Joe Flacco was a nice buffer for Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni.
That buffer is gone.
When the Eagles traded Flacco to the Jets on Monday for a conditional sixth-round pick, Gardner Minshew immediately became the Eagles’ backup. And the chances of a quarterback change before the end of the season grew substantially.
That’s not to say that Hurts will be benched this weekend in Detroit or at any point this season — Sirianni said on Monday that he hasn’t even considered benching Hurts — but the promotion of Minshew to the No. 2 role definitely makes it a more appealing option.
And if Hurts doesn’t start improving — or if he regresses — the calls for Minshew are going to grow louder and louder.
No one was clamoring to see 36-year-old Joe Flacco.
But the thought of seeing 25-year-old Gardner Minshew in Sirianni’s offense is intriguing.
Because there’s no doubt that through seven games Sirianni and Hurts haven’t been on the same page. It has created a natural blame game among fans and reporters, trying to figure out if Sirianni is limiting Hurts or if Hurts is limiting Sirianni.
How do you figure it out? Change one of the variables.
And assuming that Sirianni doesn’t get fired during this season, the way to check this is to play Minshew. That would give us (and the Eagles’ brass) a chance to evaluate Sirianni with a different quarterback, a quarterback that has a more traditional play style, one with which Sirianni is more familiar.
Of course, this move won’t happen if Hurts simply plays better. The Eagles wanted to use this season to truly evaluate the 23-year-old quarterback and perhaps he still gets the entire season. But if the Eagles keep losing and Hurts struggles in those losses, it’s hard to imagine Hurts getting to start all 17 games.
After completing 77% of his passes in the season opener, Hurts has completed just 58.5% of his passes in the six games since. He hasn’t been awful and his ability to run has helped the Eagles’ offense. But he hasn’t done anything yet to prove that he’s the Eagles’ long-term quarterback.
I know, I know. How can the Eagles evaluate Hurts in this wretched offense that Sirianni has designed? Well, that’s fair. But if Minshew goes in there and stinks up the joint, then it only validates those who think Hurts is in an impossible situation.
The Eagles seem to like Minshew.
“I think he's really intelligent,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “He's a football junkie. He loves ball. Him and Jalen both, they've been great in the QB room together. Just excited about him.”
It’s possible that neither Hurts nor Minshew are long-term solutions for the Eagles. Hurts is more of an unknown still but Minshew has clearly has more success in the NFL.
Here’s a look at their career numbers:
Hurts: 22 games, 11 starts, 3-8 record, 57.7%, 2,777 yards, 16 TD, 8 INT, 85.0 rating
Minshew: 23 games, 20 starts, 7-13 record, 62.9%, 5,530 yards, 37 TD, 11 INT, 93.1 rating
Aside from the passing numbers, we’d be remiss to not point out that Hurts is a significantly bigger threat in the running game. He has averaged rushing 51.6 yards per game this season, whereas Minshew is at 21.6 yards per game in his career.
If you haven’t noticed, Philadelphia has an unusual relationship with the backup quarterback position that began before the Carson Wentz-Nick Foles situation but it was certainly amplified by it.
In this case, though, the Eagles showed enough faith in Hurts to draft him in the second round last year but haven’t done much else to prove they’re committed to him. They waited all summer to name Hurts their starter and there’s a reason why the Eagles have been continually linked to Deshaun Watson and any other top QB that could possibly be on the move. They also will likely have three first-round picks to get a quarterback if they don’t think they have the franchise guy on their current roster.
The Eagles have left the door open.
And having Minshew as the No. 2 quarterback just opens it a little bit more.
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