Doug Pederson has named Jalen Hurts his starting quarterback for Sunday, the Eagles announced on Tuesday afternoon.
This is a move that seemed obvious but could also end up having major ramifications for the future of the Eagles and Carson Wentz.
“I have come to a decision and I am going to go with Jalen Hurts this week against New Orleans," Pederson said in a statement from the team. "I looked at the whole thing and decided that for this week to look for that spark again to try to get the team over the hump.”
It will be the first start of Hurts’ young NFL career. ESPN first reported the switch.
This also means the Eagles will continue to bench franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who signed a four-year contract extension worth $128 million before last season. Wentz will be the backup on Sunday. Ultimately, the goal might still be to fix Wentz, but Pederson couldn’t ignore the spark that Hurts gave the Eagles on Sunday in the 30-16 loss to the Packers.
"I just want to see development,” Pederson said on Tuesday to the team’s website. “I think it's a great opportunity for [Hurts], a great opportunity for the team.”
On Monday, Pederson said he hadn’t yet made up his mind about the starting quarterback but said it would be his decision and his alone. Pederson informed Wentz and Hurts of his decision on Monday evening.
Against the Packers, Wentz played the first five offensive series of the game before he was benched in favor of the second-round rookie. Hurts got the final four offensive series of the game.
The Eagles have invested a ton in Wentz over the years and the relationship between Pederson and Wentz has been compared to a marriage. The success of one is the success of the other.
"Carson is like all of us right now, he's disappointed. He's frustrated," Pederson said to the team’s website. "He's been a professional through it all. He supports his teammates and that's what you want to see from him, the leader of the team. I know sometimes the quarterback gets a lot of the blame like the head coach does. It's the good with the bad. It's not about Carson Wentz. It's not about one person. We know we have issues on offense and it has been a struggle for us all season. That's where the frustration lies a little bit, but he's been a pro and would expect nothing less."
Pederson on Monday said he thought Hurts played “OK” in the game. But Hurts gave the offense some life, which is why this decision is the right one.
“I thought it was the spark that I was hoping for when I made the change,” Pederson said. “He came in and did some things. One of the things is that obviously he extended some plays with his legs. Made a nice throw to Jalen Reagor. Was good to see that. And then obviously the throw to Greg Ward for the touchdown on a scramble. But there are some things that if and when he looks at the film, that we can clean up and he can improve upon. But I thought it was the spark that got us back in the football game.”
Wentz played 36 snaps and the offense averaged just 3.5 yards per play. Meanwhile, Hurts played 26 snaps (two penalties) and the offense averaged 6.3 yards per play. The offense was undoubtedly better with Hurts in there, but that doesn’t mean it was all Hurts either.
Wentz on Sunday was 6 for 15 for 79 yards with four sacks and a passer rating of 57.4. Hurts was 5 for 12 for 109 yards with a touchdown, an INT and a passer rating of 67.7.
The Packers game was the first extended playing time for Hurts this season. Before Sunday, he had played a total of 33 snaps all season and had thrown just three passes. Just one of those 33 snaps had come with Wentz off the field.
This coming Sunday will be the first time a healthy Wentz will not start for the Eagles since he was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick back in 2016.
Can benching Wentz do some good for him?
“Well, I think any time you can maybe look at a situation maybe with calmer eyes, the 30,000-foot perspective, and I think it's how we all kind of handle the situation, right?” Pederson said on Monday. “And of course, Carson's a part of this right now and how we all handle the situation. I think we can all learn from and improve. Again, as I said, my job is the best interest of the football team, and that's what we'll do moving forward.”
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