December 09, 2021
Originally, I was going to put a headline on this post hinting at the prospect of a quarterback controversy brewing at the NovaCare Complex, but anyone who knows Eagles fans knows that whatever QB controversy talk is out there is totally fan and media driven. And honestly, I didn't want to contribute to that fiasco given that it's all pretty much a moot point.
Unless, of course, you believe that Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew is the answer going forward. And if you do, that's great, but it's pretty apparent that despite a strong performance in place of an injured Hurts on Sunday, the Eagles aren't going to suddenly hand the offense over to Minshew. In fact, head coach Nick Sirianni didn't waste any time reaffirming that Hurts will be the starter when he's healthy enough to play, likely against Washington when the team returns from its Week 14 bye.
"He's played really good football when he's in," Sirianni said of Hurts immediately following Minshew and the Eagles' win over the Jets, "so when he's healthy and he's back, he'll be our starter."
Sirianni isn't wrong that Hurts has played some really good football for the Eagles. But he's also played some really bad football, including his most recent showing in the Birds' 13-7 loss to the Giants back in Week 12 in which he threw three interceptions and posted a passer rating below 20. And it's that as much as it is Minshew's strong showing that is causing some fans to question who should be the starter for the rest of the season.
But that only really makes sense if the Eagles have already decided that Hurts is not the guy going forward. See, if the team is going to bring in a QB this offseason, whether a veteran via trade/free agency or a rookie via one of their three first-round draft picks, they're still going to need a backup, potentially one who could step in if a rookie isn't ready to go. But they won't be needing two. And with both Minshew and Hurts under contract for cheap in 2022, they'll simply have to pick which one they think gives them the best option, and perhaps giving Minshew some looks down the stretch would give them a better idea of who their choice should be.
That's maybe the only way this could be considered a QB controversy, and that's really just a battle to see who should be the backup next season. So as far as controversies go, it's not really much. That being said, Minshew showing out does help the Eagles, because if they do intend to only keep one of these QBs next season (which would make logical sense if they add a new starter) they'll likely be trading the other. And there are plenty of QB-needy teams out there who might be willing to take a shot on either Minshew or Hurts, whichever one the Eagles decide not to keep, given that they won't cost much of anything against the cap. In that sense, both QBs can help the Eagles down the line — one being on the roster and the other bringing back even more draft ammo for Howie Roseman to work with.
In the meantime, the only real QB battle on this team is Jalen Hurts vs. himself, as the second-year passer looks to prove to the Eagles he deserves to be the guy going forward, which would allow the team to use those three first-round picks on other areas of need — and there are plenty to address. But we're 13 games into this season, and the jury is very much still out on Hurts. Is there anything he can do in over the final four games to prove himself? Or will Eagles fans be left in the same position they were when this season started, wondering about their team's future at the most important position in sports.
With the Birds on the bye this week, it's as good a time as any to take a look at what they're saying about the Eagles, and based on the intro you just read, you've probably already guessed where this one is headed. Let's dive right in...
In his weekly interview with EJ Smith of The Philadelphia Inquirer, former Eagles president Joe Banner discussed which QB he would start the rest of this season. And while I don't agree with all of his opinions, I pretty much agree with everything he said here. I feel like it's hard not to.
You have to decide what you’re trying to achieve with this season. Is it to sneak in the playoffs like Washington did last year? Maybe you do win a game, maybe you don’t. Maybe you get blown out because you slipped in, or maybe you make a run. Or is the goal to win Super Bowls and make decisions right now that give you the best chance to compete and to do that in two to three years?
All I can tell you is that when I was running the Eagles, the latter would have been my focus in a situation like this. I’m coming in to work each morning because I want to win a Super Bowl. I’ve done everything else. We won divisions, we won playoff games, we built stadiums, we had great success with our charitable work, so on and so forth. I’m here right now, if I’m Jeff Lurie or Howie Roseman, because I want to relive the thrill of winning a Super Bowl. And for me, this season is about making the decisions as you need to to be in a position to do that in two to three years.
So I’m playing Hurts. Even though I have all these doubts about him, because more information is better. I know what Minshew is, and I have him back next year no matter what. So if you said to me, “Who do I think gives them a better chance to win the next game?” I think it’s Minshew. But if I say the goal of my season here is to get all the information I need and accumulate all the assets I have to be in a position to compete for a Super Bowl in two-to-three years, then it’s Hurts.
Even though I probably feel like I have enough to make a decision on Hurts, there’s no way you’re not benefitting by getting more information to make it absolutely certain, whichever side you’re on with that decision. So if I was sitting in a position of making that decision and we had agreement on what we were trying to leave our season with, if I’m sitting in the room and debating this with five other people, I’m taking the position that I think we should play Hurts the rest of the season. [inquirer.com]
Of course, in the very next question, Banner said the following in regards to whether or not a guy like Hurts can win longterm in the NFL.
I personally believe we’re living in a time where a quarterback needs to throw from the pocket effectively, accurately, and process information that’s necessary so fast that he’s considered to be elite at processing this information. Under that, he still needs to be accurate, a good leader, and all those things. I don’t think I’m seeing that from Hurts.
If you believe that the game has changed and a quarterback that’s primarily a running quarterback can win a Super Bowl, then go with Hurts. If you’re of the belief that they need to do both — I mean look at Lamar Jackson, suddenly they started blitzing him three weeks ago and he has five turnovers in the last two games and 11 sacks, seven of them in one game. Everybody who watches football and everyone who works in football knows that you can’t be one-dimensional and win big. If you have a quarterback that makes you overwhelmingly one-dimensional, and these are my opinions, other people see it differently, that’s a big problem now. It’s not a big problem in winning some games, but it’s a big problem in beating good teams in the playoffs, which is what you have to do to have any chance at winning a Super Bowl. [inquirer.com]
Again, I find that hard to argue with (except for the part where he says he's not seeing good leadership from Hurts).
Over at USA TODAY's Touchdown Wire, Laurie Fitzpatrick broke down the film on Minshew's first start for the Eagles, and came away with the realization that while he was good in a spot start, Hurts remains the more dangerous QB, as Minshew is much easier for opposing defenses to gameplan against, and had the Jets known all week that he was the QB they'd be facing, the results on Sunday might've been a little different.
This is not new. Being from the Philadelphia area myself, I’ve watched fans become smitten with Koy Detmer, Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb, and, of course, Foles, who guided the Eagles to victory in Super Bowl LII.
But there is a reason why the Eagles didn’t reveal their starting quarterback until kickoff. They almost certainly didn’t want the Jets to be able to prepare specifically for Minshew. Not to diminish Minshew’s performance — he got the win, and that is what you pay a backup to do. But make no mistake, Hurts’ diverse skill set gives opposing defenses much bigger headaches.
Whether Hurts is the long-term answer for the Eagles is a debate for another day, but he gives the team a better chance to win than Minshew.
Hurts ranks second among NFL quarterbacks with 695 rushing yards this season, behind only Lamar Jackson. Minshew provides a change of pace, but so would just about any other quarterback.
When defenses start scheming for Minshew, the Eagles will be left with a one-dimensional offense.
With Hurts, you have a playmaker. [touchdownwire.usatoday.com]
Head over to Touchdown Wire to see the full video breakdown.
If the NFL season ended today, the Eagles would be picking 12th, 13th and 17th. Not exactly as high as some people were thinking earlier in the year, but still, three first-round picks is nothing to sneeze at. It will all be about how the Eagles use those picks. And if they don't believe that Hurts or Minshew is the answer, they could look to draft a QB with one of those picks. In his latest Eagles mock draft, that's exactly what Reuben Frank has the Birds doing, with their first pick (12th overall). And it's a QB the team has already shown interest in, with GM Howie Roseman going to scout him earlier this season.
12. Eagles: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
OK, in my first mock I had the Eagles taking three defensive players, and maybe there’s some recency bias at work here because I’m writing the Giants game is Jalen Hurts’ most recent game, but I do now believe the Eagles may go QB with one of these three 1st-round picks. Hurts has done a lot of good things, and he’s a very impressive kid. But when the Quarterback Factory asks itself whether he can be a Super Bowl-winning type of quarterback I’m not sure the answer will be yes. I don’t think trading assets for a veteran is the answer, and I have a hunch Pickett is a Howie Roseman kind of guy. Pickett has played himself into the top-10 and the Heisman conversation with his performance this year – 68 percent accuracy, 40 TDs, 7 INTs, over 4,000 yards for the 10-2 Panthers. He’s got good size, he’s smart, he moves well enough to keep plays alive, and he’s clutch. He also grew up in Ocean Township, N.J., which is just a few miles down Rte. 18 from Marlboro, Roseman’s hometown. There are questions about Pickett. He doesn’t have a rocket launcher arm, he’s only had one big-time season and at times he hasn’t dealt well with pressure. But there’s a lot to like, and if the Eagles do decide to go QB in the draft Pickett makes a lot of sense. [nbcsports.com]
After that, Roob has the Eagles taking cornerback Roger McCreary from Auburn and defensive lineman Travon Walker from Georgia.
That would be a great scenario for the Eagles, being able to get the top QB on the board without having to package other picks to move up. Then, getting two defensive players from SEC schools, rather than taking a flier on some guy from the PAC-12? Yes, please.
Over at ESPN, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper answered some of the biggest questions about the 2022 NFL draft. And given the Eagles surplus of picks, it's not surprising that there was a question dedicated specifically to them. But they also popped up in other answers, specifically when it came to QBs being drafted in the first round. Here's more from McShay...
It's early, but which teams could target QBs in Round 1?
McShay: There are roughly seven teams that should be looking, and at least three more that could absolutely join the mix. It's a glaring need for Washington (despite a nice run for Taylor Heinicke), Matt Ryan isn't getting any younger in Atlanta, and the Steelers should be thinking QB with Ben Roethlisberger not expected to return. Will the Lions set aside a plethora of other needs to get a QB to build around? Has Carolina already seen enough from Sam Darnold long-term? Teddy Bridgewater isn't pushing the ball down the field for the Broncos, and the Saints have a decision to make around Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.
Three more teams to watch over the next few months: Houston, Seattle and Philadelphia. What will come of the Deshaun Watson situation for the Texans? Will Russell Wilson return to the Seahawks, or could they land some first-round picks in a deal and go get a young QB to build around? And what will the Eagles do with their three Day 1 selections? Jalen Hurts has made significant strides, but Philly needs to decide if he's the long-term answer.
That's a lot of teams, which means we'll likely see at least a few quarterbacks get overdrafted in Round 1.
With three potential top-20 picks, the Eagles could control this draft. What are their biggest needs?
McShay: Just about every level of the defense needs help, with the secondary at the top of the list. Safety Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame), cornerback Roger McCreary (Auburn) or cornerback Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati) would bring some more ball-hawking to a defensive back room that already includes Darius Slay. Nakobe Dean (Georgia) would provide a little bit of everything to a lacking linebacker group, and edge rusher George Karlaftis (Purdue) would help improve on the Eagles' 23 sacks, which rank 25th in the NFL. But also watch QB -- as mentioned earlier, Philly has to make a call on Hurts and has the draft capital to upgrade. [espn.com]
Finally, we mentioned in the intro a way for both Hurts and Minshew to help the Eagles going forward, like, for example, if the Eagles opt to keep Hurts (whether as the starter or a change-of-pace backup) and then trade Gardner Minshew for a draft pick, perhaps one even higher than the conditional sixth-round pick they spent to acquire him. Over at Bleacher Report, Chris Roling took a look at four teams who could potentially be interested in acquiring Minshew, whether that's to serve as a stopgap as they move on from a franchise staple (like the Steelers) or the next in line for a team struggling to find its future starter (like Carolina). One of those teams in the latter category is in the Eagles' own division. Would they trade Minshew to Washington?
Like Big Ben in Pittsburgh, one could argue Minshew would be an upgrade on the quarterback situation for the Washington Football Team.
There, Washington starts the 28-year-old Taylor Heinicke, a veteran who, before this year, had never reached the 60-attempt threshold in a pro season. He's thrown 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with multiple touchdowns in just five showings and 300-plus yards once. His first real audition as a starter has earned him a 65.9 Pro Football Focus grade, slotting him in the "backup" category.
Also similar to Pittsburgh, Washinton sits 20th in current draft order because it's good enough in many respects to scrap for a playoff spot. Sending a mid-round pick to Philadelphia (paying some NFC East tax) to start Minshew for a year or two in a so-so NFC East while working in the background to find a long-term solution would make perfect sense. [bleacherreport.com]
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