Philadelphia Eagles

One Year Later: Was Benching the Franchise QB the Right Call?

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December 6, 2020, was a massive turning point for the Philadelphia Eagles. One year later, it’s time to look back to see if it was the right call. With the team limping to defeat in Green Bay, Jalen Hurts took over at quarterback – replacing a player with a four-year contract worth $128 million. It was a big call. But again was it the right call? And where do the Eagles stand one year later?

Has the Quality of Quarterbacking improved?

In 2020, an auburn-haired QB was playing his fifth season in Philly – and his worst. PFF ranked him 30th in the NFL, with the lowest overall grade of his career (65.0). He had 2,620 passing yards in 12 games, with 16 touchdowns and a league-leading 15 interceptions. In the rushing game, he added 276 yards and five TDs. And he was also the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL, hitting the dirt 50 times.

His replacement, Jalen Hurts, is currently ranked 25th by PFF, with an overall grade of 80.0. In his 12 games as a starter this season, he has thrown for 2,435 passing yards and 13 touchdowns, with eight interceptions. Hurts has also rushed for 695 yards and scampered into the end zone eight times. He has been sacked just 21 times, which is the third-fewest in the NFL.

The Eagles now have the league’s second-best rushing quarterback. They also have a QB who completed 20 of 25 passes against the Jets, putting up 242 yards through the air. Sadly, they are not the same person.

Altogether, it’s fair to say the standard of quarterbacking has improved in the last 12 months. That may also be down to a deeply gifted (and miraculously healthy) offensive line, as well as a reinvigorated rushing attack. But there’s clear evidence that QB productivity has been boosted since the Eagles gave #11 the boot. And the same is probably true for the local duck population.

Is the Team Trending Upwards?

When the Eagles pulled the trigger on the gun-slinging North Dakota quack-extinguisher, the team had a 3-8-1 record and was en route to a fourth consecutive defeat. Faint playoff hopes were still alive in a putrid NFC East. But those hopes died a few weeks after the Eagles lost faith in their deeply religious QB.

Right now, the Eagles have a 6-7 record and are just one spot outside the NFC wild-card race. That is progress. And with Bye Week and a friendly schedule ahead, fans have plenty of reasons to believe.

How About Cultural Consequences?

Careless whispers and controversy were never far away last season. There were rumors that the QB and HC had stopped talking to each other. Senior players felt the need to voice a vote of confidence. Former players spoke up too. The team was in the throes of a full-blown quarterback controversy, while the long and reportedly girthy shadow of Nick Foles still hung over the locker room, even from 750 miles away.

One year later, a new QB soap opera may be brewing between two players who both possess the swaggering underdog charm that makes Philly sports fans go weak at the knees. And even though Nick Sirianni was quick to pledge allegiance to Jalen Hurts yesterday, the Eagles still haven’t found a quarterback they are willing to build around as a long-term fixture in the City of Brotherly Love.

What’s the Financial Fallout?

Ultimately, December 6 was the point in 2020 when the Eagles decided they weren’t getting enough bang for their buck. With an annual salary of around $32 million, the former first-round-pick QB was part of a bigger problem – with the Eagles projected to be almost $60 million over the NFL salary cap in 2021.

12 months down the line, the team is now expected to have more than $30 million of cap space for next season. It’s a vivid illustration of Howie Roseman’s magical ability to manage the purse strings – matched only by his magical ability to make enemies. When that money for free agents is combined with the Eagles’ enviable draft capital, it shows that this team is now in a powerful position to build for the future.

The Verdict?

One year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were in turmoil. Today, the team is still in flux. Turning away from a player with a hefty four-year contract was a colossal decision, and the reverberations are still rumbling.

If the front office was aiming to create clarity about the quarterback position, the tactic has certainly failed. But with better results, more money, and exciting draft picks ahead in 2022, the Eagles have given themselves valuable time to think – and turned big problems into bright possibilities.

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Matty Bannond is a 36-year-old fiction writer, music writer and sports writer. He was born and raised near Manchester, UK. He now lives in Germany.

Twitter: @MattyBannond

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