To say the Eagles came out a little rusty on Tuesday night would be an understatement. Penalty flags flew in the first quarter as if they were bouquets at a wedding and Jalen Hurts struggled to find a rhythm. Luckily, Nick Sirianni was able to find a way to blow the rust off and send his quarterback out onto the field to dominate the rest of the game.
Hurts struggled early on. Whether it was targeting a double-covered DeVonta Smith in the endzone on third down when he had two open routes underneath, or being bailed out by Dallas Goedert in what was a fantastic Randy Moss impression, the Eagles QB was out of sync. It’s hard to blame him. He hadn’t played a game in 23 days due to a high-ankle sprain and the whole offense came back looking clunky.
A ball bounced off of Goedert’s heel and into the hands of Landon Colins for an interception. What felt like only moments later, Hurts then fumbled the rock and gifted Washington possession at the halfway line. The Eagles found themselves down 10 points with 2 minutes to go in the first quarter.
Nick Sirianni was seen getting into the ear of Jalen Hurts, who was walking to the sideline with his head bowed down. It may have looked like a pretty negative reaction, but something clearly clicked.
Hurts then turned in one of his best performances as a professional quarterback. He threw darts all night, was smart with his reads, and completed 20/26 passes as well as posting 2 rushing touchdowns. In the process of doing so, he became the first ever Eagles QB to hit 10 rushing scores in a single season, and needs only 4 more to catch Cam Newton for the all-time NFL record.
Hurts willed the offense on and pushed them back into the game. With some second half help from an explosive Miles Sanders, the Eagles took care of business and kept Washington at bay after retaking the lead.
So what changed between the fumble and the comeback?
“Jalen’s dad coached him hard and my dad coached me hard, so I think Jalen responds to tough coaching.” Nick Sirianni said after the game. “He likes tough coaching, and I wasn’t going to back down on him. I thought he was careless with the football, and I let him know that and we are just honest with each other. Sometimes it comes off as we’re just talking through it and sometimes I’ve got to deliver the message a little bit different.”
The Eagles Head Coach followed up by saying:
“But what a great job by him having that mentality just to — he had two turnovers early and the first one is not his fault. He played a great football game today. One of the best football games I’ve seen him play and so what an unbelievable job by him of — what did he say? Flush it, don’t look at it, flush it, and then move on.
So awesome job by him and when you have a good relationship with your quarterback, you’re able to have those tough conversations like that. We moved on and he played a great game from there on out.”
It’s incredibly refreshing to hear an Eagles quarterback take to tough love. Carson Wentz, for instance, reportedly hated the way that QB Coach John DeFilippo got on his back, despite the fact Wentz played his best ball under his tutelage. We all know how the rest of the story went.
Hurts obviously comes from a career of having to push through adversity. From his benching at Bama to the Carson Wentz controversy, he’s never shied away from a challenge. The Nick Saban DNA is clearly flowing through his veins, but the tough coaching started at a much younger age for Hurts.
“I’ve been telling him all year that I’m a coaches’ kid. Basically all the coaches’ kids out there know what that means. It means they’ve been coached. They’ve heard everything.” The Eagles quarterback told reporters after the game.
“ In high school I lived with the guy that was chewing me out. I made it clear to Coach all year, ‘You know, you can get on me a little bit.’ So after the fumble, he came up to me and said what he had to say. Then later on in the game he comes back and jokes with me and says, ‘I guess I’m just going to start coaching you like your dad coached you.’ So it was a funny moment. Whatever he said worked.”
All good things take time. It’s clear that Sirianni and Hurts have found the type of coaching style that will benefit both. When you have any rookie Head Coach and QB pairing (first full year for Hurts) working out how each other respond to certain types of communication is absolutely vital. Some pairings work, others end up kicking their kickers.
The fact that Nick Sirianni clearly understands that he can take that kind of approach with his quarterback and he’ll respond well can only mean good things for their future together. It shows a mutual respect and a desire to grow. It demonstrates that Hurts is willing to let Sirianni push him to the edge in order to get the best results. Those results may not come overnight, but the flowers are definitely being fertilised.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire