Jalen Hurts would need to develop into a bona fide starting NFL quarterback to at least justify the Eagles drafting him in April. Even if that were to occur, the people responsible for the selection shouldn’t be around if he is to become one in Philadelphia.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie can’t fire himself, but he needs to be honest with himself about his role in the Eagles’ recent mistakes in the draft. He needs to frankly assess the job general manager Howie Roseman has done, obviously in relation to the larger picture, but specifically to the Hurts pick.
There’s little to defend. It has discernibly affected Carson Wentz. How else to explain one of the greatest regressions in NFL history? All it took was 12 games for Wentz to be benched. A strong argument can be made that it should have come sooner.
Hurts gave the offense a little jolt against the Packers Sunday. But he’s still far from a finished product, and ultimately, couldn’t rally the Eagles from a 23-3 deficit. The 30-16 loss in Green Bay will be but a footnote when many look back upon the game.
What happens henceforth isn’t yet clear. Coach Doug Pederson said that he’s yet to decide who will start at quarterback next week against the New Orleans Saints.
“You got to let me get through this game,” Pederson said. “We needed a spark in this game to try and get some things going. I’ve got to get through injuries. I got to get through the tape. There’s a lot of things I’m going to consider.”
If only Lurie and Roseman had spent as much time considering the ways that drafting a quarterback in the second round less than a year after you give your 27-year-old quarterback a franchise contract could have negatively affected the starter.
Wentz, for the record, said that Hurts hasn’t affected his performance.
“I’m not the type to worry about and look over my shoulder or any of those things,” he said.
Of course, he would never say publicly if it had, and even if it were the case, it’s likely subconscious. But some inside the NovaCare Complex, and outside who know the quarterback, have said that he at least has played like someone who has been glancing over his shoulder.
Pederson’s non-answer about his quarterback’s state of mind was perhaps telling.
“It’s hard for me to answer that question,” Pederson said, “because I’m not in Carson’s shoes.”
Should the Eagles have known that it was possible? Aaron Rodgers has only gotten better since the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round in April. But the 37-year-old Packers quarterback has won a Super Bowl. He’s been the NFL MVP. He’s been around a long time and established his place in league history.
Wentz had one great 13-game stretch. He had been good otherwise. But he was still the guy who watched his backup win the Super Bowl, the guy who had injuries that ended his season three straight years. The Eagles should have taken all that into account when they went outside the box with Hurts.
Wentz took the high road when asked if the team put him in a position to succeed, the unspoken part of the question being their decision to draft Hurts.
“Listen, we’ve had a lot of things this year,” Wentz said. “I know, first and foremost, I got to be better. I’ve watched the tape every single week and there’s plays out there every week that I know I can do better. … I’m not the guy that’s going to point fingers.”
Wentz shouldn’t allow anything outside his control to affect his psyche. So if Hurts has bothered him, then shame on him. The Eagles’ $128 million extension should have been enough to dispel any doubts that may have crept into this mind.
But he is only human. He deserves a large share of the blame for how the Eagles got to 3-8-1. There is no metric or objective evaluation that can defend his performance. But there have also been mitigating factors beyond his control — like 11 different offensive-line configurations, inexperienced receivers, and Pederson’s play-calling — that have helped cause his struggles.
Wentz completed just 6-of-15 passes for 79 yards and was sacked four times before he was yanked in the third quarter. The O-line didn’t give him enough time, receivers weren’t getting separation, and Pederson, again, didn’t do enough to put his quarterback in winning situations.
But Wentz looked shell-shocked. Fifty sacks might do that to even the strongest quarterback. Hurts was sacked three times, as well. But he looked far more comfortable in the pocket, and while he probably scrambled too early a few times, he has more speed to create on the ground.
He was just as inaccurate as Wentz was with his throws. Hurts completed just 5-of-12 passes for 109 yards. But he took shots downfield and, in fact, his two best throws came on plus-20-yard passes.
He hit wide receiver Jalen Reagor in stride with a 34-yard fade, and on fourth-and-18, rolled out of the pocket and found receiver Greg Ward alone in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown — the Eagles’ only offensive touchdown of the game.
Based upon their outings, Hurts should probably remain the starter. But Pederson has to also consider the big picture. Wentz’s contract makes moving on from him next season virtually impossible.
“Listen, that’s not for me,” Wentz responded when asked if he should still start. “I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play better. I never have doubted myself or lost confidence in my abilities. But, like I said, a lot of these things are outside my control.”
It would have been nice to have heard him give a more definitive “yes.” Hurts would only say that he’s “trying to do what he can do for this team” when asked the same question and if he thought the switch should have come earlier.
The Eagles have themselves a full-blown quarterback controversy that is of their own doing, and one that many said was possible the moment Hurts was drafted. The people responsible can’t take much credit for his success because it will come at the expense of the quarterback they banked on.
It’s that simple. Of course, Lurie and the Eagles have found a way to overcomplicate since winning a title just three years ago.