‘He’s giving us fans every reason to believe in him’: Jalen Hurts is adding to the Eagles’ Black QB lineage
Randall Cunningham among those who can’t contain their excitement about the current signal-caller in Philadelphia
The fan went on and on about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, recounting many of the young signal-caller’s best plays during the first three weeks of the NFL season.
It got to the point that the person on the other end of the phone call had to interrupt because, well, there were other topics to discuss. But former superstar passer Randall Cunningham persisted.
Cunningham had more to say about Hurts – and anything else would just have to wait.
“I am a fan. I’m a big fan. And he’s giving us all a lot of reasons to be fans,” Cunningham told Andscape on Wednesday. “It’s not just what he’s doing – it’s the way he’s doing it. The leadership, the type of leader he is, it’s great to see. I can’t say enough about it.”
Cunningham, who texts regularly with his latest successor in Philadelphia, is far from alone in his praise of Hurts, who’s off to a sensational start for the soaring Eagles.
Across the board, Hurts is among the league’s statistical leaders, ranking first in passing yards per attempt, third in passing yards, fifth in Total QBR and fifth in passer rating. Philadelphia (3-0) has outscored its three opponents by a total of 36 points in being one of the NFL’s only two undefeated teams (Miami is the other) and the NFC’s lone one.
Fly Eagles fly, indeed.
During a 24-8 road victory over the Washington Commanders in Week 3, Hurts passed for 340 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. At halftime, the Eagles led 24-0.
There’s no doubt about it: The continued development of Hurts, 24, who’s in only his second season as the team’s Week 1 starter, is among the main reasons the Eagles are sky-high.
Just ask Cunningham, who knows about such things better than most.
Way back when, Cunningham was an Eagles second-round draft pick who was just trying to prove he belonged. Cunningham would go on to become “The Ultimate Weapon,” the nickname he earned by displaying athleticism the NFL had never seen at the game’s most important position.
Four times, Cunningham led the Eagles to at least 10 victories. Three consecutive seasons while atop their depth chart, Cunningham was selected to the Pro Bowl. Twice during that time span, Cunningham was the runner-up in voting for The Associated Press NFL MVP award.
Now, Cunningham bursts with pride while watching Hurts – also an Eagles second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft – lead Philadelphia, “because I’m blown away by what he’s doing. To be so young and truly know how to lead, not the rah-rah stuff, but showing in on the field, and clearly earning the respect of his peers, is what it’s all about. That’s how you win games.”
Hurts has steadily grown into his role, Cunningham said, making clear progress since Hurts replaced then-Eagles starter Carson Wentz late during the 2020 season. Last season, Hurts helped Philadelphia (9-8) earn a wild-card berth.
But after the Eagles were routed in the playoffs 31-15 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hurts’ doubters had more fodder to criticize him. Not that they were in short supply.
Since Hurts was starring in college, first at the University of Alabama and then at the University of Oklahoma (he was a 2019 Heisman Trophy finalist while playing for Oklahoma), many so-called experts have said he lacks the passing skills to succeed behind center in the NFL.
Those opinions haven’t exactly stood the test of time.
“It takes time. If it was easy, everyone could do it,” Cunningham said. “Now, you see so much. … He’s really smart. He’s confident but he’s not cocky. He’s not trying to be a wizard.
“He’s doing it the right way. And the great thing about it is, when you have the right structure around you – great owner, great coaches, great teammates – there’s an open door to winning. It’s open now.”
No franchise has succeeded more under the direction of Black quarterbacks than the Eagles. Cunningham, Rodney Peete, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Hurts – each led the franchise to the playoffs. From the moment the Eagles drafted Hurts, quarterback guru Quincy Avery believed his pupil would join the exclusive club.
Avery, who has worked with Hurts for years, always gets “a good chuckle” whenever he hears NFL analysts say Hurts won’t make it in the NFL.
“What they don’t understand is how hard Jalen works,” Avery said on the phone the other day. “They don’t understand the natural level of talent Jalen has and how much he’s determined to maximize his ability. But no matter how silly they may be, people are always entitled to their opinions.”
Don’t be surprised if Hurts continues to prove his doubters wrong, Cunningham said.
“If I were an owner or a general manager, he would be my quarterback,” Cunningham said. “I just like everything about him.
“He’s giving us fans every reason to believe in him. And if we do that, if we keep encouraging him, I really believe Philadelphia will be headed back to the Super Bowl with him.”
For a long time, Hurts’ performance figures to hold the interest of Eagles fans. And good luck getting one of the team’s most knowledgeable to talk about anything else.