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May 25, 2023

Eytan Shander: Everybody wants to play with Jalen Hurts, get used to it

Howie Roseman and Jalen Hurts have made the Eagles a top destination in football.

The Philadelphia Eagles will always be in contention so long as Jalen Hurts is healthy. They will always be an offseason destination so long as Hurts is an Eagle. The league absolutely, positively loves him – nearly as much as we do. 

Once again, we saw a high-profile player, this time DeAndre Hopkins, specifically reference Hurts and the Eagles as a team that the 5-time All-Pro receiver would love to join. Yes, Hurts is actually recruiting people without doing anything more than winning on the field. Hopkins, like the rest of the NFL, saw what Hurts can do, and how close this team was to winning the Super Bowl. This is the same league that saw what Howie Roseman did, from NFL Draft to trade to signings.

Roseman’s moves off the field combined with Hurts on the field is total domination. Everything else just falls into place so long as the Philadelphia Eagles actively have these two men running things, be it the war room or the Red Zone Offense. 

This isn’t going away, and one of the most valuable pieces of this new gold standard set by the Eagles is manifested in the words of a player like Hopkins. Guys who still have something left in the tank, who need a year to show and prove for a big – or last – check, veterans who simply want out of a bad team to go win something, all of these are now magnetized to Hurts. That’s the stuff usually reserved for guys like Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. The league will continue to find ways to get to Philadelphia, to get in that locker room. 

Arguably the most important position in all sports is now a magnet for other top or smart, aging veteran talent. This early in his career, it's simple validation that this is not a fluke. We already knew that, but seeing the players with name and talent jump at the thought of playing with Hurts should warm your hearts. It should bring you great comfort to know that this type of cache or cred doesn’t just go away overnight, it would take failure after failure for people to move away from Hurts – and at that point who knows who else may. 

It’s all about the magnet. 

Bryce Harper knows about it too. 

He goes about it a different way, kicking the door in and screaming for ownership to make a move, bring in Trea Turner, or re-sign JT Realmuto. It may not be the most likable approach for some, but I couldn’t care less, it gets results. Harper gets answers and results. What the team will be this season is left to be seen, but even after Turner responded to the boos on Wednesday, we are reminded about the reason why he’s here. That same reason isn’t going anywhere, much like the Eagles and Hurts. 

The MLB world knows all about Harper and guys want to play with him. They see a video of him trying to take on an entire team of Rockies players and want to be a part of it. But it’s more than that. It’s last season and how so many players witnessed what playing in Philadelphia is truly like. That’s a huge selling point that Harper can only lead to water, not force to guzzle. The fans need to show up for something meaningful for that to work, not just games in May. 

It was the perfect combination of a dynamic player leading a team in front of an amazing fan experience. It’s just hard to think that a player of any top tier who loves the spotlight would see that and not want to join it. It’s the other part of the player recruiter that is necessary, proven already to be a success in netting big names.

Does anyone want to play for the Philadelphia 76ers? Does anyone want to play with Joel Embiid? Outside of Jimmy Butler, I am legitimately asking this question into the universe. He’s the league’s regular season MVP and a dynamic talent we haven’t seen in decades. Embiid seems personable and hasn’t really had any public spats with anyone here outside of Ben Simmons, but who hasn’t had a public spat with Simmons? He’s all over Elon Musk’s world but so are a lot of you. Embiid talks a lot of trash but so does the rest of the league. 

Again, we know he has a great relationship with Jimmy Butler and I’m sure there are other players in that star level who he would call friends. But it’s way more than that, as we see both in and outside the NBA. Philadelphia has two standing examples of synergy with players, front office, and fans. Embiid and the Sixers seem to have a broken line of communication whereas this process is failing. 

No, I didn’t waste 820 words to get to a “Trade Embiid!” stance, because that’s just silly. The Sixers need to figure out their money situation asap because bringing back James Harden to play alongside Embiid is the opposite of what the Phillies or Eagles would do. The trifecta so effective for the Phillies and Eagles just doesn’t seem to exist, at least not in synergy with the Sixers. 

Where is Embiid the recruiter? Beyond just that, there’s a lack of confidence in the Sixers front office getting a deal done and isn’t tarnished already for past dealings – specifically Jimmy who the rest of the league also loves. Finally, Embiid and the Sixers robbed us of a true playoff experience like the other two teams mentioned. Fans were essentially on edge the entire series and saw some ridiculous endings at home that left much to be desired. No superstar player watched the Sixers in the playoffs and thought, “That’s the home-court advantage for me.” It’s no true knock on us – or you the paying customer — rather just the harsh reality of how sad of an ending it was for the season. 

Pick up the phone, listen to your superstar, and give the fans something to talk about. It’s working for the Eagles; it’s working better for the Phillies than the Sixers. Hopkins probably won’t be catching passes for the Eagles next season, but he certainly won’t be the last big name to talk about it. 

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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