PHILADELPHIA - Competition is a buzzword around the NFL and Eagles rookie head coach Nick Sirianni has made it a centerpiece of his ethos as a mentor.
What it isn't, however, is a hard-and-fast rule.
“We're going to have competition at every position," Sirianni insisted at his pre-draft press availability while refusing to name second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts the starter for the 2021 season.
Hurts was certainly penciled in of course but there was no need to make declarative statements in April.
When the team officially passed on signal-callers like Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the first round of the draft you could officially get out the stone tablet and start the cobbling.
Hurts is the guy, something Howie Roseman highlighted in a visit with SiriusXM's NFL Radio on Thursday.
“We want to see him grab the job and kind of run with it and see what he can do over a period of time,” the Eagles GM said.
The city's worst-kept secret is no longer that and any intimation of competition between Hurts and veteran backup Joe Flacco is just that.
The bigger question surrounding the Eagles' brass and Hurts is the willingness to essentially hand over a season without fully exploring other potential options at the game's most important position other than prospects who were simply never going to be available to the organization like Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson.
Every noted personnel evaluator SI.com's Eagle Maven spoke to leading up to the draft - both on the record and off - insisted that Fields, who came off the board one spot after the Eagles selected Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, has a much higher ceiling as a player than Hurts.
Among those who said it publicly were former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah, former league scout Matt Manocherian, NFL Draft Bible founder Ric Serritella, and former league personnel executive Blake Beddingfield.
What do the Eagles see that others don't?
“Certainly you’re judging [Hurts] off of four NFL starts in a tough situation with all the injuries that we have,” Roseman said of Hurts' work at the end of the disappointing 2020 campaign which resulted in coach Doug Pederson being fired and the former face of the franchise, Carson Wentz, being paid nearly $34 million to play for someone else.
There are obvious reasons to root for Hurts from a franchise-building perspective in that a second-round pick on a rookie contract is a cost-effective option for the next two years, something that would accelerate rebuilding the depth at the back end of the roster, at least after the difficult Wentz medicine is gulped down this year.
On the other hand, if Hurts fails, the Eagles will have to expend significant assets, potentially financial ones, draft capital, or both in 2022 to find the answer vs. using all the available avenues to build up around an ascending quarterback.
“The more you can see a player play, the more you can make decisions on that player,” Roseman said. “… We want to be in a situation where we get as much information as possible, give him the best opportunity, build that offensive line, give him the right weapons, put him in a system that really maximizes his ability, and then go from there.”
Roseman has often asserted hope is not a strategy but the Eagles 2021 plan seems to be based more on the former than the latter.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.