Philadelphia, PA – “Hurts, don’t it?”, This is an uncharacteristic tweet from the usually stoic-faced Jalen Hurts, who has heard it all. Despite becoming the true Freshman starter at Alabama, and eventually taking the starting job from the Philadelphia Eagles former #2 pick, Carson Wentz, as a rookie; Hurts still has to prove himself.
In his first year starting for the Eagles, Hurts led the team to their fourth playoff appearance in five years. “It’s rat poison,” Hurts will tell you when asked about any expectations or any external factors not related to the Eagles locker room. That phrase, birthed by Nick Saban, one of the greatest college coaches ever; never let outside noise interfere with what’s happening with the team.
Hurts has come a long way since winning a National Championship with Saban in Alabama in 2017, and then transferring to Oklahoma where he was the Heisman winner follow up. After Monday, September 19th primetime beat down on the Minnesota Vikings, Hurts knows he now has everything in front of him to continue his path of winning on all levels. Despite being drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, many analysts and scouts have preached that Hurts is a pure winner; from high school to college and continuing to the pros.
The first half of the NFC matchup between the Eagles and the Vikings was dominated largely by Hurt’s dual threat ability. Being able to sit in the pocket as the Eagles line up in an empty back formation to start the game led to a swift 14-0 score. As the Eagles offense made their way back on the field, Hurts then used his legs in an ESPN top 10 highlights style run to score a touchdown to give the Eagles 21 first half points. The run, which can be “stop – freeze frame” screenshot shows Hurts stuffed by multiple defenders outside of the 5-yard line. But, just as Hurts preaches grit and determination, he kept pushing until the ball was across the end.
As Hurts used both his arms and legs to dice the Vikings defense, it bought back memories for the near 65,000 Philadelphia fans in attendance – a history of black quarterbacks who were able to be productive in multiple ways. From Randall Cunningham to Donavon McNabb and the more recent Michael Vick, Hurts knows it’s a tradition in Eagles football to be led by a black quarterback. When speaking on this subject with GQ Magazine, Hurts stated “I hold that in high value and high regards. I know the history of the position here, especially the dual threats we’ve had… I just want to carry that torch the right way moving forward.”
After Monday’s dominating performance, Hurts and the rest of his team are preparing to visit an old friend of Philadelphia. Wentz, who was benched in favor of Jalen Hurts during the 2021 COVID season, had his worst season of his career. Shortly after that season ended, Wentz, who was once thought of as the franchise quarterback, requested a trade from the team and was sent to the Indianapolis Colts. The Eagles and the Colts never faced each other last year, but after a disappointing ending to their season, Wentz was traded to the Washington Commanders.
The Eagles and Commanders, who both play in the NFC East, will take on each other on Sunday, September 25th. Marking the first time Wentz will share the field with the Eagles as an opponent, and the first time Wentz and Hurts will face off against each other. Hurts isn’t very interested in speaking on that season from two years ago, telling reporters during a presser that he’s focused on the now. Despite not wanting to speak on that season in which he was initially drafted to backup Wentz, Hurts showed glimpses of his mental makeup, which is on full display regularly.
If you ask Hurts himself, he has no interest in speaking on the past or anything really that doesn’t have to deal with the present and the next team on the schedule. Despite all the talk in the media about if he is the Eagles franchise quarterback or if he can lead his team to the Super Bowl; he knows the Eagles front office, coaching staff and every player on that roster is behind him. From the Eagles trading up to draft his former teammate from Alabama, Devonta Smith, to the Eagles making a blockbuster trade during the 2022 draft to acquire his best friend A.J. Brown. Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni regularly wore his tee shirt during training camp, Hurts knows he has the right support behind him.
Once again, this is all rat poison to Hurts, he doesn’t care to speak on any of it. He knows where his standing is in the organization, and he is proving them correct with his productiveness and winning since his first season starting. The Eagles are 9-2 in Hurts last 11 starts, as far as a second-year starter and a 22-year-old quarterback in the NFL, there’s not much more to ask of. His floor is extremely high, he is one of the best running quarterbacks in the league. With him able to pick up maximum yardage, it means the defense must account for his legs, and with more reps reading NFL defenses, his passing will only improve. Over time, he will be able to put it all together to reach his ceiling.
“Why is he going to continue to reach his ceiling? Because he’s tough, he has high football character, and he loves football. He’s going to reach his ceiling. It’s fun watching him grow”, says Sirianni, after watching him compile 390 total yards of offense himself against the Vikings.
For now, Hurts has all eyes on Fedex Field. Nearly a year after the infamous railing collapse, in which Hurts almost had his legs taken off by many falling Eagles fans. In that moment, his maturity, his focus and his strong mentality was on display. While many others in that predicament might’ve panic or scurried off, Hurts simply helped fans up with a stoic, stone face. Nothing can bother him.
Recently, an old meme resurfaced from Hurts college days. A 4-photo box meme shows Hurts having a straight face with the meme explaining that is Hurt’s face in every situation, good or bad. That’s Hurts all the time, after scoring a touchdown in a big game, straight face. After making a mistake, straight face. After being hit late in the head in a preseason game against the Jets, he walked off with a straight face. No emotion, he will never let anyone know what’s going on with him.
That sort of mental makeup is what will be needed for Hurts to continue his career in Philadelphia and to lead this talented roster to where he takes them. Hurts entered this season as the 54th highest paid quarterback in the NFL… only 32 quarterbacks start. His contract, which pays him $1.64 million this season, allowed the Eagles to make major upgrades to contend for a Super Bowl. If Hurts succeeds this season, next year he will be able to negotiate a contract extension that has the possibility of paying him over $30 million a year. But for now, Hurts doesn’t want to hear that though; he knows what’s ahead and he doesn’t need rat poison associated.