This started as a conversation at lunch.
I was asked about Jalen Hurts. Is he The Man? Will he turn into a star quarterback for the Eagles?
Maybe not this year, I replied. But I think Hurts has every opportunity to show great improvement from last year. By the end of the 2022 season, I said, we might feel pretty good about Hurts moving forward.
That kicked in the greed and giddiness from my buddy.
If we think Hurts is good enough, my lunch companion said, why not trade back-up quarterback Gardner Minshew? The Eagles can probably get a high draft pick for him. Maybe a first-rounder. Get anyone to back-up Hurts, I was told.
You know how good Howie Roseman is at turning players we no longer want into quality draft picks, I was told.
The last thing the Eagles should do is trade Minshew. Not because the Eagles need him as a starter. Because they need him as a backup.
No one knows how the season will play out. Maybe the Eagles will be 12-5 and cruise to the NFL East title. Maybe they’ll be 9-8 again, in a tight battle for the final wild-card spot.
Maybe Hurts will stay healthy and play all 17 games. Maybe he’ll sustain an injury and miss games. If he does get hurt, you better have a plan.
INJURIES ARE A REALITY OF THE NFL
Philadelphia knows the importance of a backup quarterback more than any other NFL city.
The reality of the NFL is this: Players get hurt. Players in the greatest shape of their lives get hurt. Players get hurt inadvertently. Players get hurt because of “non-contact injuries.”
Last season, Hurts was sacked 26 times. He ran the ball an astounding 139 times. That’s too many times for Hurts to take a hit.
The Eagles need Minshew.
Whether they are 12-5 or 9-8, they need Minshew.
They need a quarterback who can go in and win a game or two. You know, like Minshew did last year.
They need a quarterback who can hold down the fort if the starter is injured. You know, like Nick Foles did in 2017. You might have heard: He won the last game of that NFL season, too.
Minshew isn’t a Super Bowl quarterback and the Eagles aren’t a Super Bowl team. I know everyone’s counting down the hours and minutes until the season begins, but the Eagles aren’t a Super Bowl-level team. Not yet.
I know, I know. Anything’s possible. Realistically, though, not this year.
MINSHEW KNOWS HOW TO WIN
Last year, Minshew played two games.
He looked brilliant on Dec. 5 at the New York Jets. He completed 20-of-25 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-18 victory.
The Jets are the Jets. No illusions. They were the 3-9 Jets when Minshew beat them. This wasn’t like beating Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field.
But Minshew stood tall in the pocket, protected the ball and was efficient with the ball. He made smart passes to open receivers. He was better than you’d expect from a backup.
He showed he could win games.
Minshew looked ordinary in a 51-26 regular-season finale loss to Dallas, a meaningless game in which the Eagles rested many starters while the Cowboys treated it like a playoff game.
I’m not here to defend Minshew or even to advocate for him being anything other than what he is: a needed back-up.
Minshew is in his fourth year. He spent his first two seasons as mostly a starter in Jacksonville.
He is a journeyman, probably never going to be a full-time starter. He probably shouldn’t be a full-time starter on a playoff-bound team, unless an injury dictates otherwise.
- Started 20 of 23 games with the Jaguars
- Completed 542 of 857 career passes
- 63.2 completion percentage
- 5,969 yards
- 41 touchdowns
- 12 interceptions
These are solid numbers. That’s what a good team needs from their backup.
WHAT ABOUT (THE OTHER) CARSON?
There is some buzz about undrafted free agent Carson Strong, whom the Eagles signed after the draft. That’s fine.
Buzz is best served in the summer, not in the fourth quarter of a must-win road game.
Strong has a big arm and he’s a big, athletic guy and he didn’t cost a draft pick. And there’s video — blah, blah, blah.
He also has had two knee surgeries that destroyed his draft status coming out of the University of Nevada. For now, he sounds like the perfect third quarterback. The Eagles should give him time to learn the system, see what they have, let him get healthy.
Maybe Strong turns into something. Maybe he’ll challenge Minshew for the backup job. Maybe Strong will be trade bait, himself, at some point.
If Strong shows he is NFL-capable in training camp, I say still sit him and let him grow and make 2023 the year he battles for the No. 2 job against Minshew. The winner is the backup. The loser is a tradable commodity.
Right now, Strong is not ready to back-up Hurts.
If the Eagles are going to win the NFC East and make any kind of playoff run, they need reliability at backup quarterback. They need as many wins as possible and they need to play host to as many playoff games as possible.
Minshew gives them that possibility over Strong, a guy who has yet to throw an NFL pass.