Jalen Hurts’ performance for the Philadelphia Eagles is worth talking about
A year after struggling in his first playoff appearance, the second-year starter is an MVP candidate who has grown as a quarterback
There were no deep discussions about what went wrong. They didn’t even consider having a quick conversation before starting anew.
In fact, after Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled during the team’s 31-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last season’s NFC wild-card playoffs, Hurts and quarterback guru Quincy Avery wasted no energy on reviewing the past.
They channeled every bit of it into making a brighter future.
“Really, we never talked about what happened [in the game],” Avery, Hurts’ personal QB coach, told Andscape in a phone interview Wednesday. “We just talked about when we were gonna get back to work, because that was the only thing that mattered.
“It wasn’t gonna help to harp on it. It wasn’t gonna help to go over and over everything. There’s really no point in spending a lot of time on bad games like that, because you already know there are some things to do. It’s just like, ‘Oh, there’s some stuff here to work on. Let’s go to work. Let’s do it.’ That’s what we did.”
For both Hurts and the Eagles, Hurts’ hard work couldn’t have paid off better.
In only his second full season as a starter, Hurts this season emerged as one of the league’s top offensive players while leading Philadelphia to the NFC East title and the No. 1 overall seeding in the NFC playoffs. Roundly criticized by many NFL observers and Eagles fans alike after stumbling at times as a passer in his first full season as a starter, Hurts proved his doubters wrong by succeeding spectacularly in the pocket. The dual-threat star is considered among the leading candidates for The Associated Press NFL MVP Award.
As the Eagles prepare to play host to the visiting New York Giants in a divisional-round game Saturday, Hurts is eager to show how far he has come at the most important time of the season. Avery already knows where his longtime pupil stands.
“You started to see him making more and more plays throughout the season, and with that he just continued to grow and grow and gain a higher level of confidence,” Avery said. “All of that allowed him to do more things on the football field.
“You look at him this year, and he’s making more throws into tighter windows. He’s throwing with more anticipation. He’s just doing all those things that you have to do at a very high level at the position. It’s been amazing to see – but not surprising to me.”
Despite missing two late-season games because of a shoulder injury, Hurts finished 10th in the league with 3,701 passing yards. His 8.0-yard average per attempt and passer rating of 101.6 ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the NFL.
Consistently, Hurts displayed outstanding decision-making and a deft passing touch en route to completing 66.5% of his passes with 22 passing touchdowns – both personal bests – and having only six interceptions.
As a runner, Hurts produced 760 rushing yards (with an impressive 4.6 yard per carry average) and 13 rushing touchdowns for a total of 35 TDs combined. His Total QBR of 66.4 ranked fourth in the league, providing a good measure of his overall importance to the Eagles.
One could determine how much Philadelphia relied on Hurts merely by focusing on the most important numbers: wins and losses. In the games Hurts missed, the Eagles went 0-2.
Although many in the league believe Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the favorite to win the MVP award, Hurts surely is in the mix after taking a huge step forward this season. Admittedly, Avery is biased, but “he’s clearly in the top three,” he said. “I mean, just look at what he’s done.”
Hurts, who by all accounts has a work ethic second to none, put in the time needed to develop a good rapport with Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Tennessee Titans during the 2022 NFL draft. Brown and second-year player DeVonta Smith form a star tandem at wideout, and Hurts has capitalized on their skills.
In every facet of playing professional sports’ most important position – production, consistency, leadership – Hurts has excelled. And he’s only 24.
To quote the late, iconic musical artist and civil rights activist Nina Simone, oh, to be young, gifted and Black. Not too long ago, Hurt’s detractors said he was incapable of thriving in the NFL as he did this season.
His final performance of the 2021-22 season only further fueled criticism of him.
On Jan. 16, 2022 at Tampa Bay, Hurts completed only 23 of 43 passes for 258 passing yards, a passing touchdown and two interceptions. Obviously, he wasn’t sharp as the Buccaneers defeated the Eagles by 16 points.
Of course, it was only one playoff game … and Hurts’ first one at that. The list of great quarterbacks who failed in their career playoff debuts is both long and distinguished.
While starting 0-3 in the postseason, Petyon Manning twice completed fewer than 46% of his passes and totaled one passing touchdown and two interceptions. In their first playoff games, John Elway and Dan Marino both were losers. Likewise, the initial postseason appearances of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers ended in disappointment.
On social media, though, many declared one rough playoff performance provided all the proof needed. The verdict, they said, was in: Hurts would never be a big-time NFL QB.
Hurts and Avery were quite familiar with the wrongheaded thinking. 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 get the job done behind center in the NFL.
Whenever Avery needs a good laugh, he thinks about those comments, which haven’t exactly stood the test of time.
“People were so confused about how talented he is,” Avery said. “They were so confused about the time it takes to grow … the time it takes to develop. I wanted to be mad at everybody who said foolish things, but now I’m just spending my time being happy for him.
“The quarterback he is today is nothing like the quarterback who played in that game [during last season’s playoffs]. The things he can do now, the way he’s grown, I don’t think he’ll ever play a game like that again.”
After experiencing a setback, Hurts reached new heights by staying the course and putting in work. But there’s no reason for him to boast about it. After all, some things are better left unsaid.