Not so fast, Jalen Hurts fans.
Those ready to crown the second-year quarterback as the Eagles’ starter will have to wait a little longer after coach Nick Sirianni declined to name Hurts his QB1 during a predraft news conference on Wednesday.
By granting Carson Wentz’s trade request to Indianapolis earlier this offseason, and trading back in next week’s draft, the Eagles have seemingly doubled down on Hurts as the guy next season. But Sirianni said he’ll have to compete for the job.
“To name any starters at this particular time, I mean, we’ve been working with these guys for two days,” Sirianni said. “My biggest thing is competition, OK? We’ve talked a little bit about core values. It’s my second core value. It’s this team’s second core value. Competition is a huge thing, and we’re going to have competition at every position.”
Hurts, 22, showed some promise during his rookie season, starting four games at the end of the season after Wentz was benched. He still has strides to make as a passer in terms of accuracy and finding receivers in the middle of the field. But his speed and arm strength were apparent.
He completed just 52% of his passes, threw six touchdowns and four interceptions, and ran for 354 yards and three more touchdowns. According to an ESPN report from earlier this offseason, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie instructed the front office to build around Hurts for next season.
The Eagles will have to add at least one more quarterback to the roster between now and the start of training camp. Unless the team uses one of its early draft picks at the position, Hurts’ stiffest competition for the starting job will be 36-year-old Joe Flacco, who signed a one-year deal with the team earlier this month presumably as a backup.
Flacco, from Audubon, N.J., spent the majority of the last season as Sam Darnold’s backup on the New York Jets. But he said he expects to challenge Hurts for the job during his introductory news conference last month.
“Right now, I’m here to play, to play a part in the role of a 53-man roster that wants to win a lot of football games,” Flacco said on March 25. “Obviously, I’m a competitor … and being a competitor brings out the best in a room anyway, and brings out the best in a football team. So that’s really the conversation that we’ve had at this point.”
There’s a chance Flacco gets his wish, or the team could use its first-round pick on a quarterback. But it’s also possible Sirianni is engaging in coach-speak, preaching the importance of earning a job and competing at all times. In each of Sirianni’s news conferences since being hired in January, he’s emphasized the importance of competition, something general manager Howie Roseman echoed when asked about Hurts last month.
Still, both Roseman and Sirianni are developing a track record of praising Hurts while also stopping short of giving him an outright vote of confidence as next season’s starter.
“I think Coach has said since the day he’s been here to all of us, and I’m sure to all of you, that one of his core values is competition,” Roseman said. “The only way you get better is by competing. That’s by surrounding your team with talent at all positions, and the best players play.”