We’ve all heard coaches talk about the big jump players make from their rookie year to their second year.
When it comes to Eagles quarterbacks, that jump has generally been enormous.
Which is important to remember when it comes to Jalen Hurts.
Hurts was a mixed bag as a rookie. Very good at times, not so good at other times.
The good? He became only the second quarterback in NFL history with two 325-yard passing performances in his first four career starts and only the third to rush for more than 200 yards in his first four starts (along with Robert Griffin III and Lamar Jackson).
The bad? He fumbled six times in those four starts, losing two, threw three interceptions and completed only 52 percent of his passes.
What does all of that mean?
Because what a quarterback does as a rookie historically has little bearing on what he does the rest of his career.
Alex Smith threw 1 TD and 11 INTs as a rookie. Eli Manning had a 55.4 passer rating. Matt Stafford threw 13 TDs and 20 INTs. Josh Allen completed 52 percent of his passes and had more INTs than TDs. Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions. John Elway, Steve Young and Troy Aikman all threw twice as many INTs as TDs.
So drawing conclusions about Hurts after 3 1/2 games is silly. We don’t know what he can be. We don’t know what he will be.
Just remember, players are allowed to get better.
Since 1950, there have been only four quarterbacks who’ve started at least four games for the Eagles in both their first and second seasons: Randall Cunningham in 1985, Donovan McNabb in 1999, Nick Foles in 2012 and Carson Wentz in 2016.
Let’s take a look at how Cunningham, McNabb, Foles and Wentz progressed from rookies to their second season:
Cunningham, like Hurts, started four games as a rookie and also went 1-3. And he ran for 205 yards. But he threw just one TD pass and eight interceptions and completed just 42 percent of his passes. His 29.8 passer rating in 1985 is the lowest by any NFL rookie who threw at least 50 passes since 1977 and 6th-lowest since 1950.
Ron Jaworski was still the primary starter in 1986, but Cunningham started five games and despite getting sacked a league-record 72 times, he improved to 53 percent accuracy, 8 TDs and 7 INTs and a 72.9 passer rating, while rushing for more than 500 yards and five TDs.
Once he replaced Doug Pederson, McNabb started six games as a rookie in 1999, completing a league-worst 49 percent of his passes with 8 TDs, 7 TDs and a 60.1 passer rating - 36th out of 38 quarterbacks who threw at least 200 passes (ahead of only Billy Joe Tolliver and Jake Plummer). Only four starting QBs have had a lower completion percentage since 1999 (Akili Smith in 2000, Mike McMahon with the Eagles in 2005, JaMarcus Russell in 2009 and Tim Tebow in 2011.
In Year 2, McNabb suddenly found the consistency that was missing his rookie year. He made his first Pro Bowl, led the Eagles to an 11-5 record and completed 58 percent of his passes with a 21-13 TD-INT ratio and a 77.8 passer rating — which was a jump of about 17 points and back then was just about the league average (78.1).
Foles wasn’t bad in his six starts as a rookie in 2012, completing 61 percent of his passes with 6 TDs and 5 INTs and a 79.1 passer rating. He had a decent 79.1 passer rating even though the Eagles were 1-5 in his six starts.
As we all know, his second season was one of the greatest in NFL history — 27 TDs, 2 INTs, 64 percent accuracy and a 119.2 rating — the 4th-highest ever.
Wentz had a solid rookie year, completing 62 percent of his passes with 16 TDs and 14 INTs and a 79.3 passer rating.
But it was in Year 2 that he became an MVP candidate with 33 TDs, 7 INTs and a 101.9 passer rating, winning 11 of 13 starts before his season-ending knee injury.
How much better did they get?
Here are the averages for Cunningham, McNabb, Foles and Wentz as rookies:
Completion percentage: 53.6 percent
Passer rating: 62.1
And in Year 2:
Completion percentage: 58.9 percent
Passer rating: 93.0
Obviously, Foles’ 2013 numbers skew the averages a little bit, but the conclusion is the same: Every Eagles quarterback that’s started at least four games in each of his first two seasons has improved dramatically in Year 2.
Doesn’t mean Hurts will. But it does mean it would be a mistake to assume he won’t.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: