As the Eagles prepare to host the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night, Inquirer Sports columnists Marcus Hayes and Mike Sielski will debate four issues facing the Eagles, Wednesday through Saturday.

Today’s issue: Is Jalen Hurts a franchise QB?

It seems unfair and odd to argue that the overachieving young quarterback who just led the Eagles to the playoffs shouldn’t be their quarterback for the next decade, but honesty (and editors) bring us to this sticky point.

Has Jalen Hurts, in his 19 starts, displayed sufficient NFL traits to be the long-term, franchise answer to the Eagles’ QB conundrum? No.

If you believe that after two years all Hurts has earned is another year to show you he has the goods, then you’re pretty sure he doesn’t have them.

This is irrelevant, of course. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman have, in their eyes, vindicated their controversial use of a second-round pick on Hurts in 2020. They won’t replace him. They’re too proud. They will regret this, but, well, that’s just who they are.

In a storybook world, Hurts would win a Super Bowl, kiss his mama, thank Nick Saban, then hold the Lombardi Trophy aloft, the latest beacon for career backups who made it big: Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, and, of course, Nicholas Edward Foles.

This isn’t fiction.

I’d love for a person of Jalen Hurts’ character to thrive in Philadelphia, to represent the town and team. I’d love to watch him do it for 10 years. I can’t believe it will happen.

I just haven’t seen enough arm strength on the basic throws that differentiate the NFL from the NCAA. Combined with a slow release, spotty footwork, slow processing speeds, and a proclivity to run too soon, Hurts, today, makes for a poor bet.

Again, I’d love to be wrong. The rest of Hurts’ shortcomings can be altered, except, perhaps, the processing speed, but even that can be mitigated by greater familiarity with defenses. Better mechanics can both compensate for a lack of arm strength and amplify the strength that already exists. Throwing arms can get stronger.

However, generally, an arm is an arm is an arm.

This doesn’t mean, in the right situation, Hurts can never win. Plenty of short quarterbacks with modest arm strength have thrived in the NFL: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Drew Brees. Like them, Hurts comes with the added accessories of elusiveness, toughness, and character.

But let’s not pretend that, if a stone-cold stud like Joe Burrow or Trevor Lawrence were available in the 2022 NFL draft, the Eagles wouldn’t trade their three fist-round picks to get the stud. The Quarterback Factory would be fed. Jalen Hurts would recede to the sideline.

No such stud exists. Hence, Hurts.

In five years, we’ll look back at 2021 and 2022 as the years the Eagles spent developing some other team’s backup. It’s a living: Nick Foles has made nearly $80 million playing that role, and won a Super Bowl, was the game’s MVP, and got a statue out of it.

But Foles found himself in the perfect situation: elite offensive line, Pro Bowl tight end, two veteran receivers, three outstanding running backs, a perfectly composed offensive coaching staff, and absolutely no expectations. He was the main reason the Eagles were underdogs in all three of their postseason games.

In his second season, Foles was light-years ahead of Hurts. In 2013, Foles went 8-2 as a starter, logged a league-high 119.2 passer rating, went to the Pro Bowl and won a truck as the game’s offensive MVP.

Foles also lacked a big-time arm. He still does. As does Hurts. Will that somehow change?

Will Hurts ever be able to consistently deliver a ball to the left sideline, on a rope, without a hitch, from the pocket? Will he ever be able to throw ball more than 40 yards downfield without a windup? Will he ever be able to find a tight end consistently down the seam? Will he ever be able to consistently throw to a window that he anticipates opening, to a receiver he anticipates arriving in that window?

Will he ever be able to get rid of the ball in less than 2.7 seconds? Hurts gets more time to throw than any other quarterback in the NFL, according to pro-football-reference.com. Hurts buys some of that time with his legs, and his receivers aren’t great, but his offensive line is. His offensive line isn’t going to be this good forever.

Again, I hope Hurts overcomes all of these hindrances. We’ve seen glimpses. Hurts channeled Steve Young when the Eagles beat Washington last month.

That was an aberration. Given his limits, that needs to be the norm. He has a long journey ahead of him before that becomes his norm.

Godspeed, Jalen Hurts.

Hayes vs. Sielski

- Wednesday: Should the Eagles rest their starters Saturday? Hayes, Sielski

- Thursday: Did Howie Roseman have a good year? Hayes, Sielski

- Friday: Has Nick Sirianni exceeded expectations? Hayes, Sielski