How Jalen Hurts has gone from questioned pick with upside to MVP candidate


Someone, somewhere Tweeted one of the most damning but sadly true nuggets about Carson Wentz on Sunday night: he has now watched two of his main backups with the Eagles lead the Birds to the Super Bowl.

However, Nick Foles, like Chase Daniel before him in 2016, was really meant to be a veteran mentor to the former No. 2 overall pick, with Saint Nick pressed into action after Wentz tore his ACL in December 2017. The same went for Josh McCown in 2019, although he, too, was pressed into action in the playoffs when Wentz went out with a concussion.

So, it was a little curious when the Eagles, who had just given Wentz a huge extension, went out and drafted dynamic Heisman Trophy runner-up Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 Draft, and later installed him as the No. 2 quarterback so he could be used in special formations.

"My first year here [people] probably didn't even want me here. It was probably one of those things. But it always handles itself," Hurts said Sunday night, after he improved to 16-1 as a starter this season and led the Birds to a 31-7 win over San Francisco to clinch a berth in Super Bowl LVII. "It was a big surprise to many. My favorite [Bible] verse, I went through a lot of stuff in college and it kind of stuck with me, John 13:7: 'You may not know now but later you'll understand.' Hopefully people understand."

All year, there was wonder if the Eagles were souring on an injury-prone Wentz, and come Dec. 6, the team, then 3-7-1, made the move to Hurts, relieving an ineffective Wentz mid-game against the Packers. The Birds went 1-4 in his five games played, but Hurts showed enough to finally give the world the answer to that question on Wentz – he was dealt to Indianapolis that offseason.

The rest is, as they say, history, as the Eagles drafted Heisman winner DeVonta Smith in 2021, went 9-8 and made the playoffs, then made a few moves this offseason and are one win away from their second Super Bowl in five years, while Hurts has set an NFL record for rushing TD by a QB in a season and helped two of his receivers set single-season franchise records in the same year.

"I don't really know how to feel, to be honest," he said. "You work really hard to put yourself in this position and I'm forever grateful. Only God knows the things that each individual on this team has been able to overcome for us to come together as a team and do something special as a group. That's what means the most. I always want to go out there and give my best regardless of what's going on because I don't want to let down the guy next to me. That makes us all go harder.”

"He is a great young leader. He is a terrific young quarterback. When we drafted him, it was the upside we were banking on. We thought he had a huge upside," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie added. "It takes a couple years. And somebody so dedicated as Jalen and such a great teammate. Inevitably, he is going to maximize everything he has and that's what he's done."

Hurts has already won more playoff games than Wentz, and by the end of next year, will likely be all the way up to sixth on the franchise’s all-time passing yards list. But therein lies the problem: his rookie deal expires after next year, his fourth, and he is eligible for an extension – and given what the Eagles gave Wentz after one year of learning and one MVP-caliber season, Hurts surely deserves at least that.

"All I know is, and this is a fact: He's about to get paid!" left tackle Jordan Mailata said Sunday. "Oh my God, pay the man! Second year as a full-time starter, and he's taking us to the Super Bowl? Set I don't know how many records? All I know is, that man is one of the hardest workers I've ever seen in my life."

At some point it’s going to be about him and what he’s worth – but for the next two weeks, it’s about whatever it takes to bring a second Lombardi Trophy up South Broad to the Parkway.

"I know I've been through a lot personally, but I don't want to steer away from the direction of how good this team has been at playing together, being together, and challenging one another,” Hurts said. “When we experience some painful times and some tough times, we always found a way to overcome. You want to be going into a situation like this, and we have a chance to go out there and win it all, so we want to prepare to go do that."

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN

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