The Eagles made a major franchise-altering decision by trading Carson Wentz on Thursday.
Well, now the Eagles have to figure out how they will go forward at the quarterback position. As Reuben Frank wrote, the Eagles are keeping their options open.
For years, everything the organization did was based around the idea that Wentz was the franchise quarterback. Now that he’s not, the Eagles have to re-assess and they basically have two long-term options:
1. Stick with Jalen Hurts
2. Draft another quarterback
There are plenty of reasons for both plans. The Eagles have never been shy about how important they feel the quarterback position is to a franchise. That’s why they once traded up from 13 to 8 to 2 to land Wentz in 2016 and it’s why everything they did in a span of 4-5 years was done with Wentz in mind. But now he’s gone and the Eagles are going to have to either start fresh with Hurts or draft the next quarterback.
Let’s take a closer look at each option:
Reasons to stick with Hurts
- It was just four games but there was an undeniable spark Hurts brought to the Eagles in 2020 once he became the starter. It definitely felt like a breath of fresh air after things had gotten really stale with Wentz. And Hurts has that “it” factor, a combination of confidence and leadership qualities that made his teammates gravitate toward him last season. That doesn’t mean Wentz didn’t have support from his teammates. Heck, some even spoke out publicly for No. 11. But Hurts clearly has his supporters too.
From the moment he was drafted, Hurts acted like the starter. Many of his teammates were drawn to him. Remember when Hurts began working out with his teammates in the offseason? That’s when it started. Hurts operated like he was the starter and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, he showed everyone how he would lead if he ever became the guy. Then it happened. And now he’s planning on meeting up with his receivers again next month.
- There’s a reason the Eagles drafted Hurts with the No. 53 pick. Sure, you can argue about whether or not it was the right pick and whether or not it hurt the relationship between Wentz and the organization, which got us to this point. But the Eagles clearly liked Hurts enough last year to risk all that and took him anyway.
Even though it was a shock that the Eagles took him, it wasn’t a total shock that Hurts was a second-round pick. While he wasn’t a perfect draft prospect, Hurts was an extremely successful college quarterback at two different spots. We’ve talked a ton about how he handled the situation at Alabama but let’s not overlook his play in college. After some impressive seasons at Bama, he went to Oklahoma in 2019 and really showed off his ability as passer. He became much more accurate and OU coach Lincoln Riley really began to show the NFL that Hurts could play at the next level. Teams might have had split opinions on Hurts, but the Eagles clearly liked him more than most.
- The most impressive things we saw from Hurts in 2020 were his poise in the pocket and his innate sense of how to navigate in and out of the pocket. That’s an important part of being a quarterback and it’s an element that was clearly missing in Wentz’s game in 2020.
- There was a lesson in the 2020 season. The Eagles thought they had their QB in Wentz but their line was decimated by injuries and their young skill players weren’t polished enough to really shine. The Eagles obviously hoped Wentz would cover up most of those deficiencies but instead he tried to play hero ball and made things worse. So maybe the Eagles should just focus on surrounding Hurts with as much talent as possible to maximize his potential instead of using pick(s) to draft another quarterback, in the process losing an opportunity to supplement the roster with talented player(s) to help the quarterback they already have. They have many holes to fill.
Reasons to draft a QB
- Maybe the Eagles just aren’t convinced Hurts is the guy. If there’s some doubt, then the Eagles really owe it to themselves to at least do their homework on the top quarterbacks in this year’s class. Sure, Trevor Lawrence is expected to go at No. 1 but there’s a chance the Eagles could end up with Justin Fields, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance.
Will one of those guys end up having a better career than Hurts? Not sure. But that’s up to the Eagles to figure out. If they think the answer to that question is a resounding yes, then they need to explore this option.
- There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Hurts. Sure, there was a reason he was a 2nd-round pick, but there were also reasons why he wasn’t a 1st-round pick. That certainly doesn’t mean he won’t turn into a great quarterback — there have been plenty of great QBs taken after Round 1 — but there are still concerns. At the top of that list is his ability as a passer. While he took great strides as a passer at Oklahoma, there were legitimate questions about his accuracy and anticipation as a pocket passer.
Here’s what TheAthletic’s Dan Brugler wrote about Hurts during last year’s pre-draft process:
“For a teenager who was benched in the National Championship Game and lost his starting job at Alabama, Hurts handled several challenging situations with impressive maturity and focus. The son of a coach, Hurts plays with the gutsy demeanor and the toughness of a runner reminiscent to Tim Tebow as an NFL prospect. However, like Tebow, his inconsistencies as a passer are concerns for the next level, holding the ball too long, struggling to anticipate and forcing throws. Overall, Hurts offers the intangibles and mental toughness required for the next level, but he is a tardy passer who will struggle to consistently create plays with his arm vs. NFL speed, which is why he projects more as a developmental backup than a starter right now.”
- There were a lot of great signs from Hurts in Year 1, but some troubling ones too. Among them was his 52% completion percentage. That ranked him 44th out of 44 NFL quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts in 2020. Just seven quarterbacks in the last decade have had a worse completion percentage (minimum 100 attempts).
- The Eagles have picked in the top 10 just twice in the past 20 years. The Eagles had to trade up to No. 2 to take Wentz in 2016 and they drafted Lane Johnson at No. 4 in 2013. So it’s rare for the Eagles to have a pick this high. Because they’re this high and because we know how much they value the quarterback position, drafting a QB has to be on the table. There’s no guarantee they end up back in the top 10 (at least naturally) anytime soon.
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