By Pete Baxter
The 2020 NFL season was an unmitigated disaster for the Philadelphia Eagles. In the end, an NFL champion head coach lost his job. A 28-year-old former MVP candidate quarterback was moved.
From the ashes of the dumpster fire emerged embattled General Manager Howie Roseman, who was able to retain his job. Roseman brought in 39-year-old Nick Sirianni as head coach. With Carson Wentz gone to Indianapolis, the Eagles should be second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts’ team.
Should be, anyway…
Hurts replaced a historically bad, emotionally distraught Wentz as Eagles starter in December 2020, to mixed results. Hurts seemed to galvanize a broken locker room with his exciting, athletic play, including a 100-yard rushing performance in his first start against the New Orleans Saints. He nearly finished 2-2 as a starter for a bad Eagles team, before he was benched in the second half of their week 17 match up against the Washington Football Team in a globally lauded, tank-minded move by Eagles’ brass.
So, what are the powers-that-be in Philadelphia saying so far this offseason?
Déjà vu in Philadelphia
Despite his generally decent, sometimes electric play last season, and the lack of Carson Wentz on this year’s depth chart, the Eagles’ 2020 second round pick has not received a formal vote of confidence from the Eagles’ leadership team.
Head Coach Nick Sirianni recently talked up a quarterback competition between Hurts and recently signed 36-year-old Joe Flacco. Flacco was an 0-4 disaster as a backup for the Jets last year, after flaming out in one brutal year in Denver in 2019. This all coming after he unceremoniously lost his starting job in Baltimore to Lamar Jackson after a decade of consistently mediocre play.
Did Sirianni not watch football last year? Is he aware of the circus created by an unnecessary quarterback controversy in Philadelphia last year? Is his plan to build off the chaotic, toxic atmosphere left by the Doug Pedersen era and crush the confidence of yet another young Eagles’ quarterback?
In an interview last month on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Howie Roseman sounded only slightly more confident in his second-year quarterback. Roseman, while not denying the possibility of competition from Flacco, expressed his hope that Hurts would “grab the job and kind of run with it.” He essentially expressed his hope to see more of Hurts in future starts to be able to make a better assessment of his long-term potential.
The fact that Roseman drafted Hurts a weapon in Devonta Smith (Hurts’ former wide receiver at Alabama), seems to be somewhat of a vote of confidence in their second-year quarterback.
If the Eagles want to get things turned around and avoid becoming the next New York Jets, potentially remaining in quarterback purgatory for the next half-century, they must decide on a direction. Roseman seems to understand what Sirianni may not. Both of their professional futures are tied to Jalen Hurts.
Déjà vu for Jalen, Too
Thankfully for Philadelphia, Hurts is a mentally tough player who is no stranger to competition in his career. In fact, the upheaval in his young professional career almost seems like a natural continuation of his college career.
In his freshman year at Alabama, he took over the starting job in the second game of the season after an open competition for the spot. He had a hugely successful freshman campaign, culminating in an SEC Championship, SEC Offensive Player of the Year award, and a loss in the College Football Playoff National Championship to Clemson.
His sophomore season was similar. He achieved a 13-1 season at Alabama. However, he was shockingly benched in the College Football Playoff National Championship game for freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Tua led the team to victory in the game and took over as starting quarterback moving forward.
Hurts would respond to this adversity by finding a fresh start in his senior year in Oklahoma. He transferred to become the starting quarterback for the Sooners, where he led them to a Big 12 Championship and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.
Hurts has found himself as a part of a muddled depth chart and a quarterback controversy several times before. He has the confidence, emotional maturity, and the skill to handle it and survive it.
Clearly, Hurts has faced adversity before. He has been on both ends of a quarterback competition. He is exactly the type of player who can survive the turmoil in Philadelphia and lead this squad back to relevance.
The Eagles will not be great this season. They had the 20th ranked defense last year, and their 26th ranked scoring offense from last year has lost more weapons than it has gained.
That said, the NFC East will still be wide open. The Eagles are expected to be at the bottom of the division standings. However, only 2.5 games separated the top and bottom ranked teams last season. If the Eagles embrace Hurts and build their offense around him, anything is possible.
I call upon Eagles fans to support Jalen Hurts. Make your opinions heard in the Twitter-verse. Do not let the Eagles front office turn Philadelphia into another city where quarterbacks go to die.