Eagles

Eagles

When the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts, they did something no NFL team had done in more than half a century.

The Eagles drafted Hurts last week in the second round even though they already had a 27-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback.

And it’s been 51 years since any NFL team drafted a quarterback in the first two rounds when it already had a Pro Bowl quarterback that young.

One team came close 25 years ago.

The Steelers drafted Kordell Stewart out of Colorado in the second round of the 1995 draft despite having Neil O’Donnell under contract.

O’Donnell had made a Pro Bowl in 1992 and had a 30-19 career record up to that point, but he was 28 and turned 29 soon after the draft. Wentz doesn’t turn 28 until December.

O'Donnell was a little older than Wentz, but the circumstances were very similar. 

Although he did eventually become a decent starting quarterback for the Steelers, Stewart was mainly a gadget player his first two seasons, kind of like the Eagles hope Hurts can be assuming he's not playing QB.

Stewart didn’t start a game his first two years in Pittsburgh, but he did get on the field a lot.

He threw 37 passes (completing just 16), ran 54 times for 256 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 528 yards and four TDs those first two seasons while O’Donnell in 1995 and Mike Tomczak in 1996 took the Steelers to the playoffs. 

“The defense is wondering, ‘Is he a receiver or a quarterback,’ and they don’t know until they get to the line of scrimmage,” Steelers coach Bill Cowher told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1995. “It makes adjusting a lot more difficult than calling the defense in the huddle.”  

 

Stewart eventually became the Steelers’ starting quarterback in his third season after O’Donnell had signed with the Jets and made a Pro Bowl in 2001, his seventh NFL season.

But looking for a team that drafted a QB this high with a Pro Bowl QB of 27 or younger?

You have to go all the way back to the 1969 Jets.

The Jets had made Alabama quarterback Joe Namath the first overall pick in 1965. Namath made Pro Bowls in 1965, 1967 and 1968 (despite leading the NFL with 104 interceptions from 1965 through 1968), and Namath was only 25 when the Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami.

Nonetheless, the Jets drafted Al Woodall in 1969 with the 52nd overall pick in the second round. 

Namath was still three months shy of his 26th birthday and was a Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowler.

“I know I can’t beat Joe out,” Woodall told the AP during training camp. “But I also don’t know how long Joe will play football.”

That’s because Namath had serious knee problems that were already jeopardizing  his career. He was also threatening to retire to pursue an acting career.

From that standpoint, the Eagles’ and Jets’ picks are somewhat similar. The Eagles have admitted the Hurts pick is insurance in case Wentz continues to get hurt.

The difference is that Namath’s injuries were chronic. Wentz is healthy. He just keeps getting hurt.

Namath didn't retire, but he only played one more healthy season in 1969 and then managed just 65 starts in his last eight seasons, going 25-40.

Woodall wound up going 5-14 in 19 starts with the Jets from 1969 through 1974, and the Jets had to draft another quarterback in the first round in 1976, Richard Todd.

A couple years earlier, in the spring of 1968, the Rams drafted Gary Beban out of UCLA even though Roman Gabriel was 28 and had made the Pro Bowl a year earlier.

But if you’re looking for a precedent for what the Eagles did on Thursday night, you have to go back a long way.

It doesn’t mean it won’t pay off. It just means it hasn’t happened in more than half a century.

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