Jalen Hurts was a controversial draft pick, the 53rd overall choice in the 2020 draft. The pick was contentious because in 2019 the Eagles signed Carson Wentz to a four-year, $128 million contract extension.
Criticism rang loud and long about the Hurts selection. What was general manager Howie Roseman thinking? The Eagles *had* a long-term starting quarterback, a franchise guy. Why waste a precious second-round pick on a back-up quarterback?
The Eagles had plenty of holes to fill just two years after their 2017 Super Bowl victory. They were coming off a 9-7 season in 2019, headed toward a collapse — 4-11-1 in 2020. Players were needed; they didn’t need a high draft pick carrying around a clipboard.
Josh McCown, 40, was the Eagles’ back-up in 2019 because Nate Sudfeld broke his non-throwing wrist in the preseason. Sudfeld was back on the roster in 2020 — along with Wentz and Hurts.
One school of thought was this: The Eagles were going to nurture Hurts’ skills to the point where they could flip him for a first-round pick or a bundle of picks.
Not sure if there was a second school of thought about Hurts.
The Hurts selection was infuriating to Wentz, who didn’t want any job-threatening competition. Wentz believed the Eagles were his team — given the financial commitment the team made — and he had plenty to prove after being injured down the stretch in 2017 and not playing in the playoffs and Super Bowl.
Wentz was benched for cause in 2020 and Hurts started the final four games of the season. Hurts hasn’t looked back, and Wentz was traded to the Colts in February, 2021.
Now, of course, drafting Hurts looks like genius. He has become one of the league’s top-tier quarterbacks on an 11-1 Eagles team with the NFL’s best record.
Hurts is 24 years old. He has only started 31 NFL games. His talent grows more obvious each game. He also appears wise and mature beyond his years — the epitome of leadership. He is one of the top candidates for league MVP honors.
RECENT EAGLES QUARTERBACKS
Since 2000, the Eagles have mostly started eight quarterbacks. Four have been first or second *overall* picks:
- Donovan McNabb, No. 2 overall
- Michael Vick, No. 1 overall
- Sam Bradford, No. 1 overall
- Wentz, No. 2 overall
- Mark Sanchez, No. 5 overall
- Kevin Kolb, 36th overall
- Nick Foles, 88th overall — the only starter drafted lower than Hurts
Since 2000, the Eagles have won and lost a Super Bowl — losing with an overall No. 2 pick and winning with an 88th overall pick.
DRAFTING STARTING QUARTERBACKS
With Hurts’ ascension this season, it got us thinking about the draft status of the other starting quarterbacks and their level of success. Twenty-five starters at the beginning of the season were drafted higher than Hurts.
Of the 32 starters at the beginning of the season, 11 of the 16 in the NFC were first-rounders. Twelve of the 16 in the AFC were first-rounders. So, that’s 23 of 32 first-rounders.
Six of those starters have won Super Bowls — Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford. Only Brady and Wilson were not first-rounders.
Other starters at the beginning of the season picked after first round:
- Derek Carr, Raiders — Second round, 36th overall
- Geno Smith, Seahawks — Second round, 39th
- Hurts, Eagles — Second round, 53rd overall
- Davis Mills, Texans — Second round, 67th
- Wilson, Broncos — Third round, 75th
- Jacoby Brissett, Browns — Third round, 91st
- Kirk Cousins, Vikings — Fourth round, 102nd
- Dak Prescott, Cowboys — Fourth round, 135th
- Brady, Buccaneers — Sixth round, 199th
When the Eagles won their Super Bowl, the starting quarterbacks in the conference championship games, other than Brady, weren’t exactly a bunch of Canton candidates:
- Patriots: Brady
- Jaguars: Blake Bortles, first round, 3rd overall
- Eagles: Foles
- Vikings: Case Keenum, undrafted
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
What is the academic conclusion, if any? The NFL isn’t a mathematical equation, where a calculator gets you the correct answer. There are plenty of numbers, but not necessarily conclusions.
Super Bowls have been won with first-round quarterbacks 55.3 percent of the time — 31 of 56 games. Twenty-five were won by non-first round picks. That’s close enough to 50/50 to defy trends, not set any.
Brady is the anomaly. The guy was picked 199th overall, took a dorky photo at the NFL Combine, then won seven Super Bowls (and lost three others). Joe Montana was a third-rounder and 82nd overall and won four Super Bowls.
Ten quarterbacks drafted after 53rd overall (Hurts’ draft position) have won a Super Bowl, as did undrafted Kurt Warner.
HOW TO WIN
Expecting a Super Bowl run no longer seems like a bridge too far for the Eagles. If not Philly, who from the NFC? Dallas? Minnesota? Maybe.
Brady and the 6-6 Bucs? The 49ers, who have lost two starting quarterback this season? Not likely.
What quarterbacks need to get to a Super Bowl isn’t their draft number as much as it’s an outstanding roster, great coaching, a smart front office — plus good luck with injuries. So far, the 11-1 Eagles check off all of those boxes.
The Eagles’ defense is one of the best in the league, ranked second in the NFL. They have an offense ranked third. They can run and pass with equal success.
In Hurts, the Eagles have a maestro to make everything work in harmony. Pretty impressive from a quarterback who was neither a first-round pick nor a very popular one.