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August 15, 2022

John McMullen: Preseason makes 'perfect' for Jalen Hurts

In a sports world of advanced statistics where football-crazy Ivy League graduates are trying to come up with the equation that best quantifies the always-moving goalposts of the human condition, passer rating should have already gone the route of the dinosaurs.

Yet it still exists.

To some, it even defines the play of quarterbacks better than anything else, even if the majority in that very camp couldn’t begin to explain how the number is calculated.

For those who actually care, the NFL passer rating formula measures five variables: pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and interceptions on a scale that tops out at 158.3, the literal “perfect” passer rating and the number Jalen Hurts hit during his cameo, one-drive appearance against the New York Jets in last Friday’s preseason opener.

The final numbers for Hurts were 6-for-6 for 80 yards and the perfecto rating, culminating with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert.

Each of the categories in passer rating is scaled to a value between 0 and 2.375, with 1.0 being statistically average based on long-outdated data from a prior generation. There are four separate calculations in the formula designed where 66.7 was considered an average performance and 100.0 and above was considered great. When Joe Montana retired after the 1994 season his 92.3 passer rating was a record and considered to be an unbelievable accomplishment.

By 2020 the league average was above that number at 93.6 and last season eight QBs has cleared the 100.0 bar – Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Kyler Murray. A total of 15 signal-callers passed the Montana line, yet none past Rodgers and Brady belong anywhere near Montana from a historical context.

Hurts finished at 87.2 last season, 22nd in the league, and contextually closer to what 66.7 meant when they created this mind-numbing scale.

Good or bad, though, the number can never define Hurts anyway because it doesn’t even attempt to measure a quarterback’s impact in the running game where the Eagles’ on-field leader sets himself apart from most not named Lamar Jackson.

In fact, one of my personal pet peeves is the colloquial slip where observers incorrectly label the statistic as “quarterback rating,” something ESPN hijacked with its own formula.

Reaching triple figures in passer rating still does mean something: basically that you effectively passed the ball in an era where it’s never been easier to pass the ball.

The difference between say, Rodgers and Cousins, however, is found in the contextual layers of the position those aforementioned Ivy League stars are trying to quantify with a WAR-like number a new generation will adopt and swear by even if they don’t understand it

All you really need to know is that Hurts was very good during his short stint against the Jets, not because he hit 158.3 but because he made quick and confident decisions while distributing the football where the coverage demanded.

“Just going out there and playing ball,” Hurts said of his performance. “I’ve always talked about the trust to have with everyone on the field. So just going through my progressions, doing my job. Let the playmakers make plays.”

This is Philadelphia, though, so some were questioning the default setting Hurts seems to have of flushing right a little too quickly, a narrative that left head coach Nick Sirianni amused.

“He was 6-for-6, perfect quarterback rating and you are questioning one of his decisions to escape the pocket,” Sirianni smiled when hearing the question. “I think that’s kind of funny. I just thought he did a good job of staying in the pocket when he needed to stay in the pocket, making plays that way and escaping when he needed to escape.”

It's fair to point out Friday night wasn’t Todd Bowles in January devising a game plan that preyed on Hurts’ weaknesses, coupled with the talent to implement it.

Come September 11 in Detroit, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will be somewhere in between Bowles in the playoffs and Robert Saleh with Jeff Ulbrich in an exhibition environment. But, don’t move another goalpost with Game 1 of the preseason just to prove a point.

Hurts was effective with a vanilla test and that’s always better than the alternative.

“I thought he was great,” Sirianni said of Hurts Sunday after digesting the film. “He made plays in the pocket when he needed to make plays in the pocket and when he needed to escape, he escaped.”

The material will get tougher moving forward, first jumping from basic arithmetic to algebra before moving onto a Bowles-like test that will serve as the advanced calculus classes.

“I think it's interesting, I think it's also to be known that leaving the pocket isn't just something that you see when the protection breaks down,” Sirianni explained. “I think that people think like, ‘Oh, we left the pocket early, and the protection was good.’ Well, sometimes nobody is open. And sometimes the defense calls a good play and it's not a good look in the coverage.”

The optimism here should be easy to see, however.

Hurts was “perfect” with a formula that doesn’t even encompass his strengths as a player.

“It's not as easy to say that the protection broke down, so he left, because that's obvious,” Sirianni said of Hurts extending plays and delivering off-schedule offense. “I think the thing that is not as obvious is somebody slipped on a route out or the defense played a good coverage and there wasn't anybody open and he's [out] trying to create with a scramble.”

John McMullen is a contributor to and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Sports. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL, and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at

Follow John on Twitter here.