The Philadelphia Eagles spent a second-round pick on quarterback Jalen Hurts in 2020, and it wound up sparking the beginning of the end for would-be face of the franchise Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson.
Now that he’s had some time away from Philly, Pederson is speaking out about the Eagles’ thought process behind drafting Hurts, which ultimately triggered Wentz to demand a trade to the Indianapolis Colts. Check out this clip from an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Here is the key excerpt to take away from Pederson’s remarks (h/t NFL.com’s Grant Gordon):
“You go into drafts and you go into each year looking for quarterbacks. […] That’s always something that will never change. We won a Super Bowl with our backup quarterback. And we’ve had to play with our backups a couple of times in Philadelphia.
“So we did that a year ago and brought in Jalen Hurts — not to undermine Carson Wentz, not to do anything to take away his job or anything, cause Carson was definitely our starter. He was the franchise and all that moving forward. But someone that could come in and could be the backup and learn how to play the NFL game — bring his talent to the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Pederson wasn’t far removed from delivering a Super Bowl to Philadelphia when he parted ways with the Eagles after posting a 4-11-1 record during the 2020 campaign. As he said, though, that Lombardi Trophy came with Nick Foles replacing an injured Wentz during a magical playoff run.
So, what do these remarks from Pederson tell us about the state of the Eagles, and what their long-term vision was before Wentz imploded last season?
To put it succinctly, Philadelphia didn’t draft Hurts for the right reasons, and wound up putting him in as rough of a situation as any first-year NFL player could imagine.
Philadelphia Eagles positioned Jalen Hurts to fail, but he’s built to handle it
- Jalen Hurts stats (Philadelphia Eagles, 2020): Completed 77 of 148 passing attempts (52%), 1,061 yards, six touchdowns, four interceptions, 77.6 passer rating; 63 carries, 354 yards, three rushing touchdowns
This is well-covered territory, yet it’s worth reiterating, lest you’re tempted to write Jalen Hurts off without a second thought.
Hurts got benched in the national championship game for Tua Tagovailoa, who went on to be a top-five pick of the Miami Dolphins. Once Tagovailoa supplanted him on Alabama’s depth chart, Hurts still stayed ready, continued to work on his game, and shined in limited action for the Crimson Tide the following season.
After that underwhelming finish to his time in Tuscaloosa, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, where he was the follow-up act to two No. 1 overall draft picks and Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. He won the Sooners over, balled out under Lincoln Riley’s tutelage, and cemented himself as a Day 2 draft prospect.
Who could’ve foreseen the fan-feces-flinging fiasco Hurts would find himself in with the Eagles as an NFL rookie — dealing with a shortened offseason program, no less?
Despite playing behind an injury-riddled offensive line, with no skill position talent to speak of, an absence of first-team reps in practice and the awkwardness of Wentz being there, Hurts acquitted himself well enough in his maiden season for the Eagles to give him a crack at the starting gig in 2021.
Don’t be too thrown off by his lackluster completion percentage. Again, Eagles receivers struggled to create separation, and Pederson actually did him few favors, as Hurts’ average intended air yards (9.5) were higher than that of Tom Brady’s in Tampa Bay’s vertical passing offense, per Next Gen Stats.
Philadelphia’s intentions and thought process on drafting Hurts were all wrong. However, it actually turned out that the Eagles probably couldn’t have asked for a QB who could better weather unimaginable adversity.
Even now, Hurts is on a one-year trial run. Philly has three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, and unless he plays at a really high level, the Eagles will probably draft a new hopeful franchise quarterback next year.
Don’t expect Hurts to go quietly, though, regardless of how things play out. He has a former Alabama teammate, reigning Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, as his new go-to wide receiver. If that combination clicks and Philly’s defense continues to shine up front, these Eagles could be more dangerous than many realize.