The backup quarterback has always been the most popular player in Philadelphia — just ask Nick Foles how that turned out. Trading for Gardner Minshew shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone in the Delaware Valley, given the Philadelphia Eagles‘ history with the the No. 2 quarterback.
Philadelphia has typically covered its tracks with having a quarterback who can start and win games in case the QB1 goes down. Sonny Jurgensen backed up Norm Van Brocklin, Joe Pisarcik was the understudy to Ron Jaworski, and Jim McMahon and Bubby Brister backed up Randall Cunningham. All turned out to be valuable commodities for the Eagles, even if a “quarterback controversy” generated a life of its own outside the team’s locker room.
When Jeffrey Lurie bought the Eagles in 1994, the backup quarterback became a priority for each of the front offices that ensued — a tradition that remains to this day in the organization. The results have typically paid off for the franchise, even with the generated conversation the backup should supplant the starter (on some occasions this turned out to be the case).
The Eagles have a long list of backup quarterbacks that have galvanized the city under Lurie’s ownership. For better or worse, the No. 2 signal callers have made Eagles football entertaining.
Rodney Peete (1995)
- 1995 stats: 57.3%, 2,326 pass yards, 8 TD, 14 INT, 67.3 rating (12 starts)
When Ray Rhodes was tabbed as Lurie’s first head coaching hire in 1995, he brought in one of his guys to run the West Coast offense in Peete — who took over as the starting quarterback after four games for a struggling Randall Cunningham. Peete never relinquished the job as the Eagles went 9-3 in his 12 starts.
Peete led the Eagles to the playoffs, throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns in a wild card victory over the Detroit Lions. He was instrumental in Rhodes winning league coach of the year honors.
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Ty Detmer (1996)
- 1996 stats: 59.4%, 2,911 pass yards, 15 TD, 13 INT, 80.8 rating (11 starts)
The Eagles were wise to sign Detmer to back up Peete — the replacement for the retired Cunningham. A career backup with the Green Bay Packers, Detmer was familiar with Rhodes and offensive coordinator Jon Gruden from their time in Green Bay.
Wanting a chance to start, Detmer earned that opportunity when Peete ruptured a tendon in his right knee five games into the season and was lost for the year. Detmer injected life into the Eagles offense — which struggled under Peete — and led Philadelphia to the playoffs with a 7-4 record. Detmer won his first four starts with the Eagles before the team had to claw its way into the playoffs after losing three straight.
The Eagles were shut out in the wild card round by the San Francisco 49ers, but were fifth in the league in passing yards under Detmer.
Bobby Hoying (1997)
- 1997 stats: 56.9%, 1,573 pass yards, 11 TD, 6 INT, 83.8 rating (6 starts)
Hoying, a third-round pick in the 1996 draft, took hold of the quarterback job after both Detmer and Peete struggled. His highlight performance came in his third career start, throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-42 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Eagles lost their last three games of the year to finish 6-9-1, ending a disaster of a season after two consecutive playoff appearances. This was the beginning of the end of the Rhodes era.
Koy Detmer (1998)
- 1998 stats: 53.6%, 1,011 pass yards, 5 TD, 5 INT, 67.7 rating (5 starts)
The 1998 Eagles weren’t just a bad football team — they were the worst team (and offense) in the NFL. Philadelphia went through Hoying, Peete, Detmer — and ended up with the younger Detmer to finish up a dreadful year.
Koy started the last five games of the season, as the Eagles went 1-4 in his starts. The Eagles scored over 20 points just once the entire year.
Koy Detmer, A.J. Feeley (2002)
- 2002 stats (Detmer): 67.9%, 224 pass yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 115.8 rating (1 start)
- 2002 stats (Feeley): 56.9%, 1,011 pass yards, 6 TD, 5 INT, 75.4 rating (5 starts)
Donovan McNabb broke his leg and was out for the rest of the regular season as the Eagles were in the midst of a Super Bowl run — and going for home-field advantage in the NFC. Detmer — the backup QB for several years — completed 69.2% of his passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns on “Monday Night Football” before dislocating his elbow in the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers — a game which the Eagles were blowing out the NFC West leaders.
Feeley relieved Detmer the rest of the year and led the Eagles to the top seed in the conference. A game manager the rest of the way, Philadelphia went 4-1 in Feeley’s starts. He threw for multiple touchdowns in back-to-back starts as Philadelphia averaged 21 points per game in Feeley’s starts.
Mike McMahon (2005)
- 2005 stats: 45.4%, 1,158 pass yards, 5 TD, 8 INT, 55.2 rating (7 starts)
Sports hernia surgery in November ended McNabb’s season, leaving the team to close out a disappointing 2005 campaign — one year after they reached the Super Bowl — with McMahon. He started the final seven games and was under 100 yards in three of those contests. McMahon never completed over 54% of his passes in any of his starts.
Jeff Garcia (2006)
- 2006 stats: 61.7%, 1,309 pass yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 95.8 rating (6 starts)
Another season-ending injury doomed McNabb (torn ACL), which left Garcia to bring the Eagles back from a 5-6 record to the NFC East title. The Eagles went 5-0 in their final five games, three were consecutive games on the road against NFC East opponents.
The 36-year-old Garcia led the Eagles to a wild card playoff victory over the New York Giants and almost upset the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional round. Garcia threw for 238 yards and a touchdown, alos running for a touchdown in a 23-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas — a present Eagles fans will never forget.
A.J. Feeley (2007)
- 2007 stats: 57.9%, 681 pass yards, 5 TD, 8 INT, 61.2 rating (2 starts)
The second coming of Feeley wasn’t as popular as the first one. Filling in for an injured McNabb, the Eagles lost both of Feeley’s starts and were eliminated from playoff contention. Feeley almost upset the undefeated New England Patriots before a late fourth quarter interception ended the attempt. He followed tat performance by throwing four interceptions the following week against the Seattle Seahawks.
He threw seven interceptions in two starts.
- 2009 stats: 64.6%, 741 pass yards, 4 TD, 3 INT, 88.9 rating (2 starts)
McNabb had to miss a few games with a rib injury, leaving the 2007 second-round pick to start a few games. Kolb didn’t disappoint, as the Eagles went 1-1 in his two starts. Kolb threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in both of those games.
These starts helped the Eagles package Kolb for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick two years later.
Michael Vick (2010)
- 2010 stats: 62.6%, 13,018 pass yards, 21 TD, 6 INT, 100.2 rating (12 starts)
Eagles head coach Andy Reid named Vick the starting quarterback just one week after the former No. 1 overall pick relieved Kolb (concussion) — and put up a MVP caliber campaign.
Vick’s highlight game was the “Monday Night Football” performance against Washington, where he threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a 59-28 thrashing of the Football Team. The Eagles went 8-4 in Vick’s 12 starts as he led Philadelphia to the NFC East title, finishing second in the league MVP voting.
Vick also ran for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. The 2010 season was the best of Vick’s career — just one year after being released from prison (involvement in dog fighting).
Nick Foles (2013)
- 2013 stats: 64.0%, 2,891 pass yards, 27 TD, 2 INT, 119.2 rating (10 starts)
An injury to Vick opened the door for Foles to perform his magic in Philadelphia for the first time. Foles was incredible filling in for Vick, as the Eagles went 8-2 in his 10 starts en route to the NFC East title. Foles tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game — having seven by the third quarter — in a 49-20 win over the Oakland Raiders. He had a passer rating over 120 in four of his starts, including the NFC East clinching game over the Cowboys on the road. Foles was selected to the Pro Bowl and won the game’s MVP honors.
The Eagles fell to the Saints in the wild card round, but Foles left the game with the lead with just over five minutes remaining. The legend was born.
- 2014 stats: 64.1%, 2,418 pass yards, 14 TD, 11 INT, 88.4 rating (8 starts)
A broken collarbone left Foles out for the season, leaving Sanchez — who the Eagles signed in the offseason — to help Philadelphia get to the playoffs. The Eagles went just 4-4 in Sanchez’s eight starts, led by inconsistent play from the former first-round pick.
Sanchez threw for multiple interceptions in three of his eight starts, and had another multi-pick game in the contest he had to relieve Foles. He also threw for over 300 yards in four starts, but the costly turnovers in the second half of games had the Eagles finishing 10-6 and out of the playoffs.
If Philadelphia makes the postseason in 2014, perhaps the Sanchez chapter in Eagles history is different.
Mark Sanchez (2015)
- 2015 stats: 64.8%, 616 pass yards, 4 TD, 4 INT, 80.7 rating (2 starts)
Sam Bradford suffered a concussion and separated shoulder, causing him to miss two games. Sanchez had the opportunity to keep the Eagles in the NFC East race and claim the starting job for the struggling Bradford, but the Eagles were blown out in both his starts.
Sanchez threw for three interceptions in a 45-17 blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then Philadelphia’s defense allowed three touchdowns to Calvin Johnson in a 45-14 blowout loss five days later on Thanksgiving. The Sanchez era was over shortly after that. Kelly was fired with one game left in the season.
Nick Foles (2017)
- 2017 stats: 56.4%, 537 pass yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 79.5 rating (3 starts)
Eagles fans know how this return of Foles turned out. Carson Wentz led the Eagles to a 10-2 start and the best record in the NFC before suffering a torn ACL and LCL to end his season. The Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes came down to Foles, and he delivered — going 2-0 in the games he started and finished to lead Philadelphia to home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
In the postseason, Foles completed 72.6% of his passes for 971 yards with six touchdowns to just one interception (115.7 passer rating). In the Super Bowl, Foles took home MVP honors after going 28-of-43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns, and a 106.1 passer rating. Foles became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl, winning Super Bowl MVP honors as Philadelphia snapped a 57-year championship drought.
A statue of Foles sits outside of Lincoln Financial Field.
Nick Foles (2018)
- 2018 stats: 72.3%, 1,413 pass yards, 7 TD, 4 INT, 96.0 rating (5 starts)
Foles started the season as Wentz recovered from his knee injury, going 1-1 in his two starts. He led the Eagles to the playoffs starting the final three games for Wentz (back), taking the team back to the postseason after the year appeared to be lost.
Foles completed 77% of his passes for 971 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions and a 108.9 rating in the final three games for the Eagles, leading them to a 3-0 record and a return trip to the NFC playoffs. The Eagles were 6-7 when Foles took over for Wentz, making the playoffs on the final day of the regular season with a shutout win over Washington.
In the wild card round, Foles led the Eagles to a game-winning touchdown drive over the Chicago Bears in the final minute — shocking the No. 1 defense in the NFL. Foles completed 60.6% of his passes for 467 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions for a 70.6 passer rating in two playoff games.
- 2020 stats: 52.0%, 1,061 pass yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 77.6 rating (4 starts)
The Eagles had no choice but to start their rookie second-round pick after Wentz struggled mightily in the first 12 games of the 2020 season. Hurts finished out the year for Wentz, and completed 51.9% of his passes for 919 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions for a 77.2 passer rating. He also had 46 carries for 272 yards and three touchdowns in those four starts as the Eagles went 1-3 in those contests.
Hurts is the first player in the NFL in the past 70 years to have 500-plus passing yards and 150-plus rushing yards in his first two career starts (since this was tracked starting in 1950). He already is tied for fourth in NFL history in games with 300-plus passing yards and 60-plus rushing yards — playing just four games.
The Eagles have Hurts as QB1 for 2021, but Philadelphia always looks to cover its tracks if things go south or Hurts suffers an injury. Hence why Minshew is in Philadelphia.