Beating the Cowboys on Christmas would’ve been the perfect present for Eagles fans. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for a myriad of reasons. Regardless of your views on backup QB Gardner Minshew and his role in the losses, the clear deficiencies in his game should act as a reminder as to just how far Jalen Hurts has come.
Gardner Minshew’s time to shine expired in shade
If you’re looking for Jalen Hurts MVP confirmation bias, this is going to be an article worth reading. Gardner Minshew completed 24/40 passes, throwing 2 touchdowns and 2 picks in the process against the Cowboys. It was anything but tidy. Minshew not only had a habit of launching passes from his back foot into dangeorus windows, but would almost default to escaping the pocket at the earliest opportunity.
It felt like Minshew would receive the snap, dash around like a deer in headlights and fall away from the pass he was throwing as opposed to stepping into it. Fast forward a week and the Eagles were cautious to give Jalen Hurts the green light, and rightly so. The Eagles still have a week 18 matchup to secure the 1st-round bye and #1 seed and ensuring Hurts is 100% healthy for his first playoff run made all the sense in the world. Unfortunately, it came at an embarrassing cost.
Gardner Minshew struggled massively against the Saints. Whether it was the game-sealing interception or all of the earlier criticisms compounded into one ugly performance, Minshew struggled to do much of anything. However, it wasn’t all his fault.
The Eagles could’ve done more
The offense was built for Jalen Hurts and unlike Doug Pederson before him, Nick Sirianni opted to keep things the same for Minshew. It was an opportunity for one of the better backup QB’s in the league to prove himself, and he failed to do so. Those near-unstoppable 1-yard QB sneaks? Now suddenly very stoppable. The RPO game built on rhythm? Couldn’t complete a 10-yard out-route pass. The ability to come off of his first read? Unidentifiable.
Admittedly, Minshew wasn’t exactly helped. The Eagles played against one of the wost run defenses over the last month and decided to scheme a backup QB to drop back 38 times. But no matter how you slice it, does this not only amplify how important Jalen Hurts is to this team, and really show how far he’s come?
Jalen Hurts is a rare breed of QB
It feels like only yesterday we were saying the same things about Hurts. A young quarterback who defaulted to rushing at the earliest opportunity, lacked touch on deep passes, struggled to step up in the pocket and whose passes over the middle lacked zip, often leading them to fall gracefully into the path of a linebacker.
Now he’s an NFL MVP candidate.
It’s all very well for people to sit and say that Jalen Hurts is a beneficiary of a dominant offensive front, two star wideouts, and a great run game. But if a backup quarterback cannot be elevated by such a star-studded group, and if that group can only accounr for a measly 10 points against the Saints, does that not only show just how valuable the presence of Jalen Hurts is to this offense? Shouldn’t a star-studded offense mask the deficiencies of a struggling quarterback?
Sure, the Gardner Minshew games were ugly and luckily it appears as though Hurts will be back under center this weekend. But if there is ever a takeaway it’s that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Anyone who was finding flaws in the game of Jalen Hurts up to this game was simply nitpicking what has been a monumental season. What we saw these past two weeks was a scary insight into what life could be like in some parallel universe.
It’s been a long time since the Eagles have had an elite quarterback. By definition, that means elite play every week. The issue with that is you can often take stellar play for granted because it becomes the norm. Gardner Minshew’s rollercoaster of chaos has only shined a light on just how special Jalen Hurts truly is.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez