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Foles in good company as Eagles’ backup QB

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Ear Morrall's 1972 Miami Dolphins Topps football card.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz was having a spectacular year in his second season as the Eagles’ signal-caller. A torn ACL ended his season in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams. Wentz was diving into the end zone late in the third quarter when he tore the knee. Up to that point in the 2017 season, Wentz had led Philly to an 11-2 record by completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,296 yards with 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

He had been considered the front-runner for the NFL’s MVP honor.

Enter Nick Foles, a six-year veteran who was in his second go-round with the Eagles. He engineered a couple of field goal drives to help Philadelphia to a 43-35 victory over the Rams.

The Eagles at 11-2 were sitting pretty atop the NFC East—four games clear of the Dallas Cowboys. Foles and the Eagles won four of their next five games to represent the NFC in Sunday’s Super Bowl against New England.

Foles is in good company as he’s the 14th substitute quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl.

The most successful backup was Earl Morrall, who was the first understudy to guide his team to a Super Bowl. He took over for the legendary Johnny Unitas, who injured his arm during the preseason in 1968. Baltimore lost only one game in ’68, but the Colts lost to the New York Jets, 16-7, in Super Bowl III.

Two years later, Unitas was sidelined with bruised ribs in the second quarter of Super Bowl V. Morrall came off the bench and engineered the Colts to a 16-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

He completed 7 of 155 passing for 147 yards.

In 1972, Morrall signed with the Dolphins, and he rejoined his former Colts coach Don Shula in Miami. Morrall was backup to Bob Griese, but Griese went down with a broken leg in the fifth game of the ’72 season. Morrall led the Dolphins to 10 straight wins, but Morrall struggled in a 20-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Divisional Playoffs and the AFC Championship against Pittsburgh the following week. Griese’s leg had healed, and Shula substituted him at quarterback in the second half. Miami beat Pittsburgh and then defeated Washington in Super Bowl VII.

Still, Earl Morrall was part of the last undefeated NFL team as the Dolphins finished 1972 with a 17-0 mark.

Craig Morton and Roger Staubach battled for the starting job at Dallas in 1970. Coach Tom Landry gave the nod to Staubach, but Morton took the job in Week 3 of the season, and the Cowboys won 10 of their next 14 games en route to Super Bowl V. Morton threw three interceptions in a 16-13 loss. The following year, Morton started the first five games but was benched in favor of Staubach for the sixth game of the year. Roger the Dodger led Dallas to 10 wins in the next 11 games including a victory over Miami in Super Bowl VI. Staubach earned the MVP in the game.

Terry Bradshaw was a veteran of 44 starts in his first four seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1974, coach Chuck Noll had stated the quarterback position was “wide open.” Joe Gilliam got the nod and led Pittsburgh to a 4-1- 1 record but Noll benched him for defying orders, and Bradshaw reclaimed his starting role in the seventh week. Bradshaw and the Steelers won their next two games, but Bradshaw struggled in a loss to Cincinnati in Week 9.

Noll turned to Terry Hanratty this time, but he completed only 2 of 15 for 63 yards and three interceptions. Pittsburgh beat Cleveland with a strong ground game (233 yards), and Bradshaw got his job back the next week and led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory. Bradshaw led Pittsburgh to three more Super Bowl titles and got the MVP for his performances in Super Bowls XII and XIV.

Vince Ferragamo was the losing quarterback in Super Bowl XIV. The Los Angeles Rams quarterback got the nod after Pat Haden broke his pinky finger in Week 10 and Jeff Rutledge was unimpressive the following week. Ferragamo led the Rams to a win over Atlanta and all the way to the Super Bowl, although he completed just 48 percent of his passes and threw 10 interceptions to only five touchdowns. The Rams held a 19-17 lead through three quarters of the Super Bowl, but two Pittsburgh touchdowns dropped L.A., 31-19.

Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy in 1970 and was the No. 1 pick by New England in the 1971 NFL Draft. He floundered during his first seven years in the pros (five with the Patriots and two with the 49ers). Plunkett didn’t get much playing time during his first two years for the Oakland Raiders. He got a chance to start after Dan Pastorini broke his leg in the fourth week of the 1980 season.

Plunkett threw five picks in a loss to Kansas City, but lack of experience to other Oakland quarterbacks kept Plunkett at the forefront. The Raiders lost only two more games the rest of the way and defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV. Plunkett was named the game’s MVP by throwing for 261 yards and 3 TDs.

Doug Williams didn’t make any waves during his four years at Tampa Bay, but in 1984, he led the now-defunct USFL in passing with the Oklahoma Outlaws. After the USFL shut down, Williams signed with the Washington Redskins as a backup to Jay Schroeder. Williams came off the bench a couple of times after Schroeder was injured early in the 1987 season.

Williams replaced a struggling a Schroeder and the former threw for 271 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He got the starting spot in the playoffs and guided the Skins to Super Bowl XXII and a 42-10 win over Denver. Williams, the game’s MVP, threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns (all in the second quarter).

Jeff Hostetler seldom saw action as a substitute during his first seven years with the New York Giants. Phil Simms was an All-Pro quarterback in 1988 and led the Giants to an 11-2 mark before he broke his foot in a loss to Buffalo in Week 15. Hostetler won the last two regular- season games then led the Giants to playoff victories over the Bears and 49ers before the classic thriller (20-19 win) in the Super Bowl over the Bills. Hostetler went 20-for- 32 for 222 yards and a TD in the Super Bowl.

Kurt Warner was a star his senior year a Northern Iowa and earned the Offensive Player of the year in the Gateway Conference. He went undrafted in the 1994 NFL Draft. He tried out for the Green Bay Packers in 1994 but was released before the season began. Warner went to work bagging and stocking groceries for a store in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Warner signed to play quarterback for the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League.

After three successful seasons in the AFL, he then played one year for Amsterdam in NFL Europe. In 1999, he was a backup to Trent Green for the St. Louis Rams, but Green suffered a knee injury in preseason. Warner took over at quarterback and led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV and a victory over Tennessee. Warner was named MVP of the 1999 NFL season and the Super Bowl.

Trent Dilfer, of Fresno State University, was Tampa Bay’s No. 1 pick in the 1994 Draft and made the Pro Bowl in 1997, but he threw 70 touchdowns and 80 interceptions in is six years with the Buccaneers. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and became backup to Tony Banks. The Ravens were 5-3 when Banks got benched after he turned the ball over 13 times.

Dilfer didn’t exactly light it up either (12 TDs, 11 INTs) but it was the Ravens’ great defense that got them to the Super Bowl, and Baltimore overwhelmed the Giants, 34-7.

The New England Patriots selected Michigan quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round (199th pick overall) of the 2000 Draft. Brady was the fourth-string quarterback through most of the 2000 season but had risen to second-string by the end of the year. He was the top backup to Drew Bledsoe in 2001, but Bledsoe suffered internal bleeding injuries after a blow by a New York Jets player in the second week of the season.

Brady steered the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI to meet the St. Louis Rams. Brady threw for 145 yards and a touchdown to earn the MVP honor in a 20-17 victory, which came on Adam

Vinatieri’s field goal with no time remaining.

Sunday will be New England’s eight Super Bowl appearance under Brady, who has won four MVP honors in leading New England to five world titles.

Brady and the Pats won their second world championship with a 32-29 victory over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers quarterback was Jake Delhomme, who had only two NFL starts with New Orleans in 1999. After a couple of years playing in NFL Europe, he signed as a free agent with the Panthers in 2003 but was Rodney Peete’s understudy. Peete was 4 of 19 for 19 yards in the season opener, and the Panthers trailed Jacksonville, 17-0, in the third quarter.

Delhomme came off the bench and tossed three touchdowns to lead Carolina to a 24-23 victory.

Delhomme got the nod the next week and led Carolina to the Super Bowl where he threw for 323 yards and 3 TDs.

Colin Kaepernick in his second year at San Francisco was behind Alex Smith in the depth chart through the first 10 weeks of the 2012 season. Kaepernick replaced Smith after the latter suffered a concussion in the first half against the Rams.

Smith was cleared to play in the next game, but 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick the rest of the season.

Kaepernick guided the Niners to Super Bowl XLVII, where they lost to Baltimore, 34-31. San Francisco trailed, 28-6, early in the third quarter but rallied behind Kaepernick, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another to trail, 31-29, midway through the fourth quarter.

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About the Author

Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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