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October 18, 2021

What they're saying: The Eagles should bench Jalen Hurts and blow it all up

Eagles NFL
Hurts_Ertz_bench_Eagles_49ers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts.

What a glorious, Eagles-free Sunday we all just got to enjoy, with it finally feeling like fall across the region and everyone having the ability to go to a pumpkin patch or your kid's soccer game or just sit back enjoy a day of NFL football with the constant burden of the Eagles. 

Did you have fun? Good. Because it's Monday and we're back to talk about the Birds as they begin to prepare for a matchup with the 4-2 Raiders in Las Vegas, a game in which the Eagles will once again be playing as underdogs. And following a closer-than-expected loss to the Buccaneers on national TV on Thursday night, people seem to be more down than you might expect on the Eagles young QB, Jalen Hurts, who has been a mixed bag through the first six weeks of the season. 

To be fair, Hurts hasn't been getting a ton of help from first-year coach Nick Sirianni, who is not only skewing the play-calling into a scheme so pass-heavy it would make Andy Reid blush, but is also asking his quarterback to do a ton with his legs on the rare occurrences when they actually do run the ball. Some of that is on Hurts, sure, who seems to bail on plays and try to improvise with his legs before he necessarily has to, but plenty is on the coach and his play-calling, which almost seems to be made for a different kind of QB altogether. 

That has led to a bit of a chicken vs. egg debate among Eagles fans and those in the media: Is Nick Sirianni making Jalen Hurts looks bad? Or is Hurts' skillset limiting what Sirianni can do — and do successfully? 

Clearly , right now, it appears as though the two aren't the best fit, but this could simply be first-year growing pains. After all, Sirianni's never been a head coach before and to add play-calling duties on top of that, it can be a bit much. Maybe he just needs a season to get his legs under him. The same pretty much applies to Hurts, who is not only in his first year in Sirianni's system but doesn't even have a full season of starts under his belt. And while the worry is that the same warts that Hurts showed in college remain a problem now that he's in the NFL, he's young enough that there's hope he could correct some of those flaws.

But with the Eagles looking like they'll have three first-round picks in next year's draft — and possibly two in the Top 10 — the Birds will have the ammo they need to draft pretty much whatever QB they want, and that puts a ticking clock on Hurts' audition process. 

Some, however, are fine with that. So fine, in fact, that they believe they've already seen enough from the 23-year-old quarterback who has made just 10 NFL starts. That's where we'll start today's Hurts-centric edition of What They're Saying... 

Giving up on Hurts already

Marcus Hayes |

We'll start with the story it seems like everyone is talking about on Monday: Marcus Hayes' column for The Philadelphia Inquirer calling for Jalen Hurts' benching. Before offering my own thoughts, here's a bit of what Marcus had to say:

He has bad mechanics. Bad footwork. He throws bad passes and he makes bad decisions. These lead to bad losses.

Bench Jalen Hurts.

At 2-4, the Eagles’ season can be salvaged. Every remaining game is winnable, if they do this one, simple thing.

Hurts has had his chance. He’s been the starter for more than one-third of this season, and he was the starter for one-fourth of last season, and he’s proved one thing: He’s not ready to be a starter. In fact, at this moment Hurts might be the worst passer of any regular starter in modern Eagles history.

This is not an indictment of what Hurts can be. It’s an honest assessment of what he is.

It’s also an honest assessment of what the Eagles are: a team of fading stars, but stars with enough brilliance left to win. If that means starting Joe Flacco, then swallow hard and do it.  []

From there, Hayes went on to argue that the reason for benching Hurts is due as much to his struggles and Hayes' belief that Hurts can't (and won't) figure it out, as it does to the situation around him. For starters, the Eagles are a team that has a handful of aging vets that would signify more of a win-now approach, writes Hurts, meaning putting in a more polished QB would give the team a legit shot. 

A couple of issues with that. For starters, even with Joe Flacco or Gardner Minshew or any other QB you can go out and get right now not named Deshaun Watson (and this isn't saying the Eagles should go after him, far from it), the Eagles are still not a good team. At least not good enough. They have injuries along the offensive line, they don't have enough depth, and they're not going to catch the Cowboys — nor are they going to be able to win one of the wild card spots based on the play from the rest of the team.

And at that point, what are we even doing here? At that point, wouldn't it make more sense to give Hurts the year and see if he can grow in the position and improve? At that point, wouldn't it be better for the longterm future of your team to get a better sense of what you have at QB, even if that means losing a ton of games, because it would leave you in the best position to either replace Hurts — or, if he does improve and you decide to roll with him, to fill in the holes around him? 

Beyond that, shouldn't Friday's trade of Zach Ertz be a sign that should the Eagles continue down this current path that they're likely going to be sellers ahead of the trade deadline. Could others, like Fletcher Cox or Darius Slay or any of those highly-paid vets, be dealt before Nov. 2? Wouldn't that both solve the problem that playing Hurts is creating while also adding draft capital in an offseason that could feature a major roster overhaul (again)? And wouldn't it allow Sirianni and Co. to give more of their younger players a chance to get experience and develop? Again, this is not a contender, so doing anything else seems silly and fruitless. 

All of that being said, there is one reason to bench Hurts, assuming you're fully out on him and have decided you're going to look elsewhere in the offseason. And that's to give Sirianni a fair shake. If you're of the belief that Hurts isn't an NFL-caliber QB, then I could see the argument for going away from him and giving Sirianni a chance to showcase his system around someone who is. After all, this year isn't just an audition for Hurts, it's also one for Sirianni. And while Jeffrey Lurie isn't the type of guy to fire a coach after Year 1, at least moving on from Hurts sooner than later would allow Howie Roseman and ownership a chance to determine whether the Eagles offensive issues this season are a product of Hurts' poor play (and other teams being able to scheme against him and handcuff Sirianni, as Hayes alluded to) or if they're simply poor coaching, and it wouldn't make a difference who was under center. 

I have not yet seen enough from Hurts to crown him the starter moving forward — far from it — but I also haven't seen enough from him, at 23 years old and 10 starts into his NFL career, to say that I'm ready to move on. This year was always meant to be a fact-finding mission for the Eagles, and there's no sense in aborting that a third of the way into the season. 

Too soon to tell

Tim McManus | ESPN

Others aren't so quick to give up on Hurts, who has had his ups and downs this season. 

Ups and downs are also how you could classify the various opinions on Hurts coming out of Oklahoma. Some were skeptical of him coming based on the film. Other loved him, but that seemed to have more to do with intangibles than anything he did with his arm.

As Tim McManus writes in his recent story evaluating Hurts' play through the first six weeks, the jury is still out on the former Heisman runner-up. And that puts the Eagles in a tricky spot, but he doesn't even consider the idea of benching Hurts. Rather, he agrees the Eagles should spend the rest of the season evaluating the young QB... 

Both sides still have a case.

Hurts hasn't been a consistent thrower. He does abandon the structure of the play too early at times.

But he's only started 10 games in the NFL, and has shown improvement in most areas of concern. Hurts has proved to have a growth mindset. He is obsessed with getting better for the sake of his team, and isn't above the coaching or work it takes to make it happen. His teammates legitimately want to follow him.

The remaining 11 regular-season games will be informative to a degree, but the most reasonable thing to expect is more highs and lows from Hurts as he, Sirianni and his young supporting cast continue to learn and take their lumps. It will most likely leave an incomplete picture in the evaluation of Hurts, as much as management and Eagles fans alike wish otherwise.

It's too early to fully judge Hurts now and it will still be too early to fully judge him at the end of the season. The Eagles will have to make a franchise-altering decision regarding his fate anyway come the winter. That's life in the NFL, where time is kept on an accelerated clock and patience is a relic.  []

Blow it all up

Bo Wulf | The Athletic

Following Thursday night's loss to the Bucs, Bo Wulf at The Athletic took a look at three scenarios for the Eagles, from staying to course to burning it down to, you know, remaining somewhat level-headed and taking the middle lane. 

That's probably the best place for the Eagles to live over the final three months of the season, but that almost certainly doesn't make for the best snippet to pull. And since we're already talking about benching Hurts and questioning Sirianni, let's go with the nuclear option... 

Burn it down

The case: It’s only been six games, but it’s already clear the Sirianni-Hurts marriage is going to be short-lived. If Hurts isn’t good enough as a passer to give the team an accurate read on Sirianni’s offense and if Sirianni’s offense isn’t tailored enough to Hurts’ skill set to allow for an accurate assessment of him as the quarterback of the future, the Eagles risk having no answers by the end of the season. Even if they could somehow sneak into the playoffs, it’s not like they’d be anything more than cannon fodder. And who are we kidding? This whole thing is about tearing things down for a rebuild that can start in earnest next offseason with three possible first-round picks and most likely four picks in the top 50.

Anyone who’s not in the team’s long-term plans should be available. Goedert? Is the team really going to give him a high-priced extension when he’s never really been a No. 1 tight end? If someone’s willing to pay a premium, say a third-round pick, go for it. How about Miles Sanders? He’s barely used in the offense to begin with, and there’s no way the team is going to sign him to a second contract. Let him go, too. And if trading away some of these players makes the team worse in the short run, all the better for draft-pick purposes. Sirianni’s best attribute as a coach seems to be his ability to get the team to play hard, so there should be no concerns about the locker room checking out even in a firesale. It’s a dirty business, but one the Eagles have to be willing to play.  []

Did someone say fire sale

Hurts = Tebow?

Skip Bayless | Undisputed (via

We've gone with the scorching hot column as well as the more nuanced look at what the Eagles should do with Hurts. Now, let's take a look at someone comparing him to another former Eagles quarterback who— oh, god, just get it over with... 

“You had to dismiss Jalen Hurts. I am not dismissing him. What did I tell you from the start about Jalen Hurts? And you can laugh at this, you can ridicule this. I told you he is a play-maker, that he is what word have I used? He is Tebow-esque. He is the current day Tim Tebow. Not exactly the same, but in play-making with just average passing skills that can become way above average when it’s time, because he made some throws in the fourth quarter that made you say, ‘Whoa!’


“He just makes plays with his legs and his arm. It’s not going to translate into any kind of stats. .... but he’s getting a lot of credit for what he did with his legs. Because the only time he gashed him it was mostly with his legs. I’m going to defend him as a guy you can win games with and I still say Philly is the most dangerous team to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.”  []

Wait, comparing him to one of the worst QBs I've ever seen is supposed to be a compliment? 

Hurts isn't the problem

Ryan Clark | ESPN (via Section215)

And then there's this take from ESPN's Ryan Clark, who doesn't think Jalen Hurts is the problem, but rather Nick Sirianni and the players around him. 

On a recent episode of First Take, Molly Qerim asked Ryan Clark if he still believes in Jalen Hurts. Simple question, nothing fancy, but his response? As Philadelphia as water ice.

“I do believe in Jalen Hurts, here’s the problem; the Philadelphia Eagles are going to ruin Jalen Hurts,” Clark responded to Qerim, Stephen A. Smith, and Sam Acho. "He accounts for 85 percent of the offense this year, Molly, both in the run and in the pass. Last night, you called nine total runs for running backs. Nick Sirianni can’t believe this is how you bring along a young QB. It’s only been 10 games into him starring. Is he Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow? No but they were picked sixth overall and first overall. Those guys have some wide receivers with experience; some players one the outside we’ve seen make plays on the outside. The Philadelphia Eagles have none of those thing; Jalen Hurts doesn’t have any of those things. Jalen Hurts has a first year head coach who is supposed to be this great play caller but he isn't calling plays in that manner right now. And so when I look at Jalen Hurts right now and what he has been able to do and at some of the statistics he’s been able to produce and the leadership qualities that this dude has, I believe in him."

See what I mean? Spoken like a native son of the City of Brotherly Love.  []

I don't think Nick Sirianni has been great. Far from it. But it's impossible to watch Jalen Hurts miss wide open receivers and make poor decisions and think that Sirianni is the only issue. His play-calling leaves a lot to be desired, but at this point so does the execution. And it's hard to tell which is having more of a negative impact on the other — and to see a world in which they figure it out and make it work long term.

Maybe that's what the rest of this season should be about, rather than giving up on a young QB just 10 starts into his career... 

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