wore a fedora during his years behind the bench — reached for the brown one (ex-Canadien Floyd) Curry had left on the table. In his left hand, he held what was left of the plate of cookies. With the other, he pulled the fedora toward him. Then he ran his fingers over it — lovingly almost. Then again and again.”

Red was a mentor and standard-bearer for all of us. But it was the stories he told that set him apart, and I wonder where those stories are in today’s game?

In his time, he had an opportunity to build relationships, to know those people he wrote about. That created a depth to his work that you can’t find in two-minute scrums or the group interviews that are the stock-in-trade of today’s NHL.

It also created the stories that are a part of the game’s history, part of the connective tissue that reaches over the years and ties everyone in hockey together. Those stories enrich the game and that was Red’s greatest gift to the game he loved.

I hope the people in today’s game understand how important those stories are and the need to tell them.

ewilles@postmedia.com

twitter.com/willesonsports

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Head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate their team's 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Penn.
 

Head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate their team's 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Penn.

Photograph by: Rob Carr, The Province

 
Head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate their team's 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Penn.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hands off to Jay Ajayi (36) during the second half of the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018.
Andrew Copp of the Winnipeg Jets plays the puck away from Markus Granlund.
Eric Lindros poses for a photo before having his number retired by the Flyers.
Red Fisher poses for a photograph next to two photos from Moscow in 1972, top left and photo underneath, in his memorabilia room at his home in Côte-St-Luc in Montreal in August 2012. In the top photo, Fisher, right, is seated next to an unknown woman in a Moscow métro car in 1972. Underneath, Fisher poses in front of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow in 1972.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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