Eagles Rewind: A look back at the incredible rise of Jalen Hurts

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws a pass as New York Giants linebacker Jihad Ward (55) tries to rush in on him during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

On April 24th of 2020, the Philadelphia Eagles made one of the most important decisions in their franchise’s history. With the 53rd pick of the draft, Howie Roseman and the Eagles staff surprised just about every person watching when they drafted Jalen Hurts. The Heisman finalist from Oklahoma and Alabama was spectacular in his Senior year, but why did he go there?

The Eagles had just given Carson Wentz a huge contract extension less than a year prior, and now they were drafting another quarterback in the second round. Roseman and everyone around the team insisted that Wentz was the starter and that was not to be challenged. Jalen Hurts was to be the backup and be used sparingly in the offense as a gadget player like Taysom Hill of the Saints. The fit was weird and the move was not well received by the national media or Philadelphia fans. 

As the 2020 season grew closer, questions began to rise about how much the Eagles liked Carson Wentz. Even though they gave him an extension, some members of management were not sold on his ability to lead the team after suffering multiple injuries. If the Eagles were all in on Wentz, why reach for another quarterback so soon? There were bad vibes all around and the team seemed to be going downhill shortly after winning the Super Bowl. 

Once that season began, however, it became clear that Wentz, for multiple reasons, was not the guy for the future. He was erratic and inconsistent, being the main catalyst for why the team was drastically underperforming. By week 13, the team has finally seen enough of Wentz after a 3-7-1 start and he was benched for the first time in his career against the Packers for Hurts.

Halfway through the 3rd quarter, the Eagles were down by 20 but Hurts seemed to steady the team with his presence and eventually got the game down to 1 possession in the 4th quarter. Hurts didn’t lead them to victory, but he did show a couple of positives in his limited time as the signal caller. He went 5 for 12, with 109 yards and 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He wasn’t fantastic but he at least gave the Eagles a chance in the game, something hadn’t done for most of the season. 

During the next week, head coach Doug Pederson announced that Hurts would be the starter for the final 4 games of the season.  In his first start against a good New Orleans team, Hurts led the Eagles to a surprise upset, 24-21. He showed poise under pressure and his ability to run the ball made him a dangerous weapon. Hurts threw for 167 and a touchdown and rushed for 106 yards. It was just hit first full game, but he seemed to provide a spark that the team needed.

The Eagles were competitive in every game for the rest of that season, but Hurts wasn’t able to help them win one of the worst divisions of all time, as they went 0-3 in his next 3 starts, to finish the season a nightmarish, 4-11-1.

A fresh start for the Eagles

During that next offseason, the team would go through some massive changes. Coach Pederson was fired just a few days after the season ended, and a few weeks after that, Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts to try and revive his career. After all the chaos, Hurts ended up as the number 1 quarterback on the roster for the 2021 season. Many fans thought he was simply a placeholder while the team looked to upgrade, but he viewed himself as a franchise player when no one thought he deserved to even start. 

2021 was a season of uncertainty. For the first time since 2016, the Eagles had a new head coach and quarterback combination with Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts. People had to see wins to believe in this duo, and it got off to about as rough of a start as possible. The team, especially Hurts, looked dominant in a week 1 blowout over Atlanta, with 326 total yards and 3 touchdowns. However, the team would go through adversity, mostly in the first half of the season, having a 3-6 record through 9 weeks.

Jalen Hurts didn’t have a game that matched his Atlanta success in that stretch and did not look like an NFL-level passer. He was constantly underthrowing receivers on deep passes and struggled with his accuracy and decision-making. He often took too long to get rid of the ball and would lock onto receivers, giving easy interceptions to the other team. 

However, after Sirianni gave his famous flower speech, the Eagles started to turn their season around, and that coincided with Hurts improving week by week. After going 6-2 in their final 8 games, specifically 5-1 in Hurts starts, this young and not overly talented roster had played themselves into the final playoff spot in the NFC and outperformed all expectations.

Hurts didn’t have high passing totals because the Eagles had the best running game in football, but he managed games effectively for the team and cut down on his mistakes, giving them more chances to succeed. He finished his first full season as a starter throwing for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He also rushed for 784 yards and an additional 10 touchdowns.

In the wild-card round, the Eagles flew down to Florida to play the defending Super Bowl champions, Buccaneers. The Eagles were heavy favorites but the bad vibes had turned good after an optimistic end to the season. However, the bad vibes would return almost instantly. Hurts was atrocious in his playoff debut, throwing 2 interceptions and looking completely lost against a good Tampa defense. The Buccs raced out to a 31-0 lead and by halftime, it was clear the game was pretty much over. All the goodwill that Hurts had built disappeared and once again, the doubters and haters were everywhere, saying he couldn’t win at this level.

What a difference a year makes…

Over the course of just 1 year, Hurts has completely shifted how he’s perceived and has become perhaps the best quarterback in the NFC. He is the ultimate competitor, and will do whatever it takes to win a ballgame, even if he’s not at 100%. The team and winning are the only things that matter to him. Since starting 3-6 last year, Jalen Hurts has gone 20-1 in his last 21 games. Last year he wasn’t the main reason why they were winning, but this year, he turned into arguably the most important player in all of football. The Eagles looked like juggernauts in his 15 starts and looked very poor in the two games he didn’t play.

In 2022, Hurts answered any questions people had about his throwing ability. While his ability to run the ball effectively was never doubted, no one thought he could be this efficient of a passer. This year, he raised his completion percentage from 61% to 66.5%, and his passing yards per game from 209 to 247. He also used all parts of the field, whereas before he tended to only pass to the outside and not use the middle of the field last season.

He also increased his total touchdown mark, setting a new Eagles record with 35. Jalen Hurts has been as consistent as they come this season, and is the main reason why they’re in a position to win the franchise’s second Super Bowl in 6 years. None of this would be possible without Hurts, who has evolved from a maligned 2nd round pick to the next hero of Philadelphia.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke