October 29, 2021

The Clock is Ticking on Jalen Hurts' Time as Philadelphia Eagles' Starting QB

Few NFL teams can walk the tightrope of maintaining valuable assets for the future and competing for deep playoff success every year. Salary-cap limitations, aging veterans, injuries, and the return on draft picks all affect year-to-year outlooks. The Philadelphia Eagles have learned the hard way that going all-in after winning can catastrophically backfire.

The franchise thought they were in good hands after winning a Super Bowl in 2018, but everything has come crashing down. Faith was lost in the coaching staff and both quarterbacks on the roster and more recently, the general manager. Missed free agent signings, extensions, and draft picks have led to an ugly 2-5 start in 2021.

The jury is still out on the key players in Philadelphia but the heat is rising. Head coach Nick Sirianni has not only come off as unaware and unprepared during his press conferences but also on game days. The Eagles have a middling offense that has forgotten how to use their talented backs, and a defense that's unreliable despite heavy investments across it.

For a normal, healthy front office, Howie Roseman would already start lining up potential candidates to replace Sirianni if the mess continues. Miscues are one thing, but the team has looked incompetent in losses to the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders. Hiring Sirianni was always a stretch based on his weak credentials, and he's been exposed thus far.

Unfortunately for Eagles' fans, Roseman has shown he's egotistical and power-hungry, so he'll likely be back in 2022 in hopes of unlikely improvement. After all, Roseman can point the finger on 2020 second-round pick and starting quarterback Jalen Hurts as the reason for the offense struggling. Hurts also has a ticking clock as far as his remaining time at this rate.

Despite being the second-best fantasy quarterback thanks to his immense rushing impact, Hurts is proving to be the ultimate Rorschach Test for evaluators. Although, there is some hope with Hurts at quarterback. He's completing 61% of passes for 1,716 yards, 10 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He's added 361 yards and five scores on the ground as well.

Yet, watching the Eagles often leaves you feeling like you ate a stale bag of chips. Hurts is as unimpactful as any quarterback in the NFL despite the numbers. His production comes when it matters least and the details in his game are missing.

This isn't surprising for those who evaluated him in college. Hurts was a quality playmaker at Alabama and Oklahoma, but had significant issues in key moments pre- and post-snap. He fails to identify coverages early and cannot react quickly to post-snap changes to help overcome other limitations. He's also not a particularly accurate passer still.

There's still time left in 2021 for Hurts to prove he's the guy worth sticking with moving forward but the results must come now. He's at the bottom of the league in accuracy and average completion depth, meaning he's not adding the threat of a big play despite solid physical traits. After the Eagles passed on both Justin Fields and Mac Jones in last year's draft, they know everyone is under the microscope with how they handle the position.

There's also the looming 2022 NFL Draft. Philadelphia could have three first-round picks depending on how many snaps Carson Wentz plays for the Colts this year. One of those picks belongs to the 1-6 Miami Dolphins.

The Eagles will likely have the chance to package those picks for someone like Deshaun Watson or simply take the best quarterback on the board if the Dolphins continue to lose. There's not another team capable of matching their assets in any deal.

Acquiring Watson would surely end Hurts' tenure as a starter in Philadelphia but a rookie such as Sam Howell or Malik Willis wouldn't. The competition didn't help jumpstart Hurts' growth at Alabama with Tua Tagovailoa, or in Philadelphia with Wentz. He's talented but more intriguing on paper than on the field. He must prove to be a difference-maker in some capacity this season, even if we acknowledge his supporting cast isn't up to snuff.

The Eagles may already regret their decision even with Fields struggling in Chicago and the 2022 class underwhelming. Watson's legal issues have left his situation in the wind for now, and no team is wanting to take on the risk Watson brings. The Eagles may come out of the rest of this season with a need at quarterback and no real pathway to upgrading the position this offseason.

Hurts may not get the benefit of another offseason where the team is committed to him. If Sirianni doesn't get the blame, Hurts and Roseman will. The only way he can change that is to start seeing the field clearer quicker and be more aggressive and accurate on intermediate and deep routes.

If that sounds like a lot, it's because it is. This is who Hurts has been going back to his days at Alabama, and that's not good enough to thrive in the NFL as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration