Three games left this year. Nine months till opening day 2021. So many unknowns.
Who will the Eagles' quarterback be when next year begins? Will Carson Wentz be here? Will Jalen Hurts be here? Will they both be here?
Here are 10 possible Eagles 2021 quarterback scenarios, starting with most and continuing down to least likely.
1. Hurts plays OK the rest of this year, both are here next year, Wentz is the starter: For me, this is the most likely scenario. I think Hurts is talented enough to do some good things these last few games, kind of like what we saw Sunday. Bring some juice. Make some plays. But I’m not sure everything can line up at this point for him to really play spectacular football, not with his lack of experience and the lack of weapons around him. And I think the only way he can win the job going into next year is to play lights out.
2. Hurts plays poorly the rest of this year, both are here next year, Wentz is the starter: Hurts did some encouraging things against the Saints, but he threw for only 38 yards in the second half once the Saints got a better feel for his game. NFL teams will start to build a book on Hurts, and if his level of play drops – which isn’t unusual for a young quarterback and doesn’t mean he won’t have a successful career – it’ll be a no-brainer for the Eagles to open 2021 with Wentz at the helm.
3. Hurts plays lights out the rest of this year, both are here next year, Wentz is the starter: Hurts is an unusual talent, and if he’s able to build on the promise he showed Sunday and raise his game consistently over these next few weeks, which might not be likely but is possible, he could make a case to be the starter in 2021. But the Eagles have so much invested in Wentz it might not matter what Hurts does down the stretch. Even if Hurts lights it up the next three games, it’s no lock it'll be enough to win the job.
4. Hurts plays lights out the rest of this year, both are here next year, Hurts is the starter: But it’s not lock he won’t. If Hurts goes out these next three games and looks like a stud, he might make it impossible for the Eagles not to give him the job in 2021. I think it would take an extraordinary performance against the Cards, Cowboys and Washington, but he's clearly got the mental makeup and the athleticism and he knows the offense. If he can make consistent plays down the field in the passing game and leads the Eagles into the postseason, he could win this job before Wentz even gets off the bench.
5. Doug goes back to Wentz this year: Doug Pederson is taking this week-by-week for a reason. He clearly doesn’t want Hurts thinking he’s won the job for the rest of the year, and if there’s a point where Pederson thinks Hurts isn’t developing or is hurting his long-term development, it’s not out of the question he could turn back to Wentz. I don’t think he wants to. I think he understands that Wentz needs an offseason to be fixed, not a couple weeks. But if Hurts does struggle, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking.
6. No matter how Hurts plays, open competition between Wentz and Hurts in camp: I don’t think this is particularly likely. Quarterback competitions in training camp generally turn into sideshows and Pederson (assuming he’s here) doesn’t like sideshows. I think he’s going to want to pick a guy and get him as many reps as he can. If it’s Wentz, he’ll want to get him straightened out. If it’s Hurts, he’ll want to get him experience. But with Doug, you never do know. And if Pederson isn't here, a new coach would have no allegiance to either quarterback and might want the two to compete for the job throughout the summer.
7 Eagles trade Hurts, Wentz is the starter in 2021: Hurts would have to play remarkably well to have any reasonable trade value. Teams aren’t lining up to trade premium picks for question marks, and the Eagles wouldn’t flip Hurts without getting something more than the 2nd-round pick they used for him. Hard to imagine him raising his value that much these last four weeks, although there could be a team that really likes what they see.
8. Eagles trade Wentz, Hurts is the starter in 2021: I think there’s about a 95 percent chance the Eagles keep Wentz and try to get him right in 2021. I got into that in this piece a few days ago. I just can’t imagine after the way Wentz played from 2017 through 2019 they would give up on him after 12 games during a pandemic with middling receivers, a banged-up offensive line and generally ghastly play calling. I also don’t think his trade value is very high considering nobody really knows if he’ll ever be an elite QB again.
9. Hurts is No. 1 in 2021, Wentz is No. 3: OK, now we’re getting into extreme longshots. If the Eagles decide to keep Wentz – and pay him the $10 million bonus he’s due in March – but he’s so bad in training camp and preseason games that the Eagles think he’s still far away from being a productive quarterback, it’s possible to imagine a scenario where Hurts is the starter, an experienced veteran is No. 2 and Wentz stays as No. 3 because financially it’s the only thing that makes sense. Not likely. But ya never know.
10. The X Factor: There’s always the X Factor. The completely out-of-left-field possibility nobody could foresee. Who would have thought in 2016 the Eagles would trade Sam Bradford a week before opening day and Wentz would catapult from No. 3 to No. 1? Sometimes these things are impossible to predict. Hard to imagine someone other than Wentz or Hurts quarterbacking the Eagles on opening day next year, but stranger things have happened.