March 08, 2021
What a difference a couple of weeks can make.
In the immediate aftermath of the Carson Wentz trade, ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter published a report that the Eagles were not going to simply hand over the starting quarterback job to Jalen Hurts — despite spending a second-round pick on him a year earlier and benching Wentz in favor of the rookie passer — and actually planned to bring in some competition to not just compete with Hurts, but to help him grow as well.
How that competition would materialize was the biggest question. Would it come in the form of a veteran backup who was simply brought in to push Hurts and ultimately mentor him once the season began? Or would the team use their sixth-overall pick in the draft to select a quarterback, one who wouldn't just compete with Hurts but would likely be viewed as their QB of the future?
Reports suggested the Eagles could go either way — and there were even some rumors that the Birds could do both, and might look to trade Hurts while he still has plenty of upside. But the latest report, which also comes from Mort, makes it sound like there won't be very much competition at all for Hurts. And he has the owner to thank — not the coach or the GM, the ones who would normally make personnel decisions like this, but Jeffrey Lurie, who appears to be inching closer to the Jerry Jones school of ownership with each passing year.
Here's more from Mort's appearance on ESPN on Monday morning, courtesy of Bleeding Green Nation:
MORTENSEN: “Yes, Jalen Hurts is the guy. Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles, has basically sent the message to his personnel department and Howie Roseman that he wants to do everything he can to help Jalen Hurts be successful and NOT bring in somebody to compete for the job. Now, they have a new head coach in Nick Sirianni, he understands what the owner wants, the owner gets. And I might remind people on this one: last year, the owner was in favor of drafting Jalen Hurts. That created a ripple effect. But one thing that happened with the Eagles, screams to me, why Ja’Marr Chase should be in play with this pick, is that they did not stay true to their draft board. And their personnel department has a lot of Ozzie Newsome disciples from Baltimore. Ozzie always stays true to the draft board. Somehow, they got off the draft board and at No. 21 they took Jalen Reagor, the wide receiver, instead of Justin Jefferson, who had a higher grade on the Eagles’ board. How do you explain that? We don’t have enough time. But Jalen Hurts is the quarterback for this year, they don’t want to bring in competition for him.” [bleedinggreennation.com]
The first thing that jumps off the page is how this is directly contradictory to that previous report from Mort (and Schefter). So why the change? Well, according to Mort, there's a bit of mixed messaging coming out of the NovaCare Complex as not everyone appears to be in lock-step on this move. To Mort, it appears that there wasn't so much a change in philosophy, but rather a change in messenger.
I would not report the Eagles have internal unanimity on Hurts as QB1 but sources say the boss, Jeffrey Lurie, has instructed his group to prioritize making Hurts successful in 2021 as opposed to creating a true competition.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 8, 2021
Reading between the lines, his last source was probably someone working under Roseman — or, more likely, Roseman himself — while this time it's almost certainly coming from above Roseman's head (i.e. Lurie). Or, again, it could be coming from spin master Howie Roseman, perhaps as a way to distance himself if the Hurts experiment backfires. Lurie may have made this proclamation, but it could be Roseman leaking it to the media so that if Hurts fails, it will be on the record that this was an ownership decision, not a management one.
Along those same lines, this could simply be Roseman trying to work the draft. If those early reports about the Eagles considering drafting a QB at six can be considered a smokescreen to try to get other QB-needy teams to trade up above them, then why can't this be similarly viewed? It would certainly make all that draft information that Mort randomly included there make a little more sense.
From our angle, it seems like the Eagles are arriving at the right decision, but are going about it in the worst way possible. It's never a good sign when an owner is making personnel decisions, as it appears he did last season when the team drafted Hurts. It's even worse when the person that owner is overstepping is the owner's guy — and not just in the typical way a GM is the owner's right-hand-man. Lurie has given Roseman a pass at every turn, perhaps for a good reason. But if he can't trust his general manager to make a decision on the starting quarterback and has to go over his head, why is said general manager still employed? That's a question for a different day.
The only way to spin this positively for Lurie is by saying that perhaps he's the only one in the organization who learned from the mistake the team made last year. Bringing in a rookie quarterback was a major catalyst in the events that followed, resulting in the team taking the biggest dead money hit in football history just to get rid of a QB they spent a lot of draft capital on a few years earlier. Maybe he doesn't want history to repeat itself.
Even then, he has to realize that Hurts is not Wentz — and by all accounts the Alabama and Oklahoma product would welcome the competition.
No matter what happens, the Eagles are going to have to bring in at least two quarterbacks, as Hurts is currently the only one on the roster with Nate Sudfeld set to leave in free agency. With Hurts only having four NFL starts under his belt, it will be interesting to see what kind of QBs the Eagles can actually bring in that wouldn't be considered competition for Hurts. While drafting a QB now appears to be out of the question (if you believe this report), what about those veteran backups? Is Tyrod Taylor no longer a fit? What about Jacoby Brissett?
Hurts can learn a lot from those veterans, so maybe the Eagles can find a way to bring someone like that in. But by basically saying up front that they won't have a chance to compete for the starting job likely isn't going to help the Eagles in free agency, which officially opens a week from Wednesday.
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