Hurts, Minshew and More: Where The Eagles Stand At QB

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Due to the joke that is referred to as “leadership” of the NFL deciding to ignore their own policies and punish the teams that are healthy (something that was not done when the Eagles had their own list of 20+ players unable to play over the past few seasons back when there wasn’t a rule established about no postponements and forced forfeits) with sudden short weeks, Eagles fans must now wait an extra few days to see their team play. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the Eagles quarterback situation well removed from the last game the Birds played.

Among the Eagles fanbase, there has been no consensus on who the starting quarterback should be since perhaps the early stages of the 2017 season when Carson Wentz was a clear favorite for MVP.

Since then, the Eagles have had Wentz, Nick Foles, Jalen Hurts and, most recently, Gardner Minshew start for the team. None has staked a claim strong enough to convince the fans they are “the guy”, but has anyone done enough to show the front office that?

More importantly, who will be the Eagles quarterback come next season? It makes sense to start with what options there could be.

Hurts So Good?

Nick Sirianni says that Hurts is his starter once he’s healthy, but he’s now had two offseasons and a full season worth of starts under his belt and is still unable to get beyond one read; he either stares one guy down for the entire play or runs the ball. Beyond that, his passes often barely reach his receiver or hit them in the worst possible spot for them to make the catch instead of hitting the guys that are open. He has the intangibles and is a locker room leader, but more play like that of the Giants game and Hurts is either riding the bench or Nick Sirianni is trying to get fired.

The problem: his passing ability. It sounds crazy to say about a quarterback, but it’s true of Jalen Hurts.

Hurts is an elite runner. He has the charisma and the locker room leadership. He has the winning mindset. Unfortunately, he has shown no improvement as a passer.

Jalen has yet to throw a complete game. He’s done well for half a game here and a half a game there. The only game you could argue he was effective the whole game was against the embarrassment that is the Detroit Lions. He has shown no ability to remain consistent within a single game, let alone game to game.

He misses open receivers (as in he doesn’t see them to throw it to them) because he appears to only have one read on each play before he either runs the ball or stares at that receiver for the entire play. He has underthrown essentially every deep ball except the two that Jalen Reagor dropped last week (how unlucky is that?). Perhaps in part because of those two things, he has only shown an ability to be effective when the run game is going on all cylinders.

Maybe that’s fine for some, but ideally your quarterback should be able to make a play on his own every now and then; not everything is going to go his way all the time, particularly in the playoffs. There will be times when the run game will fail due to strong defense, injuries or both. At that point, it will be the quarterback that has to make a play on his own and Hurts has yet to show that ability.

Now not everything is rosey in the world of the Eagles. The Birds have a new coaching staff with most not having any prior experience in their current roles. That makes it difficult to determine who is at fault for some of these things. Are the coaches not scheming guys open? Are they not giving Hurts many or any progressions to go through and telling him to run? Is the playcalling not a fit for Hurts?

Of course the drops don’t help, either. Hurts threw two nice deep balls, one on a dime, to Jalen Reagor just to have the ball bounce off his hands and face. Those drops are not his fault, but the fact that he missed open receivers on both plays probably is.

And unfortunately for Hurts, the Eagles offense looked pretty incredible with Minshew on Sunday with Minshew locating free receivers running around all day. That kind of shapes the issues Hurts has been facing more squarely on his shoulders as his backup was able to make all those adjustments with the same personnel; in fact, you could argue it was worse personnel with the top three running backs out for much of the game and the offensive line having taken another hit this week. Clearly the scheme is getting guys open and when Goedert, Smith, Watkins, and the backs are targeted most often they were able to make plays. It makes the fact that Hurts is leaning so heavily into Reagor, the worst pass-catcher on the field, so much that much more concerning.

But what may be the most concerning of all is DeVonta Smith. While Smith is a clear number one receiver, he isn’t a diva and was college teammates with Hurts at Alabama. That’s what makes it all the more concerning that the Giants game is the second time this season that the receiver has been visibly frustrated with his quarterback.

If Hurts starts losing the confidence of guys like Smith, he isn’t going to have much of a chance.

Again, Hurts has some great qualities – you aren’t elected captain and you don’t rush for 695 yards by chance. The issue is whether or not Hurts can actually develop and, if he can, why is he doing it at a slower pace than quarterbacks who are actually rookies and have only one offseason to prepare and build chemistry?

Hurts has made some improvements, no doubt, but where his ceiling is is unknown; he could have reached it already, he may not reach it for another two years or maybe he needs a new coaching staff around him to do it. The question becomes what is an acceptable amount of time to wait before the team has seen enough to know if he has hit that ceiling. No one has an answer to that, but he has at least a little bit more time that he’d better make count.


Mania. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “excitement manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior, and elevation of mood”. At first, it may sound like a good thing, but too much of it can leave someone’s life devastated.

Gardner Minshew, acquired for a late-round pick this offseason, drew the start against the Jets as a result of an injury to Jalen Hurts.

It could not have gone worse for the team from a controversy standpoint.

Minshew did all the things fans have been clamoring for Hurts to fix on his way to posting a 133.7 passer rating – the best by an Eagles quarterback since Nick Foles’ beatdown of Minnesota in the 2017 NFC Championship Game (141.4). This on the heels of Hurts’ worst game ever, where he threw three interceptions and posted a passer rating of just 17.5.

But Minshew arrived in Philadelphia as someone with a lot of potential. With the Jaguars, he appeared to have franchise potential. He struggled in his sophmore year with some turnovers, but the simple fact is that he played for the Jaguars and no quarterback is going to look good in a city whose team is as devoid of talent as Jacksonville is. In all reality, Minshew could be a franchise player who was stuck on a historically bad team.

Perhaps what is most frustrating is that Minshew is just 25 and had only 20 starts prior to the Jets games. That’s frustrating for two reasons.

First, it’s that fans have a tendency to treat Minshew like he’s an established, known quantity while they treat Hurts like he is some guy fresh out of college still learning. The simple fact is that Gardner has only started five more games in the league than Hurts and is just one more season removed from college – but Minshew has had only part of an offseason in Philly and has had to learn more on the fly. In reality, they are both in a similar situation and if you’re treating one differently than the other, it’s likely only due to the draft capital used to get them onto the team.

Second, it leaves the Eagles with two talented QBs who could use time to develop. While that’s a good problem to have, it is a problem as you can’t play both to allow them both to develop.

From a locker room perspective, Minshew is seemingly loved by fans and teammates alike. His demeanor and personality seem to be difficult for anyone to get upset with and always has a competitive spirit lit, so his teammates supporting him would not be an issue.

Overall, you have a player who is at almost the same stage in their career as Hurts, but is more advanced in passing where Hurts is more advanced in running and has shown promise with a far worse supporting cast around him in his early career.

The Establishment

To get an established quarterback, there’s a trade or free agency, but really there isn’t any clear-cut option in the free agent class (as is fairly common for the position).

The top free agent options include Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater, Nick Foles, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Mitchell Trubinsky. Of that group, Foles may be be unironically the best option with his reading/deep ball ability but, as with everyone on the list, his ceiling is limited.

So, the focus turns to trade options. Of course things will change and it’s possible someone like Derek Carr, Jordan Love, Kirk Cousins, etc. becomes available, but you have to wonder if they would be better than either of the options that the Eagles already have. Among the big options, you’ve got two quarterbacks expected to be available: Russell Wilson and DeShaun Watson.

Watson continues to be a difficult case considering he has 22 cases of sexual misconduct and sexual assault levied against him.

Watson has all the talent in the world, but the court case lingers over him. Sure, we’ve seen many times that allegations like this are false (particularly with a person who has a lot of money and accusers who can remain anonymous), but in this case there are people who have come forward. Even if you’d like to believe Watson is innocent, there have been cases where the media gets too invested in the decision and convicts despite any real evidence. The Eagles don’t want to trade for someone who’s in prison and they absolutely don’t want to trade for a guy who is guilty of these crimes.

Then there’s his cap hit (which the Birds can absorb), the cost to acquire him and the fact that reports state he won’t trade his no-trade clause in order to be shipped to Philly. All of this makes him an unlikely option.

That leaves Russell Wilson.

Wilson is not 33 years old and will be coming off a season in which he missed five games with injury. For a quarterback who relies on mobility, injuries can be a concern because of the higher likelihood that something gets re-aggravated and/or doesn’t get to heal properly. He also has played some of the worst games we’ve ever seen out of him since his return.

Will those factors lower the price tag? That may be the primary question here. The Eagles have three first-round picks in this year’s draft and it may take all of them to grab Wilson. That tag might be too high for the Eagles as they will need to continue to make at least some of those picks to be competitive. The Seahawks potentially having an interest in Hurts or Minshew could help the Eagles better preserve their draft capital to get a deal done, but it’s unknown if the Seahawks would be interested in trying out either of the two.

Wilson also has a no trade clause that could be an issue, but if he is willing to come to Philly, he may be the only established quarterback on the market that it’s worth the Eagles checking in on.

Into The Unknown

Draft day: a day filled with the hopes of every NFL fan that the next great players will soon be on their team and setup their franchise for years of success.

As we all know, it often does not turn out nearly as well and there are plenty of busts – particularly among the quarterbacks who are always highly billed, drafted before their overall position on the draft board, and often don’t work out or result in mediocre play.

With three picks in the first round this year, a QB could certainly be selected by the Birds and, right now, there’s really only three quarterbacks slated to go that high this year: Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and Liberty’s Malik Willis.

This is a draft that was expected to be headlined by Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell, but neither played well. Rattler will instead transfer to another college and Howell will look to be drafted; some team may pick him, but certainly not as high as it was projected before the college season began.

Of the three currently expected first rounders, it feels safe to assume that Malik Willis is out of the mix. It’s not that the Eagles wouldn’t pick him: if they trade back, it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to take him at all. The reason he’d be out for 2022 is because he is a raw prospect coming from a small school.

Willis is the kind of player that you’d expect to ride the bench for a season before a team even thinks about turning the starting position over to him. The way to think of him is as Jalen Hurts, but with a much stronger arm and less decision-making abilities. He’ll need to make more accurate throws and better decisions to make it, but he has all the raw abilities to be a true dual threat option.

Matt Corral is a guy who may be getting a bit extra attention because he’s coming out of the SEC with potentially no one else at the position coming out of the conference. The only other guy with any traction right now is Penn State transfer and current Kentucky starting QB Will Levis – and he may choose to return to college in 2022.

Corral winds up a beneficiary in that regard, so it’s wise to make your own choices on him as there will be plenty of additional hype surrounding him. That said, Corral is like a game manager (not intended to be an insult) with wheels. He can read the field well, can make accurate passes, can run and, most importantly, he can read the play and make throws on the run. That’s the kind of skill set that should keep defenses on their heels in a way we currently don’t see with Hurts’ current mentality of running every time the first read isn’t there.

The there’s breakout QB Kenny Pickett.

Pickett broke many of Dan Marino’s records this season and showed elite play the entire season. He has shown essentially every skill imaginable and there are really no personal red flags to speak of at this point.

The things that could work against Pickett is that he was assisted by the Biletnikoff Award winner (the top receiver in college football) which begs the question of whether Pickett helped his receiver or if his receiver helped him on route to what amounts to a season twice as good as any of the preceding four he had. That leads into the other potential negative: he is in his fifth season in the ACC and it is only in the year that Clemson (the only truly good team in the conference) was awful that Pickett showed out. With his age and development, that shouldn’t be an issue but a team could certainly look at the fact that he has not consistency at this level from season to season as a negative; he isn’t helped by the fact Matt Corral has shown that sort of consistency.

Overall, it seems like a lock that Corral and Pickett will be the first two quarterbacks off the board and perhaps the only two that are considered immediate starters.

With the Dolphins deciding to play, and hurting the Eagles draft in the process (their pick is now up to 10 instead of 2 or 3), there are plenty of teams that could look at a quarterback in front of the Birds, including Carolina, Houston, New Orleans and New York (Giants). The Dolphins recent win streak has changed it so that the Eagles could look to trade back and still grab one of the top two quarterbacks to it being a strong likelihood that they’d need to trade up in the draft to secure either of them, making a selection of either far more unlikely.

Whether you want a quarterback or not, Eagles fans should be rooting for the Jets, Saints, Titans and Patriots to handle business over the next four weeks to maximize that return from Miami. Without that (or the Eagles tanking their own four remaining games), drafting a rookie to take the reigns in 2022 is likely to be out of the question.

The Verdict

Barring the ability for Howie (or whoever may be in charge of personnel) pulling off a mega trade for a reasonable price, the Eagles really need to roll with what they have.

It’d be a crime for the team to simply pass over two quarterbacks they have in house that have the potential to be a franchise player and not give either of them their second starting season in favor of giving up huge amounts of capital.

The Eagles have four regular season games left and it remains to be seen whether the Eagles can limp their way into a playoff bid. In all likelihood, if Jalen Hurts can lead the Eagles to a playoff berth, he would be the favorite incumbent for the job next season. If the Eagles look awful in their next few games (and one of them is against the same terrible team that made Jalen Hurts look like Nathan Peterman two weeks ago), then Gardner Minshew is likely to get his shot to stake a claim as the starter for next season.

In any case, the Eagles have three first-round picks in an offseason where there isn’t likely to be many good quarterbacks in the draft or in trades. In order to best build a stable franchise, the Eagles should be looking to trade back in a manner similar to what they did in the 2021 draft. Drop back a bit to get a future first-rounder, but still get to make that pick in the first round this coming draft. That strategy allows the Eagles to build a team around whichever quarterback they wind up going with while also allowing them the flexibility to grab a quarterback in the draft in 2023, if need be.

The last thing this franchise needs is to use all those picks without acquiring additional future capital and wind up with a team that has plenty of talent everywhere except at quarterback. While a draft pick or trade isn’t out of the question entirely, neither can come at the cost of all those picks/the future of the franchise and both Hurts and Minshew are deserving of more time making the best internal option the ideal one for 2022.

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