Nick Sirianni not Helping Eagles' Long-Term Decision on Jalen Hurts

The Eagles head coach is protecting his young QB with relatively easy throws, but it's time to take the kid gloves off
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PHILADELPHIA - Jalen Hurts' pass charts under Nick Sirianni might as well be sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts because there is a big hole in the middle of them.

You don't need Alec Halaby to see the glaring omission on those charts through the first two weeks of the Eagles' regular season, because the Eagles' VP of football operations and strategy, as well as the leader of the team's analytics department, can certainly see what is so evident.

Courtesy of NFL NextGenStats, here's a look at where Hurts' passes have gone at Atlanta and vs. San Francisco:

Jalen Hurts pass chart Week 1

Jalen Hurts' Week 1 Pass Chart

Jalen Hurts Week 2 Pass Chart

Jalen Hurts Week 2 Pass Chart

Nick Sirianni was asked about the strange development at his Monday afternoon presser after Sunday's disappointing 17-11 loss to the 49ers.

"In our first two games, that's where we wanted to attack on the defensive side," the coach said. "Outside the numbers there and underneath a little bit. And so, that's just a product of who we're playing and what routes we have in for that week."

In the win against the Falcons, Hurts was last in the NFL in air-yards-per-attempt at 3.7 yards-per-pass, something that turned his red-flag 52 percent accuracy rate in 2020 into one that was over 77 percent.

Seven days later, Hurts led the NFL 14.6 air-yards-per-attempt, a wide gesticulation that fostered a 12-of-23 day, and a trip back toward 52 percent.

The culprit to the extremes is a lack of intermediate throws which has been the lone consistent part of Sirianni's plans over two weeks.

The rookie head coach was clearly scheming up Hurts in Atlanta to bolster the young QB's confidence early and turned the knob too quickly against San Francisco, likely an overeager attempt to take advantage of San Francisco being down its two starting cornerbacks.

In fairness to Sirianni, there have been times where the QB is simply late getting the football out and not trusting what he sees when the intermediate stuff has been on the table.

"I wanted him to be on time on a couple other things that he wasn't," Sirianni said Monday, "but he went to the right place with the ball for a majority of the game and he made a lot of plays with his feet when things weren't there."

The weeds of the regular season are obfuscating the real problem here.

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There is always a disconnect between coaches and general managers in the NFL with the former taking a more micro view.

For Sirianni, the goal is how to best beat Dallas on Monday night. For Howie Roseman, it has to be a much more macro approach.

The most important question that needs to be answered by the Eagles organization in 2021 as a whole is whether or not Hurts is the long-term answer at the game's most important position.

Winning a bad division by protecting a young QB might produce a feel-good winter moment in the form of a one-and-done playoff appearance but it would provide the really important empirical evidence that the Eagles need in regard to Hurts.

The shrinkwrap has to come off of Hurts even if it costs the Eagles a few wins in 2021.

-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 jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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.