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December 16, 2020

Eytan Shander: If Hurts keeps winning, how can the Eagles go back to Wentz as starter?

Doug Pederson's offense suddenly looked dangerous again with the rookie quarterback, and that's no coincidence.

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-Howie-Roseman_121320_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts talks with general manager Howie Roseman before making his first NFL start.

The Philadelphia Eagles just dangled their new shiny toy in front of us like keys to a toddler. We all ate it up, and rightfully so. Because this season has been a far cry from us fans refusing to eat our vegetables.

No, we’ve sat through all the mess that was Carson Wentz and his decline. If anything, we ate our veggies with a promise of desert, and got nothing but a second helping of sprouts.

Some people will exhaust their platforms asking ridiculous questions about which QB is the guy moving forward, or if Doug Pederson or Wentz was more responsible for the losing — or even if Jalen Hurts can win a Super Bowl. My hope here is to ask the single most important question so far during Howie Roseman’s tenure.

More on that in a minute. First, we need some context as to what exactly happened against the Saints. There are folks in sports who are hundreds to thousands of miles away from Philly who want you to follow their narrative on Doug Pederson, not what the actual facts say.

Be careful.

You are in the area and know the conversations that are going on each and every day. In fact, we are usually making fun of how redundant those conversations are. Take this into consideration as you read the next sentence.

Doug Pederson didn’t do anything different against the Saints. Same coach, same guy. All Pederson did was revert back to what the offense looked like for a small glimpse this season: the first half of the opener against Washington.

This was really a three-stage process, but the first and third stages were identical. The offense started out as something, then needed to be reduced – drastically – because the QB was taking a historic step backwards. Once Hurts was inserted into the offense, things worked as they did last season where Wentz would tuck more often than this year, and found success doing so.

The ball came out quicker with Hurts allowing guys to make plays against defenders. Pederson was able to coach with the lead and lean more on Miles Sanders. There wasn’t any “leaving Carson Wentz out to dry” type coaching, nor did Pederson use some special playbook he was hiding for the past three months. He was simply able to run the offense as it was designed, because the person executing it was playing at competent level.

Do you realize how bad Carson Wentz was playing to see Hurts as anything other than a breath of fresh air? The rookie wasn’t Wilson, Rodgers, or Mahomes out there, but he also wasn’t Wentz. For three hours on Sunday afternoon, that was more than enough for us.

People, you can’t have it both ways. There is no cake to have and eat too. We are experiencing the carrot cake of analogies if so. The offensive line was (is) in shambles, skill guys are hurt, the QB was seeing ghosts BUT you had an issue with Pederson's adjustments? He had no choice but to adjust because Wentz had the yips.

This brings us back to the most important question that needs to be asked – especially if we see more positives from Hurts – to the Eagles top brass. It doesn’t matter who answers this question, but we need an answer at the very least before the offseason.

Jalen Hurts came in and showed he can be an NFL quarterback and is not some gimmick or perversion of the position – like Taysom Hill. So, now what?

Carson Wentz is watching – yet again – another QB step in and breathe life into the offense. Hurts is about two wins away from having a shrine built in the locker room. So, now what?

Doug Pederson showed in just one game that his offense can work if the QB can properly function. That maybe handing over play calling to Press Taylor isn’t the best idea. So, now what?

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As a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, I’m a little confused as to what is going on here. We need direction from the front office as to how this thing is going to play out moving forward. Otherwise, we're stuck in a bitch of a Catch-22. 

Rooting for the Eagles in the final three weeks of the season means rooting for Hurts to succeed, and for Wentz to be removed from office. Rooting for a higher draft pick means rooting against Hurts, and ensuring Wentz is back as the starter – including the ridiculously poor season he carries on his back. Rooting for Hurts to fail means Wentz would get another shot, but if he doesn’t change, both QBs are cooked.

I need to know who is playing for what moving forward, because my fandom deserves better than this. So does yours. Is Jalen Hurts playing for the starting role in 2021? What happens if you can’t move Wentz but Hurts wins out? If this team magically wins the NFC East, how in the world can they go back to Wentz? 

Here’s another one: Hurts has an arm – as so many of us who watched college football know – and he should never be relegated to some Tim Tebow-type role. How can they justify keeping his talents wrapped up if Wentz comes back and struggles?

This team is far from fixed and is going to lean heavily on this year’s upcoming draft to start that process. Salary cap hell is no myth and moving on from someone like Wentz will be doubly difficult. Four weeks may not be enough to determine if a guy should start the following season, but thirteen weeks is plenty to know someone else deserves a shot.

Eagles Bet of the Week

Each week I’ll provide one big bet I like for the Eagles game. It can be a simple line bet or a more specific prop. Find everything you need from all the various sports books at TheLines.com.

I don’t think the books will catch up to Hurts and the offense in one specific area, and there may be a great opportunity to capitalize on it. I would take a hard look at the first half total and bury the over. The Eagles have been so off in the first quarter/half that it’s actually dragged other teams down. The infusion of Hurts was a much-needed shot of adrenaline to this offense – specifically in the first half.

The Saints were a disinterested football team for the first two quarters, while Arizona can’t afford to take off any plays. Expect both the Cards and Eagles to trade a couple of big blows, making for an easy high-scoring first half.

The Middle w/ BROOKS, MAYES & EYTAN

Clip of the Week

This week we highlight Jalen Hurts and a couple of big plays made against the Saints:

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on The Middle w/ Brooks, Mayes and Eytan right here on PhillyVoice (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.). You can also catch him on FOX 29 Good Day and on his new show Props & Locks Thursday nights on FOX 29.

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