By Pete Baxter
Jalen Hurts is the present and the future of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is a legitimate franchise quarterback for the team to build around. He is becoming a star in the NFL. These are no longer questions to be debated.
The Eagles started the 2021 season slow at 2-5. There was debate amongst the media and the fanbase as to whether their struggles were more due to Hurts’ performance or rookie head coach Nick Sirianni’s play calling. Sirianni seemed to defiantly refuse to the run the ball through the first several weeks of the season. In doing so, he hung his second-year quarterback out to dry as he was essentially a one-man show on offense, leading the team in rushing and passing week after week.
Set Up for Success, Finally
Finally, over the past four weeks, something clicked. Sirianni seemed to finally cave to the criticism of the fans, media and his own players, and he started calling running plays. Suddenly, the Philadelphia Eagles have won three of their last four games. The one loss over that span was a three-point loss to a talented Chargers squad.
The Eagles are averaging over 200 yards rushing per game during this stretch. Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and Miles Sanders have taken turns looking like Pro Bowl rushers. Hurts has continued to be truly dynamic himself in the running game. This included a dominant three-touchdown performance by Hurts against the Saints on Sunday.
With Sirianni effectively leaning on the strengths of this team it has become obvious that Hurts has been playing winning football all along. He just needed his coach to set him up for success.
With Hurts and his teammates finally firing on all cylinders, the Eagles have fast-forwarded what was supposed to be a full rebuild. Entering the easiest stretch of their 2021 season, the team is now a serious threat to land a wildcard playoff seed.
An Emerging Superstar
Still not convinced? Let’s have a look at some comparisons with some other franchise quarterbacks in this league.
Lamar Jackson is an MVP and a former First-Team All-Pro quarterback. He is unanimously understood to be a bona fide franchise quarterback. Jalen Hurts, in just his first full season as a starter, has some similar and even superior numbers to Jackson this year (Jackson’s fourth year in the league).
Hurts has a considerably better touchdown to interception ratio than Jackson (2.6/1 to 1.75/1). They have very similar QB ratings (90.4 to 93.1) and very similar QBRs (51.8 to 54.4). Jackson is averaging more passing yards (271.9 to 209.6 for Hurts) and a few more rushing yards per game (71.1 to 56.2), but Hurts is averaging more total touchdowns per game at 1.91 to 1.78.
Jackson has been a bit more accurate with a 64.4% completion rate to Hurts 61.6%. This is not surprising as accuracy is Hurts biggest opportunity at this point. Amazingly, Hurts has four times more rushing touchdowns than the dynamic Jackson this season, at eight to two. We could go all day here, but clearly, Jackson and Hurts are performing at very similar levels this season.
How about Patrick Mahomes, the man widely believed to be the best quarterback in the league? While Mahomes is a far more prolific passer, his rating is only marginally better than Hurts (94.7 to 90.4), as his is QBR (57.3 to 51.8). Hurts has a better touchdown to interception ratio (2.6 to 2.3), and where he falls behind in the passing game he makes up for in the rushing game. Combining rushing and passing numbers, Hurts is not all that far behind in terms of touchdowns (21 to Mahomes’ 26) or yards (2,924 to Mahomes’ 3,438).
Clearly, Jalen Hurts is not Patrick Mahomes, nor should he be expected to be. Mahomes is an all-time talent and a very different player. However, the fact that Hurts is putting up some similar statistics this season is remarkable and further proof that he is a franchise quarterback.
A Top 15 Quarterback
In just his first full season as a starter, Jalen Hurts has, arguably climbed his way into the top-15 at his position. This may seem like a bold proclamation, but, of the following starting quarterbacks in 2021, a strong argument can be made that he has been better than all of them this season:
- Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
- Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
- Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans
- Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Taylor Heineke, Washington Football Team
- Daniel Jones, New York Giants
- Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
- Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
- Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
- Sam Darnold (the jury is out on Cam Newton), Carolina Panthers
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
- Jameis Winston/Trevor Siemian, New Orleans Saints
While some of the above guys are closer than others (Jameis Winston for instance was off to a surprisingly strong start pre-injury), if we give Hurts the benefit of the doubt, he is indeed the 15th best quarterback in the league and counting.
Elevating His Team
Beyond the numbers, Jalen Hurts is the heart and soul of this squad.
No one expected this team to be relevant this season. The Eagles won just four games last year and were expected to take a step back as they jettisoned their Super Bowl winning coach Doug Pederson and their one-time franchise quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz. With an inexperienced quarterback and an even less experienced head coach, most fans and media pundits anticipated the Eagles to win maybe five games in the entirety of the season.
Now, heading towards week 12, the Eagles are 5-6 and surging. They are right smack in the middle of the race for a wildcard playoff spot. The team is playing hard and playing united. Jalen Hurts’ dynamic play and his charismatic leadership has pulled this team up from rock bottom in half of a season.
Amazingly, the Eagles will have three first-round draft picks in the offseason. With their quarterback of the future established, the team is in an amazing position to build a complete roster and become a legitimate playoff team.
Jalen Hurts is here to stay. His electric, three-touchdown performance in Philly’s 40-29 thrashing of the Saints should be the cherry on top of the mountain of evidence that he is the guy for the Eagles moving forward.
As crazy as it is to say, the Eagles, coming off a complete franchise tear down following a four-win season, may very well make the playoffs this year. Nick Sirianni has shown gradual improvement. DeVonta Smith has become a star. The defense has improved in recent weeks. However, the man to thank first for this rapid turnaround is none other than Jalen Hurts.
Hurts is your guy, Eagles nation. And that is a good thing.
More to come from Philly.