• Matt Nein

The Truth Hurts

Twitter: @mnein9



Jalen Hurts has quickly become one of the most polarizing QB prospects to enter the NFL in years. Even though he was the 5th QB off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, some, including myself, believe that his ceiling is much higher than that of his counterparts drafted before him. It is yet to be determined how long it will be before Jalen Hurts takes the field as he is entrenched into the QB3 role currently behind Nate Sudfeld and starter Carson Wentz. How long will we have to wait? Not very long at all…

 

Alabama & Oklahoma


Jalen Hurts collegiate career was nothing short of spectacular. Stepping onto the field as a true freshman for the University of Alabama, which has been one of the premier programs over the last decade, Jalen led his team to the National Title game in 2016. Unfortunately for Jalen and the Tide, they came up short against the Deshaun Watson-led Clemson Tigers. However, this was only the beginning.

(Photo Credit: AL.com)


Freshman Year (Alabama)


Jalen Hurts started his career with a bang. He was the first true freshman QB to start for Alabama in 32 years and he did not disappoint. Hurts went on to produce one of the historically great statistical seasons in Alabama history. Playing in 15 games, Hurts threw for 2780 yards while completing 62.8% of his passes and throwing 23 TDs to only 9 INTs. Hurts also rushed for 954 yards (breaking the single-season school record) and scored 13 TDs on the ground. He finished his freshman year with 36 total TDs breaking Blake Sims' previously held record of 35. Hurts also became the first QB under Nick Saban to rush for more than 11 TDs in a single season. Hurts were not only statistically great but a superior leader as he led the tide to the National Championship.



Sophomore Year (Alabama)


Jalen’s sophomore year had a slightly different tune to it than his stellar freshman year. Hurts saw a drop in his stats throwing for only 2081 yards and 17 TDs to 1 INT. (His TD:INT ratio was much improved though.) Hurts rushed for 855 yards scoring 8 TDs on the ground as well. Being a former student at Alabama and seeing most of Jalen’s games in person, it was clear to see that his passing game had not improved the way you would want it to from year 1 to year 2. There were several instances where he did not look comfortable and sometimes had fans as well as coaches questioning his decision-making. Even with all the uncertainty, Jalen still led Alabama to the College Football Playoff as the 4 seed. Jalen got his revenge on Clemson beating them in the Sugar Bowl to advance to the National Championship game yet again.


We all watched the game; we all saw how badly Jalen struggled against the UGA defense in the first half and yet again some were left wondering how Alabama even got past Clemson. What happened to the Jalen from a year ago? After the first drive of the 3rd quarter, the highly talented true freshman, Tua Tagovailioa, came in to relieve Hurts and led a comeback to defeat UGA. Tagovailioa threw a game-winning TD pass in overtime and became Alabama’s new starting QB.



Junior Year (Alabama)


The summer going into Jalen’s junior year, just about everyone assumed he was going to transfer to be the starter somewhere else since Tua was Alabama’s new starting QB. This however was not the case as Jalen opted to stay at Alabama one more year before transferring. This was no doubt a shocking decision that had the college football world scratching its head.


After doing some digging in an attempt to figure out why Jalen stayed, I came across some interesting information on the subject. It was no surprise Nick Saban wanted Jalen to stay. With Tua just now starting his first college game ever, Saban wanted Jalen to help mentor Tua and help him develop all the while being easily the nation’s top backup QB. Turns out, Saban and the Tide ended up needing Jalen to save the season later on. As irony would have it, Tua went down in the SEC championship with an injury and Jalen came in to relieve him and, like Tua, the year before, led a comeback win against UGA.


Another reason Jalen stayed was for his teammates. Jalen was interviewed on the Rich Eisen Show back in March about staying at Alabama and Jalen responded by saying, “Even my teammates around me, they were like, 'Why are you still here?' And I'm like, 'I'm here for you guys.” It is clear to see that Jalen is selfless and an ultimate team player.

Hurts later said, "It was an unprecedented situation, it's something you've never seen happen before. I think it all happened for a reason, me deciding to stay at Alabama. I wouldn't change that decision for the world."

I also learned that Jalen stayed because he wanted to be put in an uncomfortable position. He wanted to be challenged and he wanted to be somewhere where he could learn the QB position with the best coaching staff in the nation. Where else than Alabama?


In 2018, the NCAA put a new rule into place that allowed for programs to add a 10th assistant coach to the staff. Alabama chose to add QB ‘whisperer’, Dan Enos, to the staff to specifically work with Jalen Hurts & Tua Tagovailioa.

(Photo Credit: AL.com)

AL.com wrote an article about the hiring of Enos saying, “Enos, who is reportedly a candidate for Kansas’ head coach opening, is known for being very organized as well as for being great with Xs and Os and at helping to improve a quarterback’s mechanics. He also uses drills that simulate game-like situations.”
The article continued on by saying, “The quarterbacks have so much respect for Enos that, according to sources, he factored into Jalen Hurts’ decision to play out this season with the Tide instead of redshirting (or transferring). Word is Hurts wanted to continue to learn from Enos rather than going down to scout team and not receiving the same level of coaching, even though that meant sacrificing the year of eligibility.”

Jalen’s QB rating went from 139.1 his freshman year, to 150.2 his sophomore year, to finally 196.7 his junior year, Jalen’s final year at Alabama.



Senior Year (Oklahoma)


On January 16th, 2019, Jalen announced he would be transferring to Oklahoma for his final season. I was curious to see, as well as most of the nation, if staying at Alabama for an extra year to further craft his passing skills would pay off. Jalen had his sights set on a career in the NFL and pass-heavy Oklahoma was the perfect place to showcase himself to the league. Jalen did not disappoint. He threw for a career-best 3851 yards with 32 TDs to 8 INTs and a QB rating of 191.2. He also rushed for 1298 yards adding 20 rushing TDs as well. Jalen finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting only behind 1st overall pick, Joe Burrow.


(He also played in 2 national championship games as well as 4 semifinal games. Jalen never finished worse than 4th in the country.)


During the 2019 season, Hurts produced an in-rhythm accuracy percentage of 64.2% that ranks third in the draft class behind Joe Burrow and Anthony Gordon. Hurts had a better percentage than Tagovailioa, Herbert, and Love who were all drafted before him.

(Photo Credit: PFF)


Hurts produced the fifth-lowest percentage of uncatchable/egregious throws at 19.3%.


PFF ranks Hurts with the second-highest ceiling of the 2020 class only behind Burrow.

(Photo Credit: PFF)

 

Philadelphia Eagles


Jalen Hurts was selected as the 53rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the 5th QB taken off the board as Joe Burrow, former teammate Tua Tagovailioa, Justin Hebert, and Jordan Love were all selected before him.


For a team that didn’t need a QB, this was a very shocking yet intriguing pick, to say the least. Going into the draft, there were 2 main areas the Eagles needed to get better at, WR & DB. The Eagles addressed the obvious need at WR after an awful and unlucky 2019 at the position by drafting Jalen Reagor out of TCU with their first pick. With their second pick, it was assumed they would go defense, specifically defensive back, after coming off of a very mediocre to bad season in the secondary. The Eagles defense finished 2019 giving up the 14th most passing yards (8th most air yards), the 12th most passing TDs, and allowed the 18th most points scored on them. (In free agency the Eagles did add All-Pro corner Darius Slay from Detroit.)


As we know, the Eagles took Jalen Hurts with their second pick, a luxury pick, instead of addressing a greater team need. In addition to that, the Eagles just signed starter Carson Wentz to a 4-year mega extension in 2019. What is the need for spending such significant draft capital at the position when you just paid Wentz? Nate Sudfeld has been an excellent backup QB to Wentz completing 80% of his passes and throwing for 1 TD over the last two years when called upon. I just couldn’t help but wonder, why in the world would you spend that kind of draft capital on a backup QB? Maybe Hurts wasn’t drafted to be a backup…



GM Howie Roseman


Back in 2012, the Eagles entered the draft looking for their future franchise QB. GM Howie Roseman had his eyes set on a particular player and was planning on drafting him with their 3rd round pick (88th). Russell Wilson didn’t make it that far. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Eagles to the punch and drafted Wilson earlier in the round (75th). Now fast forward to the 2020 NFL draft and Roseman sees another guy that reminds him of Wilson. This time he doesn’t let him get away. NBC sports interviewed Roseman after the Eagles selection of Hurts and this is what he had to say;

“In 2012, we had a vision. We had a vision that we would draft a quarterback who’s been extremely successful, and I don’t want tampering charges on me but I think we can understand who that was, and then come back in the fourth round and draft a quarterback who won a world championship for us and go back-to-back. And I feel like we got a little cute. And I don’t know that there’s a big difference between taking the 53rd pick in the draft and taking a pick in the third round if you feel strongly about a guy.”

Obviously, at this point, the Eagles are in a very different position now than they were in 2012 and even though they have a 100 million-dollar QB in Wentz, they still drafted someone who they think is the next Russell Wilson.



Senior Offensive Consultant, Marty Mornhinweg


Prior to the 2020 NFL draft getting underway, the Eagles went out and hired Marty Mornhinweg to help them evaluate talent and advise on players that the Eagles were interested in drafting. Doug Pederson and Mornhinweg know each other very well as Mornhinweg was Pederson’s QB coach in Green Bay back in 1996. They also coached together in Philadelphia from 2009-2012.


Well, what kind of advice does Mornhinweg bring to the Eagles? Well, most recently he was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 2016-2018. In the middle of the 2018 season, Mornhinweg overhauled the offense benching Joe Flacco for rookie Lamar Jackson. It was Mornhinweg that scouted and convinced the rest of the Baltimore staff to draft Jackson with the 32nd overall pick in 2018. It was also Mornhinweg that redesigned the offense around Jackson that lead him to a 6-1 start for his career and this past year won the NFL MVP.


Who has Mornhinweg scouted and advised Doug Pederson to take? Jalen Hurts.

“I feel very similar about Jalen as I did about Lamar.” – M. Mornhinweg

The Eagles have already announced that they are creating special ‘Lamar Jackson type’ packages that involve Jalen Hurts. They have zero hesitations on playing the rookie alongside Carson Wentz.


HC Doug Pederson and VP of Player personnel Andy Weidl also noted the similarities between Jackson and Hurts in a post-draft interview.


The 4 most important guys on the Eagles staff have now compared Hurts, to future HOF QB Russell Wilson and NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. Crazy, right?

Ok, so what? What does this have to do with Carson Wentz?


[Warning: I am about to make a bold take.]


I believe that come the beginning of the 2022 season, Jalen Hurts will be the starting QB for the Eagles if not sooner.

 

Carson Wentz’s Health


Let me start by saying I do not believe there is such a thing as being injury-prone. That being said Wentz has been very unlucky as far as injuries go.


In 2016, Wentz’s rookie year, he played all 16 games, but he did suffer a rib fracture in a preseason game against Tampa Bay. Wentz went 7-9.


In 2017, Wentz tore his ACL in week 14 against the LA Rams. He would miss the remainder of the season as Nick Foles lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots. Wentz went 11-2.


In 2018, Wentz suffered a back strain that cost him 5 games. Wentz went 5-6.


In 2019, Wentz suffered a concussion in the opening quarter of the Wild Card matchup up against the Seahawks in the playoffs. Wentz again played all 16 games but only went 9-7.


I think Carson Wentz is a great quarterback and he’s a top 15 QB in the NFL today however his health has been unreliable. Throughout Wentz’s first 4 years in the NFL, he has started 1 playoff game but had to leave early due to injury. Wentz’s stats are good there is no doubting that. In the NFL however, nobody cares about stats they only care about wins and losses. Yes in 2018, Wentz got the Eagles out to an 11-2 start, but it was Nick Foles who won the Super Bowl. We can’t definitively say that Wentz would have done the same because we don’t know. So, when I look at the totality of Wentz’s career thus far, this is a guy who is statistically great but has done absolutely nothing for the Eagles as far as post-season success goes. Some of it is no fault of his own but the best ability is availability.

 

What about his mega-contract extension?


During the summer of 2019, the Eagles and Carson Wentz agreed to a massive 4-year extension worth 128m including a 16.3m signing bonus with 107.9m guaranteed.


The Eagles constructed Wentz’s contract to where there is a potential out after the 2021 season. By trading Wentz after the 2021 season, the Eagles would incur a dead cap of 24.5 million. The cap savings by doing this would be 6.7m (2022), 34.2m (2023), and 32m (2024).


Even in recent memory, we have seen teams take on large dead cap numbers so this would not be unprecedented if this were to happen.


The Jaguars currently have a 2020 dead cap of 18.7m after trading Nick Foles to the Bears.


The abrupt retirement of QB Andrew Luck left the Colts with a dead cap of 18.8m over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.


Stefon Diggs trade to the Bills left the Vikings with a dead cap of 9m for the 2020 season.


Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks left the Rams with a combined 33.6m dead cap for the 2020 season.


Joe Flacco left a dead cap of 13.6m for the Broncos while Tom Brady left a dead cap of 13.5m for the Patriots.


After Antonio Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh in a trade to Oakland, he left the Steelers with 21.12m in dead money.

 

Do you think we would see a QB of his caliber traded though?


It has happened before! I recently had several polls on Twitter asking people to vote on how good they thought these particular QBs were. These were the results.

None of the QBs were voted elite.


Carson Wentz, Daunte Culpepper, and Carson Palmer were voted as great.


Matt Cassel, Nick Foles, Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Bledsoe, Jay Cutler, and Sam Bradford were voted as average/good.


None were voted below average.


Now, what do these QBs have in common? They were all productive starting QBs traded to another team (since 2000). The only exceptions are Matt Hasselbeck and Nick Foles. Hasselbeck was the backup to Brett Favre in Green Bay and was traded to Seattle. He did lead Seattle to the playoffs multiple times including a berth to the Super Bowl in 2005. Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl after Wentz went down in 2017. Foles would later sign a mega-contract with Jax only to be traded to Chicago a year later.


The QBs I want to focus on are, Daunte Culpepper, Carson Palmer, Drew Bledsoe, and Jay Cutler. The average age of these QBs when traded was 28.25.


For quick reference, Carson Wentz has finished as a top 24 QB four times with two of those being in the top ten. Wentz will be 29 in 2022.

  • Daunte Culpepper

Daunte Culpepper was traded in 2005 to the Miami Dolphins from the Minnesota Vikings (his age 28 season). Prior to being traded, Culpepper finished as a top 12 QB five times with three of those times being the overall QB1. He would never finish better than QB30 after being traded.

  • Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer was traded not once but twice. He was traded from Cincinnati after the 2010 season to Oakland (age 31 season) and then again in 2012 from Oakland to Arizona (age 33 season). Prior to being traded to Oakland, Palmer had finished as a top 24 QB six times with three of those finishes in the top 10. He would produce one top 24 finish while in Oakland. In his last 5 years in the league, he spent in Arizona where he finished as a top 24 QB three times with one of those finishes being in the top five.

  • Drew Bledsoe

Bledsoe was traded after the 2001 season from the Patriots to the Buffalo Bills (age 29 season). During his time in New England, Bledsoe had eight finishes as a top 24 QB with six of those in the top twelve. During Drew’s three years in Buffalo, he finished as a top 24 QB all three years. Drew would go on later to have a top ten finish with the Cowboys.

  • Jay Cutler

Cutler only spent 3 years in Denver before being traded to Chicago (age 25 season). During his 3 years in Denver Cutler produced two top 12 finishes. Once in Chicago, Cutler had seven top 24 finishes.


Side Note: Sam Bradford was traded twice in his career and left a combined 30.5m in dead money between 3 teams.


At some point in time for all the QBs that I polled, they all had top fantasy finishes at the position and were then later traded. Being for whatever reason, it is not uncommon that QBs considered good or better get traded. It is also obvious that teams don’t mind taking on dead money when entering somewhat of a rebuild. (Hurts stepping in for Wentz type rebuild.)

 

Final Thoughts


It is clear and obvious to see that the Eagles coaching staff and ownership have huge plans for Jalen Hurts. This year I expect him to be the QB3 and possibly jump into the backup QB role. The Eagles want to bring him along slowly and develop him into an NFL-caliber starting QB. Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz, Marty Mornhinweg, and a supporting cast of others are some of the best in the league to develop a QB. Hurts could not have landed in a better situation.


On top of that, Wentz has shown he can’t stay healthy. It does not matter whether you want to say he is injury prone or unlucky, he has had a significant injury in each of his first four years in the NFL. In addition to that, Wentz has only started one playoff game and left early due to injury. (0-1 career record in the postseason.)


There is a very real chance Wentz doesn’t see the playoffs in the next 2 seasons whether it be to injury or poor team performance. Then what? Do the Eagles pick up the contract option for a guy that’s going to cost them 30m+ a year until 2024 for a guy who has only been in 1 playoff game? Or do they cut bait and build around the uber athlete Jalen Hurts who the organization compares to Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson?


There is also a very good chance Wentz gets injured again this season and or next season. If and when that happens and Hurts comes into the game to relieve Wentz, he won’t be getting his job back. Jalen Hurts is the future.


Most fantasy leagues allow taxi squad players to be rookies and sophomores which is a great place to stash Hurts. After his two years on the taxi squad, you can throw him right into your starting lineup for the 2022 season.