This is the conversation that *should* have happened Sunday night as Jalen Hurts drove across the Walt Whitman Bridge to his Burlington County home after the Eagles’ disheartening, 20-10 loss to the Saints.
General manager Howie Roseman: Hey, Jalen. How’s the shoulder?
Hurts: Feels OK. I’ll be ready to go.
Roseman: Good to hear. We don’t want to rush you. Want to make sure you’re healthy.
Hurts: I’ll be fine.
Roseman: I’m calling for another reason, actually. We’re ready to extend your contract. I know we don’t have to extend you right now, but I think it’s the best move for you and the team.
Hurts: That sounds good. If I might ask, what kind of deal are you talking?
Roseman: Whatever you want.
AND WHY NOT?
Nothing against back-up quarterback Gardner Minshew, but watching him against the Saints showed me two things:
- Sign Hurts to a long-term deal now
- Back-up quarterbacks are back-ups for a reason
Do the deal with Hurts. Show him and his teammates that he *is* the franchise, he has earned that label and will rewarded for his performance on and off the field. This could be a motivational rallying point as the Eagles drive into the most important part of a season that could produce a Super Bowl.
Back-up quarterbacks are expected to win the occasional game. Minshew, bless his heart, had two bites at the apple. Beating the Cowboys in Dallas might have been a bridge too far. But beating the Saints was possible and maybe even expected.
Minshew didn’t get much help from his accomplished teammates — or the play-calling— but he didn’t exactly storm the beach himself. The Eagles played a dreadful first half on offense. Their initial first down came with 12 seconds to play in the half.
In the second half, drives were stalled by six penalties called on the Eagles’ Pro Bowl-laden offensive line. Minshew threw a game-killing, pick-six with 5:27 to play.
- “The only thing I said to Gardner after the game was sorry that I didn’t get it done for you, sorry that I had so many mistakes,” Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce said.
NFL teams have clunkers. Was that the case against New Orleans? Were the Eagles emotionally and physically worn down by the loss at Dallas and now facing another key game without their starting quarterback and leader? They certainly didn’t seem ready to play Sunday.
Philadelphia has enjoyed a winning relationship with back-up quarterbacks. In 2006, Jeff Garcia went 5-1 as the starter and won a playoff game after Donovan McNabb was injured.
Of course, Nick Foles led the Eagles to the Super Bowl championship.
When Foles took over for Carson Wentz in 2017, he had made 24 starts for the Eagles. In his two seasons at Jacksonville and two with the Eagles, Minshew has made 24 starts.
Fans don’t expect Minshew to be Foles and they don’t expect him to be Hurts. But they expect the back-up quarterback to guide the NFL’s best roster to victory over a 6-9 Saints team at home in the season’s most important game.
WILL HURTS RETURN?
Hurts has missed the last two games with a right shoulder sprain. We don’t know if he will play Sunday against the playoff-bound Giants.
The Eagles need a victory over the Giants to wrap up the NFC East title and home-field in the playoffs. The Giants’ playoff position can’t change, so they might rest their starters.
It’s quite the dilemma for the Eagles, who probably will win the must-win game if Hurts plays. But is there risk to the 24-year-old’s health?
And, if he’s not fully healthy, what kind of performance can the Eagles expect? If he’s not fully healthy, will he continue to be the running threat that has helped propel him to this MVP-like season? Will his passing game be affected?
The criteria should be simple: If he’s not 100 percent, don’t play him — must-win game, or not.
- “He was close this week,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
- “Obviously, we’ll take it one day at a time. For me to say, right now and today, yeah, Jalen’s playing, or no, he’s not playing, I don’t think is fair to anybody because so many things can happen in a week. If he’s ready to go, he’ll play.”
The Eagles are living with another hard reality. They are 13-3 with a two-game losing streak. This is not the time of year you want to be playing with the amount of uncertainty and sloppiness the Eagles are showing.
- “We’ll take one day at a time,” Sirianni said. “We’re going to try to get better from this one right here.
- “I’m not someone who is going to hit a panic button. We’re going to double-down on the things we think are true and we know are true and we’re going to get better from this.
- “And that’s all we can do. We gotta own what we just put out there and get better from it by owning it, correcting the mistakes with great detail.”
Step one: Pay Hurts.