Why Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has to stick with Jalen Hurts

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Why Sirianni has to stick with Hurts originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Anybody who thinks the Eagles should start Gardner Minshew the rest of the season, I get it. 

I saw what you saw. Nick Sirianni saw what you saw. We all saw it. He was very effective Sunday against the Jets, and he made some throws that Jalen Hurts hasn’t been able to make. 

Considering that he wasn’t even here until late October, that he never got to practice with DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert or Quez Watkins until Wednesday and that he hadn’t played in a year, Minshew played as well as you could hope for.

But when it comes to Hurts, none of that matters. It can’t.

Because this year is about one thing, and no matter what else happens, that one thing is learning as much as humanly possible about Hurts. Which is why Sirianni didn’t hesitate Sunday when asked if Hurts would remain the starter once he’s healthy:

“Yeah, of course.”

It’s the only possible answer.

We have a pretty good idea what Minshew is. He’s a solid NFL quarterback who’s going to have a long career.

His numbers in his first 21 starts are really good – 64 percent, 5,172 yards, 35 TDs, 9 INTs, 94.4 passer rating. Only nine other QBs have ever completed 64 percent of their passes and thrown for 5,000 yards and 35 TDs in their first 21 starts. Minshew is the only one with fewer than 10 interceptions.

So the numbers are there. He can play. 

But this isn’t about Minshew. Nobody in the Eagles’ front office is incredibly curious what Gardner Minshew’s upside is or how much better he can get or how far he can take this football team.

This year is about Hurts. It has to be. The Eagles need to find out who exactly he is and what he can be. They need to study and evaluate every rep, every snap, every decision, every throw, and simply put that ain’t happening if he’s on the bench.

They didn’t draft him in the second round last year and then trade Carson Wentz to bench Hurts after one bad game.

This is a little tricky since Hurts is coming off one of his worst games as a pro and Minshew is coming off one of his best, a week apart in the same stadium.

And you can make the case that Minshew gives the Eagles a better chance to win right now and that as long as the Eagles have a realistic chance to reach the playoffs – and right now The 538 has them at 38 percent – Sirianni owes it to his players and the franchise and the city to play the guy who gives them the best chance to get there.

But keep one thing in mind:

The Jets have the worst defense in the NFL, and a healthy Jalen Hurts probably would have lit them up as well.

Hurts beat the Panthers, who are No. 2 in defense. He put up 30 points in a win over the Broncos, who are No. 9 in defense. He’s faced five teams ranked in the bottom 10 in defense, and he’s put up 27 points per game against them.

And let's not lose site of the fact that the Eagles had the No. 8 scoring offense in the NFL in the 12 games Hurts started. And that his 21 total TDs - 13 passing, 8 rushing - were 10th-most of any quarterback entering this weekend. 

There’s a lot to like about Hurts, he just hasn’t shown the consistency you want to see. It’s clear there are areas he needs to improve on – decision making in the pocket, spreading the ball around, looking off receivers, accuracy – but he’s not going to improve sitting on the bench.

He’s shown enough intriguing traits running the ball, making big plays late in games, opening up the field for the running backs and using his athleticism to escape trouble in the pocket and make plays on the run that giving up on him now makes no sense.

There are four games left, and Sirianni said Sunday he expects Hurts’ ankle to be healthy enough to start against Washington when the Eagles return from their bye a week from Sunday.

Let’s find out how he responds to his three-interception dud. Let’s find out how he plays with a possible playoff berth at stake. Let’s find out how he plays in a rematch with the Giants. 

Let’s figure out exactly who Jalen Hurts is before we decide he’s the wrong guy.

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