It takes a lot to get under the skin of longtime Eagles announcer Merrill Reese.
Reese was driving home after calling the Eagles’ 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers when WIP Eagles reporter Eliot Shorr-Parks called into the station’s postgame show and placed the bulk of the blame on Birds quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“The difference in this game was the fact that one quarterback was special and one wasn’t,” Shorr-Parks said. “Jalen Hurts completed 11 passes today. … There’s no question the biggest issue with this team right now is the passing game. They can’t do it.”
“There’s been zero games this season where you’ve left saying, ‘Okay, they passed the ball really well today.’ People don’t want to hear that,” Shorr-Parks added.
The focus on blaming Hurts when the Eagles defense didn’t even force the Chargers to punt and couldn’t get them off the field during the final six minutes of the game upset Reese so much he called longtime WIP morning show producer Joe Weachter to get the station’s phone number.
Not long after that, Reese — the voice of the Eagles — called in to unload on Shorr-Parks’ take.
“I almost broke a blood vessel listening to Elliot a few moments ago,” an upset Reese told WIP hosts Rob Ellis and Dan Klecko
While Hurts completed only 11 passes and struggled at times with accuracy, Reese pointed to the young quarterback’s solid play in the fourth quarter, where he drove the Eagles down the field and tied the game with a 28-yard touchdown strike to DeVonta Smith with 6:07 remaining. Hurts also ran for 62 yards, including a somersault to convert a critical third down on the Eagles’ final touchdown drive.
“To blame this game on Jalen Hurts is insane. Yes, he missed a couple of passes… but that kid is getting better and better,” Reese said. “They criticize him for not being accurate enough in the pocket, but he put that ball into some small windows to DeVonta Smith. He threw bull’s-eyes. Then to see the athleticism. … He did amazing things and then he takes the blame in the locker room. He has a great attitude, he’s a great leader. I think this kid has a very high ceiling that if you’re patient and you realize he’s only started 13 games, he’s going to be just fine.”
“In all respect, Elliott does a great job and he certainly knows what he’s doing and he works hard,” Reese added. “But you cannot blame this on Jalen Hurts.”
On Monday morning, Shorr-Parks called into the WIP’s popular morning show, where retiring host Angelo Cataldi agreed with most analysts that the bulk of the blame should be on the Eagles defense, which allowed a fifth quarterback this season to complete more than 80% of his passes in a game. For sake of comparison, they had previously only allowed an opposing quarterback to complete over 80% of his passes six times in the franchise’s 70-year history, according to ESPN.
“How could the passing game be a problem if the defense could not get off the field with the game at stake? Are you just saying this stuff to get a reaction?” Cataldi said to Shorr-Parks.
“I agree with you that the defense was bad. I’m not defending the defense,” Shorr-Parks responded. “What I’m saying though is the team is losing because of the passing game. And yesterday, the passing game was just as bad, if not worse, than the defense.”
“They ran for over 170 yards, give me a break,” Cataldi shot back before playing a clip of NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst Ray Didinger calling out defense coordinator Jonathan Gannon for apparently not looking at game film of the Chargers’ losses to the Ravens and Patriots.
“Where Baltimore had success and beat them, and where the Patriots had success and beat them, was when the ball was snapped, they changed into another defense,” Didinger said Sunday night following the game. “So they took that pre-snap determination and flipped it at the snap of the ball, and Herbert wound up holding the ball trying to figure out where to go with it.”
“The Eagles didn’t do that,” Didinger continued. “And it bothers me that this coaching staff had all of that tape for the last two weeks on how teams shut this offense down, and they didn’t adjust to it.”
Shorr-Parks called Didinger’s point “compelling,” but continued to place the blame for the Eagles’ loss on Hurts’ shoulders.
“The last six minutes the Eagles offense that he’s blaming never got near the field,” Cataldi said. “Give me a break.”