TAMPA – Let the offseason of another great quarterback discussion begin.
Last year, it was Carson Wentz.
This offseason, it will be Jalen Hurts.
The final memory of the Eagles quarterback this season was an unsightly performance in his first playoff start, the youngest quarterback in team history to start a playoff game at the age of 23.
So, spark the chatter.
Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, somebody in the NFL draft…it will be open season between now and the start of free agency in mid-March, until the NFL Draft at the end of April. All manners of upgrade will be thoroughly analyzed and dissected.
Or maybe GM Howie Roseman nips it in the bud this week when he will hold his annual end-of-season press conference.
Roseman could end it all with five words: “Jalen will be our quarterback.”
He didn’t do it when training camp started, but he now has a body of work to judge. There are definitely aspects of his game that he can improve, but Hurts' ability to make things happen with his legs buys him time to develop as a passer.
He should get another year and that's what Roseman should say.
That would be a surprise because my belief is he will try to upgrade the position and will if he can.
Still, this was a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs when the season began, but it now appears to be on the rise, a roster that has more youth than veterans and that youth, which includes rookie head coach Nick Sirianni and rookie defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, took a big step forward in gaining playoff experience.
That can do wonders.
The trick will be finding a way to do it again next year. No easy job, even though it’s a franchise that has made the postseason in four out of the last five years, with a Super Bowl title thrown in.
Hurts is part of this team’s ascension, and he himself still has some growing to do, but the expectation is he will with Sirianni having worked with him for a season now.
Hurts wasn’t good in Sunday’s game. He completed just 53 percent of his 43 throws and tossed a pair of interceptions, one in the end zone that potentially cost the Eagles points at the end of the first half and another Tampa Bay turned into a touchdown and 31-0 lead in the third quarter, but Nick Sirianni has his back and so do his teammates.
“We’re all going to say he didn’t play his best game, as we all know,” said the Eagles head coach. “But you don’t take the body of work that he had for 17 weeks – and I know he didn’t play two games, so 15 weeks – and put everything on this game.
“I know we’re all judged on the last game that we play. I understand that and fully get that, but I felt like Jalen grew throughout the year and he got better as a passer, and he got better reading defenses, getting the ball to the right place. He developed so much in his ability to extend plays.”
Hurts entered the postgame interview room wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
The Eagles released a statement later saying that there was nothing additionally wrong other than the sprain he suffered at the end of November and something he has been taking treatment for ever since.
As the QB answered questions, his personal protector on his blindside, left tackle Jordan Mailata, listened.
Hurts did what he always does, takes accountability, talks about the team more than himself. It’s an admirable trait and two things on a list of why his teammates are in his corner.
“(He is) everything you want in a player,” said Mailata. “The will to win, the accountability he takes. I see it. He sat here and was honest with you guys about the areas he needs to be better at. I want to follow that dude. I know that dude wants to win. I know that dude wants to fix his mistakes. It’s all I ask. It’s all he asks of us.
“When I see my captain doing. That, when I see my QB doing that, I want to do the same thing. It’s infectious for me. That’s the culture we’re trying to build around here. Hold yourself at the highest accountability and keep pressing on and learn from your mistakes.”
The Eagles made plenty of mistakes against Tampa.
It wasn’t just Hurts who made them, but he won’t say that.
“I know for me, I look at myself in the mirror, and I tell myself the first-year quarterback stuff, the first-year starter, that’s over with,” he said. “I’m hungry for what’s to come. I’m hungry to do the things that need to be done.
“I’m not going to make any expectations for anything. I know for us as a football team, the sky is the limit. I’ll reiterate. Nobody likes this feeling. We’ll do the things we need to do so we don’t feel this feeling again. I think with the guys we have, especially the youth and the young guys we have, we’re hungry.
“We’re going to come back hungry. But this season was far from a failure. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it. We’ll take it as a lesson. My third year starts tomorrow.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.