December 20, 2021
The last time we saw Jalen Hurts on a football field — which feels like ages ago at this point since he only missed one start with that ankle injury suffered in the Birds' loss to the Giants — things didn't go too well for the second-year quarterback. And that's probably the understatement of the century.
Hurts threw a trio of interceptions in that loss to the now 4-10 Giants and looked as bad as he has in any of his NFL starts, which can't be blamed on the injury since he didn't suffer it until later in the game (and felt healthy enough to continue playing). He's had more than two weeks to sit and think about getting back out on the field and righting the ship, an already long wait that was made even longer when the NFL decided to postpone the Eagles game on Sunday, along with a pair of others as the league tries to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Of course, that time off also gave Hurts a longer time to let his injured ankle heal, which should be good news for an Eagles squad that will be hoping to get a mobile Hurts when they take the field on Tuesday night.
Since we've got some time to wait — and we've already given you matchups, predictions (both our own and a roundup of others) and some over/unders — let's take a quick look at what they're saying about the Eagles, more in a big-picture sense than a detailed look at this week's game(s). After all, with such a short turnaround following the Washington game (not to mention the upcoming holidays), we might not have time to look again until 2022...
As the Eagles jockey for playoff position down the stretch, Jalen Hurts might be on a shorter leash than anyone expected him to at this point in the season, especially given how he's played — not good enough to solidify himself as the starter going forward but not so poorly that everyone's already given up on him. Sure, some people are down on Hurts, but some of that is recency bias given how he looked in his last start and how good Gardner Minshew looked in his place against the Jets.
But just how short is it? Are they even still evaluating Hurts? And should making the playoffs be prioritized over learning whether or not Hurts is the answer? Well, if the Eagles already know the answer to No. 2, then the third question is moot and the answer to No. 1 is probably pretty short.
With the Eagles running out of time to make a playoff push, and Washington one of the teams standing between them and a playoff spot, they might have to act fast. Would they be willing to pull Hurts in the middle of Tuesday night's game if he comes out slow again like he did against the Giants? Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia thinks that would be the right move.
As the Eagles hit the stretch run, an intriguing question is whether Nick Sirianni’s first priority should be getting as deep a look as possible at Jalen Hurts or doing all he can to get the Eagles into the playoffs. You can make a pretty good argument both ways.
Let’s say Hurts starts Tuesday night and looks the same against Washington as he did against the Giants. Couple interceptions, some bad decisions, missing open guys. Let’s say it’s the middle of the third quarter, and Washington is up 13-7. The game is winnable, Hurts is struggling, the offense is sputtering … what do you do? Do you let Hurts play through it to see how he handles adversity, to see how he responds to a difficult situation, to learn if he can pull it together late in a critical game after a bad start? Or do you get Gardner Minshew in there to try and jump start the offense?
The stakes are pretty high here. Beat Washington and the Eagles are one big step closer to the postseason. Lose to Washington and their playoff chances virtually disappear. I understand that the Eagles as a franchise need to know as much as possible going into the offseason about Hurts, and you don’t learn anything when he’s sitting on the bench. But to me, reaching the playoffs has to be every team's ultimate goal, and every coach owes it to his players, coaches, owner and fans to do everything possible to get there. You can’t put an audition for a struggling quarterback ahead of trying to win.
Winning has to be THE goal. Now, I do expect Hurts to play well down the stretch. He has most of the year. But if he doesn’t? I’m making a change. [nbcsports.com]
The Eagles are now set to get a first-round pick back from the Colts after Carson Wentz hit the projected threshold of 75% of his team's offensive snaps for the season. But according to Martin Frank of the Delaware News Journal, the deal was about much more than just the first- and third-round picks they got back.
Sure, it was also about getting Wentz a fresh start after things appeared to have run their course in Philly. It was also about the fact that he was statistically one of the worst QBs in the NFL last year, but even this year he and Hurts have quite similar numbers (wins aside). More than anything, it was about flexibility.
In Hurts, the Eagles had a solid placeholder quarterback with franchise potential — and if they felt that's what Wentz was ultimately destined to be in Philly while they looked for an upgrade, then the decision to trade him was a necessary one, simply for the impact it has on your bottom line. Hurts, still on his rookie contract, will count for over $26 million less against the cap than Wentz will. And that will free up Howie Roseman and Co. to do any number of things, including trading for a veteran QB in a more win-now move or begin building a team around a placeholder QB like Hurts and then go looking for an upgrade after next season.
Here's more from Frank...
This is where the Eagles' three first-round picks could lead to an interesting decision. They could package those picks and move up into the top 5 or 10 to draft a quarterback, or possibly even trade the picks for someone like Watson or Seattle's Russell Wilson.
But the Eagles have more pressing needs than quarterback, especially on defense. So there's something to be said for sticking with Hurts in 2022 and using those picks to address the other needs. ...
So it's conceivable that the Eagles can bring back Hurts as the starter for 2022, then perhaps trade one of their first-round picks to get an extra one in 2023 and thus go after a quarterback then.
Or they can keep going with Hurts for at least the next two years while fortifying the rest of the roster while Hurts is still on his rookie contract.
That salary cap flexibility is a great commodity to have, especially if the Eagles want to spend heavily in free agency.
That, of course, makes Hurts a much more valuable placeholder than Wentz. [delawareonline.com]
Over at The Inquirer, Mike Sielski wrote about the cognitive dissonance required to enjoy NFL football but also worry about the greater health of the athletes. If the NFL — and its fans — really cared about these athletes, football wouldn't exist in the first place.
America is fine with watching this players risk their lives and long-term health on a weekly basis — Sielski cites two recent autopsies of former players as evidence of the game's effects on the brain — because "that's football." That's just the way it's always been. It's all happening, as the Joker says, "according to plan." And when that happens, no one questions it.
I’m drawing this comparison, between CTE and COVID, not to minimize the seriousness of the pandemic but to note one of its deleterious effects. COVID is Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, sowing chaos by scrambling our customary assessment and acceptance of risk, and in few areas of our society and culture is that confusion starker than it is in the popularity of professional football.
“You know what I’ve noticed?” The Joker says in the film. “Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan,’ even if the plan is horrifying.” And he’s right. The reason that so few people are panicked about CTE is that it is part of football’s plan. I don’t mean that the NFL or its coaches or its players have set out to inflict a deadly disease upon each other. I mean that all of us — those who oversee, compete in, follow, or just love professional football — have come to expect and, to one degree or another, accept the costs of professional football. Even when those costs are horrifying.
Yet until the NFL revamped its COVID protocols Saturday, until it stopped treating asymptomatic vaccinated players in the same manner it treated symptomatic and/or unvaccinated players, it was willing to upend several teams’ seasons to guard against a danger that, statistically speaking, doesn’t carry the same threat of bodily harm to its employees that their actual jobs do. That’s what’s so amusing about all the Sturm und Drang over the accommodations the NFL made to teams hit hard by the virus. If the safety of those who crack each other’s bones and brains for our entertainment were our primary concern, we wouldn’t need a COVID outbreak in a locker room to give us pause. We’d have banned football long ago. [inquirer.com]
We wrote in a recent What They're Saying — and a follow-up article as well — that Gardner Minshew is expected to draw some trade interest this offseason after looking good in his lone start of the season against the Jets. Over at NFL.com, Gil Brandt took a look at six teams who might be interested in Minshew, even if it's just as a placeholder.
Whatever happens with Deshaun Watson, it's safe to assume he won't be playing quarterback for the Texans in the future. Rookie Davis Mills has four games left in 2021 to prove he could be the long-term answer the club is looking for. Mills hasn't been terrible, but his numbers this season (0-7 record, 81.1 passer rating, 8:8: TD-to-INT ratio) suggest Houston would do well to at least explore its options. With plenty of rebuilding still in front of this franchise, the Texans are not likely to be players for a big-name target like Russell Wilson. However, Minshew should be absolutely attainable as a Plan B for 2022, whether as a veteran backup who could replace Tyrod Taylor (on a one-year deal right now) or as a starter who could provide a spark. [nfl.com]
And finally, a look at this report from CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora about former Birds coach Doug Pederson having interest in the Jags coaching vacancy. And given his level of experience and success in Philly — a Super Bowl title should've given him the right to see this rebuild through — not to mention he's a former quarterback and the Jags are looking to develop a young one, maybe he fits what Shad Khan is looking for.
Former Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson, who has used his year out of the coaching ranks to study the league and mull potential opportunities, would very much be interested in interviewing with Jacksonville, sources said. Pederson has already secured assurances from the men who would comprise his staff about their willingness to join him, and Khan may prefer to hire a coach with significant NFL head coaching experience after the Meyer debacle. [cbssports.com]
The more interesting part here is that he's already lining up assistants to join a potential staff. Any guess on who some of those people might be?
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