Ah, the bye week. A chance for rest, reflection, and a million articles overanalyzing the QB situation in Philadelphia. Realistically, Jalen Hurts is going to be the man under center when the team returns to action next week, but is there a valid case to be made for Gardner Minshew?
The former Jaguars signal-caller made his first start on Sunday in relief of the injury stricken Hurts, who should be back and raring to go on Monday night. However, there are some who are more than willing to embrace Minshew mania and all its glory.
The case for Gardner Minshew
It’s not like Gardner Minshew was incredible in his first start as an Eagles quarterback, nor was he asked to do very much. Most of his passes were routine checkdowns with very little risk involved. However, he did show plenty of poise in the pocket and delivered some impressive strikes to Dallas Goedert, highlighting a level of confidence on deeper passes, going 3/5 on attempts of 10+ yards.
Minshew only threw the ball 25 times, but completed 20 passes and actually put up the most passing yards the Eagles have had since week 4. Considering that the passing game was pretty much abandoned at halftime, that’s beyond impressive. The gameplan looked eerily similar to what we saw in the week one win over the Falcons, at least in my opinion.
It’s not that Minshew is any ‘better’ than Jalen Hurts. They’re two completely different quarterbacks who can rip defenses to shreds in different ways. We’ve had three quarters of the season to see what an offense built around Jalen Hurts could look like. The picture hasn’t changed all that much since that season opening win against Atlanta, other than the team are now run-heavy and that Hurts won’t be challenged to throw more than 25 times per game unless he really has too.
Is that a knock on his traits as a passer? Not really. But to say that one game against the Jets gives an honest picture of how the offense would look under Minshew would be inaccurate. It needs time to evolve and to endure the twists and turns brought to the table by differing defenses.
That also falls onto the shoulders of Nick Sirianni. Howie Roseman and company will learn much more about his coaching ability by changing quarterbacks than they would by dropping Hurts back into the equation. The evaluation of Sirianni is just as important as the evaluation of Hurts.
The odds of Gardner Minshew becoming the teams’ starting quarterback next year are slim and the aim of giving him a shot to lead the team out of the tunnel wouldn’t be to achieve that. Instead, it would give the front office a few games of tape to look at how a different quarterback handles the same plays Jalen Hurts does.
Forget stats, forget PFF, forget accuracy. Giving Minshew the start for a few games would obviously open up a million comparisons using a million more metrics to try and make the case for one man or the other. What you would really be looking for is how Minshew handles situations differently.
How long does he stay in the pocket in comparison to Hurts on a given play if the pressure situation is relatively similar?
Is he able to go through his progressions and peel back without being rocked off of his perch by pressure that isn’t there?
Can he consistently plant his feet and deliver a well-timed deep pass that gives his receiver a fighting chance?
Is the offense able to become more than a rushing juggernaut with Minshew at the helm?
Does the team lose its rushing edge with Hurts out of the picture, or is it enhanced with a legitimate passing threat?
These are just a few of the questions that should be written down on a notepad somewhere inside Howie Roseman’s backpack.
If the Eagles are going to start Gardner Minshew, the numbers don’t matter. The shape of the offense does.
The case for Jalen Hurts
This shouldn’t need explaining, but it’s a strange one. The first thing anyone will mention when defending Hurts or advocating for his spot as QB1 is his character. That isn’t a bad thing at all. The leadership he continues to show on a weekly basis as a young man is truly outstanding. He outshines a lot of the vets in that category and can clearly galvanize a team and inspire the offense through vocal and physical leadership, culminating on maximum effort on the field. But his execution is inconsistent at best…
The only way Hurts is going to get better is through reps. The more he passes the ball, the more tape he’ll have to watch back, the more he’ll learn. The worrying part is, as aforementioned, the growth isn’t as quick as many of us would’ve liked to see. Is that going to change during the final five games? Potentially.
Then, there’s the bigger picture. This season was destined to be one big learning curve from the jump and Hurts finds himself as the leader of the pack. That pack is now in the hunt for a playoff spot. His play as a passer hasn’t been great this year, but as a valuable piece of the offense, it’s debatably pushed them to this point, or at the very least played a big role. Letting him finish the mission and learn through what promises to be his first real sense of high-stakes football at the NFL level is optimal for his development.
Has Jalen Hurts outperformed expectations? Not really. Has he earned the right to finish the season? Absolutely.
Who do you think the Eagles should roll with?
Photo Credits: Icon Sportswire