Jeffrey Lurie was right.
It’s OK to admit it. Running the ball doesn’t win championships, like the Eagles owner alluded to in the summer of 2019.
Look at this year’s final four.
San Francisco owned the seventh best rushing attack in the league. Kansas City is 15th, Los Angeles is 23rd, and Cincinnati is 24th.
The Bengals beat the Titans on Saturday with just 65 yards on the ground and the Rams beat the Bucs with 73 yards rushing on Sunday.
The top running attack in the NFL this season belonged to the Eagles. They’re on vacation after a one-and-done quickie in the playoffs.
This is why Jalen Hurts’ offseason is so important. The QB must get better as a passer, improving his footwork, arm strength, accuracy, and ability to read defenses.
His ability to run the ball has bought him time to develop the passing parts of his game - if he can. And the that time is now.
Take away even just half of his 784 yards rushing this season and the Eagles probably don’t lead the NFL in rushing.
And that’s OK.
Running the ball effectively helps, but it only gets you so far.
The 2017 Eagles were terrific at it. They finished third in the league and won the Super Bowl, many of those yards were delivered late in games when they were putting teams away or just running clock after getting big leads.
It’s a short list of teams that led the league in rushing and went to the Super Bowl in this century. It’s the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and they lost to the Patriots.
There has yet to be a single-season rushing champ and Super Bowl champ since the 21st century opened to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The last player to do it was Terrell Davis with the Broncos all the way back in 1998.
LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing in 2013, helped the Eagles get to the playoffs, but they were ousted in the first round.
Jonathan Taylor had more yards than any RB this season and the Colts didn’t even make the playoffs.
Lurie and his analytics team got it right when The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia asked the owner about the “establish the run” mentality and he said, “What’s the right way to say this? It’s just not a truthful way of reporting based on all the information we now have. OK? That’s sort of the nice way to say it.”
That mentality is what made this past Eagles season so intriguing because it yielded nine wins and a winning record despite what analytics told the front office.
That’s what will make 2022 even more intriguing.
Will the Eagles' offense evolve again, this time into more of a passing attack or will they stick with the ground-and-pound?
Three running backs are under contract - Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, and Jason Huntley under contract – but with two emerging receivers in DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins along with a top-five tight end in Dallas Goedert, it seems like an easy answer, especially because the offensive line has proven more than capable of pass blocking.
So, much depends on Hurts’ development this offseason.
Becoming a better passer is paramount not only because passing games win, but for his health, too.
Running quarterbacks have short-shelf lives. No matter how well they slide or how adept they are at running out of bounds, there are still hits that are absorbed. It’s not even the hits as much as it can often be that knees simply explode without contact or ankles that can twist and sprain with a sharp cut.
Hurts suffered an ankle injury in late November that cost him a game and decreased his efficiency in the running game, to the point where he wore a walking boot into the final postgame press conference of the season after losing to Tampa Bay.
Arizona’s Kyler Murray missed three games with an ankle injury and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson missed five, including several down the stretch with the Ravens fighting to make the playoffs.
The front office has already announced Hurts will be the starter in 2022, now he must go out and prove he can take the next step and pull the Eagles up with him.
It feels like a big one to make, especially after watching the deliriously entertaining games this past weekend, but it won’t all be on Hurts, not with 10 draft picks, including three in the first round, and money to spend in free agency.
Roseman and his staff of scouts and personnel people have to do their part, too, to narrow the gap between those teams that played Saturday and Sunday, which looks like a chasm at this point.
The front office will find weapons to put around Hurts, both on offense and defense, whether it’s via free agency, the draft, a trade or all three, and the Eagles’ offense will evolve again next season.
If it doesn’t, Hurts probably doesn’t get 2023, but at least other positions on this team should receive a youthful injection at other positions.
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.