A lot of people, both in the media and out of it, have been befuddled the last couple of months by Nick Sirianni’s reluctance to publicly commit to Jalen Hurts as the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
Hurts? He’s befuddled that you’re befuddled.
As a quarterback with just four hopeful but very inconsistent starts on his NFL resume, he completely understands why the Eagles’ first-year head coach hasn’t stood at the top of the Art Museum steps and anointed him the season-opening starter, even though the only other quarterback on the roster is 36-year-old Joe Flacco.
“I remember back at Alabama hearing coach [Nick] Saban talk about discipline, commitment, effort, toughness and pride,” Hurts said Wednesday. “Having these core values that he was trying to instill in the team.
“It’s been a lot the same with coach Sirianni. He’s come in and has been preaching commitment and accountability and competition and fundamentals and football IQ.
“For me, the rent is due every day. It’s always been that way for me. I’ve always had a get-better mentality every day. Grow every day. Be a better leader every day. Be a better quarterback every day. And when that rent is due, I don’t plan on missing any payments.”
Sirianni and the Eagles brass clearly anticipate Hurts being the season-opening starter against Atlanta on September 12. Is it a lock? No. But it’s a pretty safe bet.
The Eagles hope to use this season to find out whether Hurts has the right stuff to be their long-term answer at quarterback, or whether they need to find one next year in the draft or somewhere else.
“I’m not above anything as far as competition or football IQ or all the values we have,” Hurts said. “I’m not above any of that. So that’s kind of where that is.
“My intent doesn’t change. The mentality that I have, it doesn’t change. The urge and thirst for growth, and being a better leader and better quarterback, that doesn’t change.
“I want to impact the people around me the best way that I can. Be somebody that people see as an accountable person and accountable quarterback who goes out there and does his job.
“At the end of the day, you earn the respect of your teammates when you go out there and make plays and do your job. I just want to bring everybody together.”
The Eagles began the first of three weeks of offseason training Tuesday, a modified format worked out between Sirianni and a group of team leaders after the short-sighted NFLPA encouraged its players to stay at home this spring.
It will be a very different spring. This week includes meetings and on-field sessions focusing on fundamentals, schemes and strength and conditioning. There will be no 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 work, and there won’t be a mandatory minicamp next month like there was before the pandemic.
The setup doesn’t benefit a young quarterback like Hurts who is learning a new scheme and must do it without the 2,000 field reps that typically come during a normal NFL spring.
“I’m not going to get into the things we can’t do or the things that might hold us back,” Hurts said. “These are the cards we’ve been dealt. This is what we have to play with. I just want to turn these negative situations into positives.
“We want to maximize what we are doing. Work is work. You get out of it what you put in. We’re trying to put in a lot and just learn. We have all the players together with the coaches for the first time. That’s very valuable. It’s important to us.”
There are some huge positives for Hurts that should help him this season, including being reunited with his former Alabama teammate, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who was selected by the Eagles in the first round of the draft, and having a very familiar teacher in quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.
Hurts has known the 34-year-old Johnson since he was a tyke. Hurts’ father, Averion, was a coach at Baytown (Texas) Lee High School east of Houston where Johnson played quarterback before going on to become a record-breaking three-year starter at Utah.
“I grew up watching coach BJ play at Baytown Lee where my dad coached,” Hurts said. “I was a little preschooler, 4-5 years old, running around doing everything [the players] were doing.
“He’s always been there in terms of being around in my life. Being someone that I checked on or my dad checked on. He’s always had a presence in our family.
“When I was ready to go to college, he was trying to get me to go to Mississippi State [where Johnson was the offensive coordinator]. He always talked about getting an opportunity to coach me. Obviously, I didn’t go to Mississippi State or Florida [where Johnson was an assistant the last three years, including the Gators’ offensive coordinator last year].
“That didn’t happen. But he came here. I guess it was all meant to be. I know he’s excited, and I’m very excited. I want us to do something special together.”
Hurts also is excited to be reunited with Smith, who he played with at Alabama in 2017 when he was a sophomore and Smith was a freshman. The two talked about the possibility of playing together again before the Eagles selected him with the 10th overall pick late last month.
“The first thing I tell people about DeVonta is the competitor he is,” Hurts said. “He’s a stoic guy; kind of like me. But he’s self-driven. Bringing somebody in like that, I think it helps. Just the presence of him being here is going to help, let alone what he can do on the field.”
Hurts still remembers how committed Smith was to his craft when they were together in Tuscaloosa.
“I think of the late nights we had in college when there was nothing else to do and we’d go out and throw,” he said.
“Or when he was on his recruiting visit to Alabama. Usually guys want to go down to The Strip, which is what they call the main street in Tuscaloosa. Recruits want to go the The Strip or find a party or something like that.
“Well, his head wasn’t on that. He was trying to get work in late at night. It showed the mentality he had. And he’s bringing all that here.”
Hurts said the key to his improvement this season will be learning from the mistakes he made as a rookie. Avoiding becoming what he calls a “repeat offender.”
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Said Hurts: “When you look at how you grow, it’s about not making the same mistakes. Ultimately, you learn from your mistakes. It’s knowing what you want to improve on every day and just going out there and doing it. Striving to do it. Having true intent. You don’t want to be a repeat offender.
“We just want to grow. We have a lot of new faces on this team. Young players at different positions. And we just want to grow together.”