Jalen Hurts or Carson Wentz? Eagles' quarterback controversy a problem of their own making
Let's get this out of the way right from the start: Jalen Hurts should finish out the season as the Eagles' starting quarterback.
Sure, Eagles coach Doug Pederson will likely drag out whether he'll play Hurts or go back to Carson Wentz before officially naming Hurts the starting quarterback against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.
As he said Monday, there is something to having a competitive advantage. But the team should know by Wednesday, when the Eagles return to practice. After all, the starting QB will have to get the bulk of the practice reps.
"I do feel like the longer you can kind of keep the opponent waiting on a dual quarterback situation, it could possibly help a little bit," Pederson said.
Heck, he could even go week to week with the decision the rest of the way, too.
But really, the Eagles have little choice now but to stick with Hurts. That was evident after the Eagles' 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The Eagles are 3-8-1, and if it's not a full-blown surrender on the season, it should be pretty close, even though the Eagles are 1½ games behind the first-place Giants in the NFC East.
"As crazy as it sounds, we have four games left, and anything is possible," Pederson said after the game, albeit not convincingly. "We just have to continue to work and just fight each week, and see what happens in the last month of the season."
Good luck, because the Wentz Wagon has broken down, and that likely will cost Pederson his job.
The Eagles are stuck in a quarterback controversy that is entirely their own doing. They gave Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract extension in June 2019, then surrounded him with aging and injured players (read: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters).
Then they drafted Hurts in the second round last spring, and Wentz was immediately under siege from every direction – 11 different offensive line combinations in 12 games, a depleted and inexperienced wide receiver corps, and Pederson's questionable play calling.
It's no wonder that metaphorically speaking, Wentz was constantly looking over his shoulder at the oncoming pass rush, and at Hurts. No wonder Wentz seemed shell-shocked and skittish after four more sacks Sunday brought his NFL-leading total to 50.
"I’m not in Carson’s shoes," Pederson said about whether drafting Hurts affected Wentz. "Carson has been, obviously, a professional about everything this season with Jalen, helping Jalen, so it’s hard for me to answer that."
Of course, by not answering, Pederson pretty much did anyway.
You can look at it two ways: Either the Eagles felt they were thinking outside the box by drafting Hurts, even at the expense of filling other needs; or they looked at Wentz's injury history and his mediocre play since 2018, and realized that chances were good that Wentz wouldn't live up to the contract.
The problem is they didn't expect to have to make that decision until 2022. That's because Wentz's contract counts for $59 million against the salary cap next season if he's released. And no team will trade for Wentz when he'll count $34.7 million against their cap.
Still, it's fair to wonder if the Eagles set Wentz up to fail.
"Listen, we’ve had a lot of things this year," Wentz said. "I know I can play better. I can do better, and I can help lead this team better, and I think we can all do the same."
Hurts should get that chance now.
It wasn't that Hurts was exceptional. He completed only 5 of 12 passes, pretty much the same percentage as Wentz's 6 of 15.
Hurts' five completions, however, covered 109 yards, an average of 9.1 yards per attempt, compared to just 79 yards, or 5.3 yards per attempt, for Wentz.
On his first series, Hurts feathered a 34-yard pass to fellow rookie Jalen Reagor – his longest reception since a 55-yarder in the opener. And Hurts threw a beautiful 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward, while rolling out, on 4th-and-18 in the fourth quarter.
That's something Wentz is supposed to be adept at, but rarely does anymore. To his credit, Wentz was seen clapping for Hurts on the sideline after the TD pass to Ward.
And also to Wentz's credit, Hurts said his relationship with Wentz has been good.
"I’ve learned a lot of things from him," Hurts said. "Sitting back, I think we lost this game. I think that hurts everybody here. We all have competitive spirits. We have a 24-hour rule to sit here and digest this, everything that’s happened at Green Bay, and then we move forward.
"How that looks, that’s the question for coach."
But really, that should already be decided.
If Wentz can't get the job done, then the Eagles owe it to themselves to find out if Hurts can. After all, it can't hurt any more than the Eagles have already hurt themselves.
"Any experience and any opportunity to touch the field, it only kind of raises the value of that player," Hurts said. "It’s kind of been that way all year. (Sunday), Coach gave me that opportunity. With all my heart, I had every intention of coming in and getting that done and winning the game, but we came up short."
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.