Counting down the 10 best backup QBs in Eagles history


Backup quarterbacks have played a huge role in Eagles history. Four Eagles quarterbacks have won at least one playoff game over the past quarter century, and three of the four began that season as a backup.

In fact, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham are the only Eagles QBs in the last 40 years to begin a season as opening-day quarterback and win a playoff game that same year.

The Eagles’ backup quarterbacks have ranged from dismal (Mike McMahon, Vince Young, Pat Ryan) to spectacular (You know who).

With veteran Joe Flacco becoming the Eagles’ latest No. 2 this week, we thought it would be fun to rank the top 10 individual seasons in Eagles history by a backup quarterback.

The only rule is that they weren’t the opening-day starter that year (or the de facto starter, like Carson Wentz in 2018).

Let’s take a look!

1A. Nick Foles, 2017

By now, Foles’ performance in 2017 is part of Philadelphia folklore. He replaced injured Wentz in a Week 14 against the Rams and went on to a historic postseason, playing flawlessly in wins over the Falcons, Vikings and Patriots and earning Super Bowl MVP honors. Before Wentz got hurt, Foles had thrown only four passes all year.

1B. Nick Foles, 2013

Michael Vick began the 2013 season as the Eagles’ starter, but when he pulled a hamstring in a Week 5 game against the Giants, Foles replaced him and proceeded to go 8-2 as a starter with 27 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a 119.2 passer rating – to this day the 4th-highest in NFL history. On a historic afternoon in Oakland, he tied the NFL record with 7 touchdown passes in a 49-20 win over the Raiders. And he completed 70 percent of his passes and threw two TDs and no INTs in a playoff loss to the Saints.

2. Jeff Garcia, 2006

When Donovan McNabb tore his right ACL early in an ugly Week 10 loss to the Titans at the Linc, Jeff Garcia replaced him. And although the Eagles lost Garcia’s first start, getting blown away 45-21 to the Colts in Indy, they won their next five games, and the 36-year-old former three-time Pro Bowler with the 49ers was brilliant during that run. He threw 12 TDs and just 2 INTs after replacing McNabb and led the Eagles past the Giants in a wild-card game and played well in a playoff loss at New Orleans.

3. Michael Vick, 2010

Kevin Kolb became the Eagles’ starter when Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington, but he suffered a concussion against the Packers on opening day and was replaced by Vick, who played so well Andy Reid had no choice but to name him the permanent starter (although Kolb played well later in the season when Vick got hurt). Vick threw a career-high 21 TDs with just 6 INTs and had career-bests with 63 percent completion percentage and a 100.2 passer rating. He also ran for nearly 700 yards and nine more TDs and went 8-3 in 11 starts. He took the Eagles to the playoffs and made his first Pro Bowl in five years.

4. Rodney Peete, 1995

Peete had a 21-26 career record with the Lions before joining the Eagles in 1995, but when Randall Cunningham got benched a month into the season with the Eagles 1-3, Peete took over and went 9-3, the most wins of his 16-year career and the most wins ever by an Eagles backup QB. In the performance of a lifetime, Peete went 17-for-25 for 270 yards with 3 TDs, no INTs and a 143.3 passer rating as the Eagles beat the Lions 58-37 in a wild-card game at the Vet.  It’s Peete and not Foles who holds the Eagles’ record for highest passer rating in a playoff game.

5. Jim McMahon, 1991

Cunningham’s torn ACL at Lambeau on opening day gave McMahon his most significant playing time since the 1985 Super Bowl season with the Bears. Although McMahon was in and out of the lineup with injuries, forcing the Eagles to use Brad Goebel, Pat Ryan and Jeff Kemp at different points, McMahon did manage to start 11 games and went 8-3, including a late-season six-game winning streak.

6. Ty Detmer, 1996

The Eagles signed Detmer before the 1996 season after he had backed up Brett Favre for a few years. When Peete suffered a season-ending knee injury during a week 5 game against the Cowboys at the Vet, Detmer took over. He won his first four starts – the first starts of his career - and went 7-4, leading the Eagles to the playoffs. Detmer went 4-11 the rest of his career with four different teams.

7. A.J. Feeley, 2002

Feeley was the Eagles’ 3rd-string QB in 2002 – he had even gotten cut earlier in the season. But when both Donovan McNabb (broken ankle) and Ty Detmer (elbow) got hurt, Feeley became the unlikely starter for five weeks down the stretch. All he did was go 4-1 and get the Eagles to 12-4 and the NFC East title with a 1st-round bye. McNabb came back in time for the playoffs and took the Eagles to their second of four straight NFC Championship Games. Feeley played nine more seasons and won four more games.

8. Mark Sanchez, 2014

When Foles broke his collarbone during a game against the Texans, Chip Kelly turned to the former Jet, who went 4-4 with a career-best 88.4 passer rating in eight starts. Sanchez threw for 269 yards per game and completed a career-best 64 percent of his passes. Sanchez played four more seasons with four teams but never won another game.

9. Bubby Brister, 1993

After Randall Cunningham broke his leg in a Week 4 game against the Jets – we all remember Eric Allen handing Cunningham the ball after his 94-yard INT return off Boomer Esiason – Bubby Brister replaced him and threw two TDs in his Eagles debut. Brister wound up starting eight games in 1993— he missed a few with an injury of his own — and played well, with 14 TDs and just 5 INTs. Brister’s 1993 INT ratio – one every 62 attempts – was a franchise record until McNabb broke it in 2002. To this day, Brister’s overall INT ratio with the Eagles — one every 64 attempts — is best in Eagles history.

10. Jalen Hurts, 2020

Hurts replaced Wentz at halftime of the Eagles’ Week 13 loss at Lambeau and had some very good moments as a 22-year-old rookie. In the three full games he played, he piled up 847 passing yards and 238 rushing yards. That’s the 4th-most passing yards ever by a rookie QB in his first three starts, the 2nd-most rushing yards and the 2nd-most total yards (behind Cam Newton). He became only the 7th rookie QB ever to average at least 7 yards per pass attempt and 5 yards per rushing attempt.

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