Carson Wentz Shrunk in Adversity; Jalen Hurts Stepped Up

The Eagles QB situation in 2020 was defined by Hurts' coffee bean approach overtaking the hard-boiled egg that Wentz became
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PHILADELPHIA - More than anything Carson Wentz's reaction to adversity is why the sixth-year quarterback is now preparing for a new start in Indianapolis.

As Wentz retracted during the 2020 disaster of a season for the Eagles rookie Jalen Hurts pressed forward in an attempt to be the coffee bean.

"The thing with me, I always try to never get too high, never get too low out there,” said Hurts after taking over the starting QB job from Wentz. “Try to do my job to my best abilities. Doing that, impacting people, bringing people up around me. Always take somebody with you and create that camaraderie, that community. And all those things, all those characteristics, they’re contagious.

"Just trying to be a coffee bean.”

Hurts first explained his leadership philosophy back in his college days where he was a star at both Alabama and Oklahoma, winning a national championship with the Crimson Tide and finishing up as the runner-up in the Heisman voting to Joe Burrow with the Sooners.

"Whenever I say coffee bean, you’ve got the carrot and the egg. You put an egg in boiling water, it hardens up. It doesn’t affect anything. The carrot softens up. The coffee bean spreads and gets stronger and impacts the people around you," Hurts said.

It might be harsh, but in 2020 Wentz turned into the hard-boiled egg, regressing to the point he stopped talking with then-head coach Doug Pederson after being benched just as Hurts flashed his natural leadership skills that almost everyone cited in his pre-draft buildup.

The questions surrounding Hurts coming out of college were generally traits-based, not whether his teammates would support or follow him on game days.

It was an interesting dynamic.

From the outside looking in, Wentz seemed to be the more outgoing person and Hurts the more understated, although neither will be mistaken for Brandon Graham.

In truth, Wentz was more seasoned through four-plus years of media interplay right up until pulling the plug when he no longer had to talk as the QB1.

Behind the scenes, Wentz tended to keep to himself more, at least outside his tight inner circle, while Hurts made friends very easily, especially with the younger players, according to team sources.

Hurts also impressed with his work ethic, often staying after practice to sharpen his mechanics and footwork. He was also popping his head into different coach's offices, according to a now-former Eagles offensive assistant. The Houston-area native described former senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg as a "wise old owl" and craved his institutional NFL knowledge.

Veteran defensive back Jalen Mills, who is set to be a free agent in March but wants to re-sign in Philadelphia, recently mentioned seeing Hurts working on his craft as he ate lunch during the pandemic-affected daily schedule.

Jason Kelce, the Eagles' Pro Bowl center who remains one of the most respected members of the team, also quickly recognized Hurts' intangibles.

“He’s got great confidence in himself first and foremost, which breeds off into other guys," said Kelce. "He’s a little bit quieter, but then again most rookies are, especially when you’re just trying to learn and figure out where your place is on the team and what you’re doing.

"But I think he’s really smart. Just from the questions he asked me, he wants to figure things out. He’s very curious as to what’s happening each week.”

Those attributes have already shown up in the offseason.

While most of the Deleware Valley was immersed in the 19-day Wentz soap opera, behind the scenes it was well known that Wentz was moving on, and Hurts quickly moved to invite his young receivers down to South Texas to work out, something that was affected by the recent cold snap but a clear indication that he and the group will be working outside the margins to get better prepared for 2021.

Hurts himself is often working with his personal quarterback coach Quincy Avery on improving his footwork and mechanics.

Moving forward the Eagles have a serious decision to make at No. 6 overall in the draft.

With Hurts as the only QB under contract, there are going to be additions. Later-round picks and/or a veteran bridge option will indicate that the Eagles believe Hurts can develop into a top-tier starter.

Conversely, wrangling for Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, or Trey Lance will foreshadow that Philadelphia believes it needs to get better from a traits standpoint at the game's most important position.

If you rewind to last April Howie Roseman and Co. obviously liked Hurts but the original goal at No. 53 overall absent the subsequent revisionist history was to acquire a cost-effective backup as a safety net for Wentz along with a bit of Taysom Hill-like impact sprinkled in.

The league as a whole did not view Hurts as a franchise QB to the same degree it will be regarding the top options in the 2021 process.

A month-long audition with a poor supporting cast is too small a sample size to make any concrete judgments.

There was the good, namely Hurts becoming the first QB in league history with over 500 passing yards and 250 rushing yards in his first two starts, along with big-play ability while matching an NFL-best of nine plays of 30-plus passing yards over the final five weeks.

The bad was a dismal 52 percent completion percentage for the rookie and diminishing returns as more was put on tape.

The ugly was just cleaned up at the cost of $33.8 million in dead money.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.