Head coach Nick Sirianni made it perfectly clear that Jalen Hurts is the starting quarterback. He has no immediate plans to replace him despite a 2-5 start and a plummeting completion percentage. Still, the decision to name a new backup ahead of Week 8 got people pondering a change.
Hurts hasn’t progressed in the way the Philadelphia Eagles were hoping in his first 11 starts. He’s done a lot of positive things, mainly on the ground with 715 career rushing yards. But in the pocket and through the air, it’s been a struggle at times. And the stats don’t lie: 3-8 record, 57.7% completion percentage, 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Gardner Minshew’s sudden promotion to second-stringer isn’t an all-out indictment, although it has been lighting up the sports-talk radio phone lines in Philly. The No. 2 quarterback is always the most popular guy in town. Hurts was asked if he needed any verbal reassurance from Sirianni that he was the starter moving forward. He doesn’t.
“Nah, I want to win,” Hurts told reporters. “All that matters is winning, another opportunity this week.”
Another opportunity to lose ground in the court of public opinion, too. It’s not like Minshew is the second coming of Nick Foles – ironically, he replaced the Super Bowl MVP in Jacksonville – but losing breeds controversy. Which could breed a desperation move by the Eagles.
“You can’t be result-oriented, you got to trust the process,” Hurts said. “Sometimes, you have so many different things that go on, where they’re trying to take you off what the main thing is. Keep the main thing the main thing. And just work, get better every day. It’ll turn over, it’ll turn over, and I believe that.”
He also thanked outgoing backup Joe Flacco for his support, along with new No. 2 Minshew.
“I called Joe and I told him how much he meant to me, and how much I valued the relationship we were able to build,” Hurts said. “Before every game, I’d tell him honestly – I tell him and I tell Gardner, too – how much I appreciate them helping me prepare for the week.”
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No Panic in Birds’ Locker Room
The Eagles know the product they’ve been putting out on the field hasn’t been acceptable. Or close to “good enough,” according to Jason Kelce. But the locker room still believes in the message coming down from the head coach. They are doubling down on his five core principles and relying on their veteran leadership to set the example.
“If you want to be a good team, you’re in it together. That’s what being a team is all about,” Kelce said. “I think we have good leadership here. If guys weren’t buying in, that would be a direct reflection of leadership, in my opinion.
“And I think we have good players here, good people, good coaches. We’re not producing the way we want to right now, it’s not showing up on the field the way we want, but the only way we’re going to get better is by sticking together.”
That doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating. Kelce was noticeably upset after he lost his helmet against Las Vegas and lashed out. The refs tagged him with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a visible sign of things unraveling at the time. Yes, to a point. Kelce revealed there was more going on there.
“My helmet got knocked off, and then the guy kind of hits me in the balls,” Kelce said. “They always get the second guy, so I just got to be smarter. I didn’t think I did anything that egregious but whatever. There was a lot of frustration building up at that point.”
Hurts Getting All First-Team Reps
Sirianni confirmed that Hurts will continue to “get all the reps” at practice. Some coaches split those up between the first team and second team as a way to build chemistry in case the backup quarterback has to go in. The first-year head coach doesn’t believe in that philosophy, something that could help curb the tide in promulgating a quarterback controversy.
“Our quarterback’s taking all the reps,” Sirianni told reporters, “and that’s why Gardner is standing behind Jalen while the play is going and taking the virtual, or the rep behind there, the visualization rep.”
That didn’t stop Sirianni from heaping praise on Minshew. He continues to grow in the offense, but it didn’t sound like he was ready to hand him the reins.
“The main thing is I have seen him grow in the offense,” Sirianni said. “You see that in our developmental periods. Knowing where to go with the football, knowing what we are asking him to do, what receivers are going to do etc. We already knew he could play, that’s why he’s here in the first place. So, it’s really what we are confident in is that he is growing in the offense. And that’s because he puts so much work into it.”