Eagles Insider

How will Hurts' awful performance affect his future?

Eagles Insider

There have been points this year where I've really started to think, "Yeah, he's the guy." There have been other points where I've wavered a bit.

After Sunday? Honestly, the doubt is creeping in.

Fair or not, I can't help thinking this might not work out.

What I do know is that Jalen Hurts is an inspiring leader, a relentless worker and a treasured teammate. But that's not enough, and after watching him quarterback the Eagles against the Bucs in a wild-card game in Tampa, it's tough to feel confident he can be The Guy.

All the shortcomings that have bubbled over here and there during the season exploded into a full-blown disaster Sunday. Instead of building on the growth he showed the second half of the season, he regressed in a sea of interceptions, overthrows and poor decisions.

In a way, it doesn't seem fair to hold Hurts' performance against him. After all, he's largely responsible for the Eagles even getting to the playoffs. And if the Eagles didn't get there, we'd all go into the offseason feeling a lot better about where he is. 

But it's impossible to ignore that on the biggest stage, he came up incredibly small.

The challenge is figuring out what it means.

Was this a window into who Hurts really is as a quarterback and a sobering sign into his limitations as a passer and decision-maker in the pocket?

Or was it just a bad game on the road against the Super Bowl champs by a promising 23-year-old kid in his first season as a starter?


This is what the Eagles have to figure out.

There's a lot to like about Hurts. He really did some good things this year. He was the driving force in the Eagles going from four wins to nine wins and reaching the playoffs after a 2-5 start.  

The biggest fear was that when a team found a way to stuff the Eagles' running attack, Hurts wouldn't be able to make enough plays through the air to keep the Eagles in a game.

Maybe we found out Sunday. The Bucs stacked the box and Hurts didn't have an answer. His passes were behind receivers, thrown late, thrown into traffic, thrown without surveying the entire field. Remember, Tampa's pass defense is ranked 26th, and when a team stacks the box, that means people are open. 

Hurts couldn't find them. That's worrisome. 

None of this means Hurts can't become a quarterback who can win games with his arm. He certainly improved his accuracy and ball security a tremendous amount from last year to this year.  

But two years in, I just haven't seen the evidence that he can consistently make enough plays throwing the football to be a championship quarterback.

With his skill set and work ethic and leadership and intangibles, he's going to win you some games. He did that this year. But we all know that in the modern NFL, an offense built around running the ball and then making a few plays here and there in the passing game just isn't enough. 

You can't win that way. Certainly not consistently against good teams. Certainly not deep in the playoffs.

So the Eagles have a decision to make, a decision that will determine the course of the franchise for the next several years. 

And while I still think it's likely Hurts will return as the starter in 2022 -- with another year under his belt, a more experienced coach and presumably a better supporting cast on both sides of the ball -- how could you blame the Eagles if they do look elsewhere?

They have draft capital. They have cap space. They have tradeable assets. What makes this such a difficult call is that if the Eagles go out and draft a quarterback or sign a veteran or trade for someone, there's no guarantee he'll do any better than Hurts.

Russell Wilson is 33 and has one playoff win in the last four years. 

Kenny Pickett is older than Hurts, and is he going to take you to the playoffs in his first season as a starter?

Kirk Cousins? Please.

If the Eagles do move on from Hurts, do you trust them to replace him with a true upgrade?

Maybe one awful playoff game shouldn't offset going 6-2 down the stretch. Maybe I'm overreacting to one game. Maybe recency bias is making me unfairly put more stock in Sunday than 15 games that preceded it.


But it's impossible to unsee the mistakes and the interceptions and the poor decisions that we all saw Sunday in Tampa. That's how the 2021 season ended, and that's the lasting impression all of us take into the offseason.

All the Eagles have to do now is figure out exactly what it means.