If you’re hung up on how many touchdown passes he’s thrown, you’re making a mistake. If you’re focusing on his passer rating, you’re looking at it all wrong. If you’re judging Jalen Hurts solely by stats and numbers, you’re missing the point.
We’re so used to quantifying everything, and with the vast array of analytics and stats available these days it’s understandable. And if you just look at the numbers, yeah, maybe Hurts is a below-average quarterback. He’s 21st out of 32 QBs in passer rating, 23rd in TD passes, 27th in completion percentage, 28th in yards per game. Although certainly his rushing numbers - 784 yards, 10 touchdowns – need to be considered as well.
Watching Hurts play quarterback for the Eagles this year one thing has become clear.
Numbers don’t even begin to measure the player he is.
Numbers don’t even begin to measure the affect he has on games.
Numbers don’t even begin to measure the way he inspires his teammates.
And if this season is about evaluating Hurts and trying to figure out whether he’s the right guy to lead this team into 2022, I don’t know how it’s possible to watch what this team has achieved and what this team has become and decide, “Nah, he’s just the wrong guy.”
The biggest thing that sticks out after watching Hurts over the last four months isn’t the way he runs or throws, it’s the way he pushes those around him to work harder and be better. The way he lifts up his teammates to get the most out of their ability. The way he keeps everybody just as focused and determined as he is.
These are rare qualities, and they won’t show up in his passer rating or completion percentage, but they’re a big part of what makes him special and what makes this team special.
Because he’s so genuine and so committed and so driven, people gravitate to Hurts. His teammates want to play well for him. They want to win for him. They want to prepare the best they can and work harder than they ever have, and they want to be a part of what he’s building.
Leadership comes in a lot of forms, and sometimes the rah-rah stuff works, but really when one person can life up the level of everyone around him because of his sheer will and grit and desire, that’s what makes a bad team a good team and then a good team a great team.
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Right now, the Eagles are one step into that process. Sitting 2-5 in late October they were certifiably a bad football team, and you know everybody in that locker room looked at Hurts to see how he responded, to see how he handled it.
What they saw was a 23-year-old kid who didn’t hang his head. Who didn’t show a single sign of wavering in his belief in himself or the people around him. Who never let up in how he worked and led and inspired.
The standings may have said 2-5, but you watched Hurts and knew things would get better.
Here’s what Hurts said three days after the Eagles lost to the Raiders in Vegas, their fifth loss in six games and clearly the low point of the season:
“Why not now? Why not now? Why not take that step? Why not do it now? I believe it. I believe we have everything here that we need. What you won’t accept you change. You can’t be results oriented. You have to trust the process. Just work. Get better every day. It will turn over. And I believe that.”
Since that day, the Eagles are 7-2, a reversal that only 12 other NFL teams have ever pulled off.
Hurts has played well, and his numbers in the eight games he’s played since the Raiders loss are fine. He’s become more accurate, reduced his turnovers, improved his pocket awareness. But with Hurts that’s only as part of what’s important.
There’s an unusual calmness and quiet confidence around Hurts that rubs off on his teammates and even his coaches. In times of crisis, times of chaos, he’s an oasis of control and belief.
No matter how bad things got earlier this year, no matter how hopeless everything seemed, Hurts stood tall and vowed better days were ahead.
His teammates – on both sides of the ball - got in line and followed, and they all worked together to make sure his prophecy came to life.
That’s a leader. That’s a winner.