I was wrong, Jalen.
Rent is due and I am here to pay. I’ll admit it, I wasn’t stoked on draft day that we spent a second round pick on a back up quarterback instead of a weapon for our current franchise QB Carson Wentz or someone to help the aging defense. The core of the team that had just brought the first Lombardi trophy to Philadelphia held a special place in my heart. I wasn’t ready to let go. I wasn’t ready to admit that the window had closed. I was wrong.
People have been wrong about Jalen Hurts quite often throughout his career. Nick Saban opted for the traditional 6’5″ “pro-style” Blake Barnett at first. Hurts was third on the depth chart heading into game one against USC. One half later, Hurts found himself in the game. Eleven passes and four touchdowns later, Saban and company knew they were wrong and Hurts started from there on out. He became the first true freshman to start at Alabama since 1984 and the first one to start under Nick Saban.
Even with record setting seasons and SEC dominance, the Alabama staff turned things over to their newest highly touted recruit in Tua Tagovailoa. Before you know it, the mold breaking quarterback Hurts had to jump to Oklahoma to start again.
And how did he respond? Nearly 4,000 yards passing and 70% completion rate. Oh and two yards shy of 1,300 rushing yards with a combined fifty-two(!) touchdowns. He finished second to Joe Burrow in the Heisman race.
Despite going 51-5 and showing improvement year over year, he fell to the second round of the draft. He fell to a team with an established young quarterback that had just gotten a NFL record payday the previous year. Four other QB’s went ahead of Hurts in the NFL Draft. While Howie Roseman may have said he wanted the Eagles to be a “QB factory” and no one is more beloved in Philly than the back up quarterback, the path to NFL stardom seemed quite unclear for Hurts.
One could argue a rookie season in the NFL is never easy, and Hurts can attest to that. The Eagles, shortly removed from a Super Bowl win, went on to win just four games. The QB they paid to be their future, Carson Wentz, was benched for Hurts in week 14. Hurts did what he always does. He went out there as a complete professional and won a game that had no business winning against the Saints. But he and the rest of the team struggled closing out the season.
The season ended and the coach was fired. The expensive quarterback was traded and the Eagles were rebuilding. They had the sixth pick in the NFL Draft, a draft that was loaded with QB talent. Philadelphia certainly had to be tempted to make a run at one of the soon to be rookies. Instead they traded down and drafted Hurts a weapon he was familiar with in DeVonta Smith. Many questions surrounded the Eagles young quarterback. And bringing in Gardner Minshew only added to the confusion surrounding what Philadelphia was doing at the most important position in all of sports.
Another season brought more questions than answers, despite Hurts taking a team expected to be in the bottom five to the playoffs. As I watched the Eagles get outclassed by Brady’s Bucs, I was convinced Hurts didn’t display the qualities needed for this team to win a Super Bowl. I liked the guy. I loved his mentality, but I didn’t see IT. Thankfully I’m not in charge.
Again the Eagles held the draft capital necessary to make a move for one of the several proven veterans at quarterback that were up for grabs. Many believed they should have done just that. Again, Howie Roseman put his trust in Jalen Hurts. And through two games it is clear. I was wrong. They were wrong. Howie was right.
And most importantly Jalen Hurts is right. He is the right quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. The franchise that is the perpetual underdog, now being led by a quarterback that has overcome everyone doubting him for the past five years.
In that time, all Hurts has done is the work. Steady improvement each off-season. He continuously builds the relationships with his receivers, his offense line, and his coaches. Not to be overlooked, for the first time since high school he has the same play caller at the helm from the previous season. Jalen isn’t asking for a chance. He isn’t asking for time. He’s not asking for approval. He’s taking it all whether you supported him or more likely did not.
Fresh off his best performance as a NFL quarterback, Hurt’s rhetoric has stayed the same: Rent is due. While many, including myself, viewed week one’s performance as positive, the questions remained. But if you paid attention to what Hurts teammates were saying, there was much more to like. On the Kelce brother’s podcast New Heights, Eagles center Jason Kelce said Jalen was the reason the Eagles won that game. And looking back, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Hurts was nothing short of phenomenal with his legs. And he didn’t make mistakes with his arm. Detroit blitzed at an absurd rate. And Hurts used his legs to make them pay over and over again.
Because of how we look at the quarterback position that was held against Hurts. To face pressure on half of your dropbacks, not turn the ball over and have the team drop nearly 40 on that aggressive of a defense is impressive. Context matters and I think Kelce gave that context in his review of Week 1’s performance.
Week 2’s impressive performance jumps off the screen. Hurts consistently made the right read, made accurate throws, made big time throws, and stayed in the pocket. The only mistake you find in the box score was an interception that bounced off the running back’s hands. Oh and he was still dynamite on the ground, punishing Vikings defenders on both touchdown runs. As Sheil Kapadia said on The Ringer’s Philly Special, it was a performance that has changed the way fans and experts think about Hurt’s ceiling as a passer.
While his week 2 performance alone was enough to quell my doubts, it is the combination of performances that is truly exciting as an Eagles fan. Having a quarterback that can pass the ball like Hurts did against the Vikings is what every fan wants. Having a quarterback consistently make the smart play, keep the game plan running smoothly, and not make mistakes while under duress is what every fan needs. Hurts has shown all of this in his second year as the starting quarterback. He has shown that he has the talent and ability necessary to win in the National Football League.
The amount of people that are still wrong about Jalen Hurts is dwindling each week. And I don’t think Hurts cares. His approach is going to stay the same. And success will follow. I am now at the point where Hurts can have a bad game and I am going to chalk it up to just that, a bad game. No longer will it be a detriment to who he is or who he can become as a quarterback. I won’t over analyze every time he scrambles from the pocket instead of keeping his eyes downfield. Instead I will lean into his strengths and enjoy them.
Word to the rest of the league: Rent is due and Jalen Hurts is here to collect.