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February 03, 2023

Eytan Shander: Jalen Hurts is the most important athlete on the planet right now

No other athlete in the world can say they stand in the way of a dynasty like Jalen Hurts.

There is way more riding on this Super Bowl than just your Eagles futures ticket. Hopefully you read my column back in July that highlighted why the Eagles had the best chance of making it to the Super Bowl, and ultimately bet them. You didn’t? Lesson learned.

What’s truly riding on this year’s Super Bowl is validation. Far more than just this year’s Eagles team, their success from a player to coach standpoint, it’s Jalen Hurts. Not the football player, rather the idea of Hurts — what he truly represents on a larger scale.

It’s safe to say right now that Hurts is the most important athlete in Philadelphia and arguably in the world right now. His level of importance carries much more weight than simply bringing the Eagles their second Super Bowl, or even sending a message to the “haters” or whatever you want to call that time wasting. Seems like he spends his time better in general than RT clips of Julian Love. 

There are a couple of thoughts out there, possible misnomers about the pressure found on Hurts. It’s a complicated example but there’s reason to think he stands on the edge of being the most important person in any sport right now. I’ll get to Philadelphia and the Eagles in a minute, but making a statement so large requires a bigger answer, at least in the beginning.

He stands on the edge of being the only true contender to stop the next dynasty in the most popular sport in this country. Jalen Hurts, Dynasty-killer. The Chiefs have an all-time head coach in Andy Reid with a QB who could moonwalk into Canton if he retired today. They continue to find themselves back in the final game of the year, getting closer to Tom Brady – Patriots level. 

Can we truly survive another dynasty like the one in New England? I’m sure Tom Brady was a nice kid before all that success turned him into the enemy. You may like the Chiefs and their QB now, but that all changes if they win on Sunday. On top of them beating the Eagles, it secures KC’s right to start using “dynasty.” Nothing is worse in sports than a team that everyone knows is going to win, every time. 

The Eagles and Hurts won’t get that level of respect from the league until they do it again, I get that, but it’s the closest thing we have to destroying this monster before it grows even bigger. No other QB in the NFC has the ability to do this.

Hurts might as well be sitting in the witness stand addressing the fellow QBs in the conference, doing his best Jack impersonation, “Who’s gonna do it? You… Prescott?”

No. Of course not. The best teams in the NFC this year had QB issues. Kirk Cousins isn’t made for the playoffs, neither is Dak Prescott. Daniel Jones is the below-poverty line version of Hurts, he had a great year from being one of the worst QBs in the NFL. Hurts had a good year last year but is now the MVP. The Niners do not have a QB and whatever that was in Tampa might as well have been backup material. Geno Smith? Someone finally wrote back. 

The circumstances surrounding the QB play in the NFC actually mandate that Hurts go out each year and represent this conference. It might simply become a battle of good vs. evil, Hurts vs. Mahomes. 

We, as a nation, care more about the NFL than most things. It’s one of the few things in the fabric of our society that we kind of need. It makes as much money as any other entity influencing our political structure, while being able to overcome any scandal, no matter the size or magnitude. It’s bulletproof because of its popularity. I maintain, the NFL could be exposed as written and sports betting would actually increase. 

So we now have the Obi-Wan to Kansas City’s Darth Vader. Hurts is our only hope. Your only hope. 

Back to Hurts, and the local importance. You can define how your own pressure manifests itself into action – Twitter, conversations, yelling at the TV, what have you. The pressure comes with Hurts now being able to impact the game more so than any other athlete we have present in Philadelphia. 

Did you just read that? The pressure comes with Hurts now being able to impact the game more so than any other athlete we have present in Philadelphia. There it is again. We are now talking about a QB who plays in the NFL impacting a game’s outcome more than one of the most dominant front court players in the history of the NBA. More than Bryce Harper doing what seemed like everything for the Phillies. More than Andre Blake who – along with his defense – made history this year in the MLS,

This isn’t a knock on Joel Embiid, Harper, or Blake. Nor is it on anyone left off this list like Carter Hart. It shows you how damn good you need to be in the NFL as a QB to rise above other sports, more individual-first sports like the NBA. Hurts ability to put his team up opens everything for this defense, he isn’t just synergy, he’s the catalyst and the heart. He’s everything first, then the team falls in place. 

I can’t wait to see what he does next, and neither can the rest of the planet. Mahomes has done this longer, but we haven’t seen a QB impact every aspect of the game, allowing different strategies and execution by a defense because of what he does on the field with the football, like Mr. Hurts, outside of Mr. Mahomes.

We never had a giant-killer like this before, someone who could stop a dynasty right in their tracks, then do it again. At some point Hurts becomes the entity he kills, think that’s the plot for Friday the 13th, but I’ll gladly take him running around the field continuing to massacre defenses. 

We’ve watched a dynasty in the NBA survive before, and during this run by Embiid and the Sixers. They haven’t done anything in the playoffs to be put in that category of importance. Meaning, they aren’t in the same position to stop Golden State or Boston right now, until proven otherwise. The other sports may have an example – like with Blake – but the NFL is just so dominant, that Hurts just means more. No knock, it’s the realest observation we can make based on how much time we spend on the Eagles, and the NFL. 

No other athlete on the planet can say they stand in the way of a dynasty like Hurts, not in a sport as popular, and important, as the NFL. 

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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