PHILADELPHIA -- Jalen Hurts has been the biggest catalyst toward the Philadelphia Eagles ascending into one of the best teams in the NFL. The youngest quarterback in franchise history to start a conference championship game, Hurts, 24, is accomplishing feats for the organization no quarterback in the 90-year history of the Eagles has done.
The overall record speaks for itself as Hurts guided the Eagles to 14 regular-season wins, the most in a season in franchise history. Hurts has been the leader in a locker room full of leaders, only caring about the result as he strives to get to the top of the mountain.
Wearing a Kobe Bryant shirt with the swagger and confidence of a Michael Jordan, it shouldn't have been a surprise Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni compared Hurts to arguably the greatest athlete -- and greatest winner -- of all time.
"To have him out there is like -- I know this is high praise, but to have him out there is like having -- I shouldn't even go there -- it's like having Michael Jordan out there," Sirianni said after the NFC divisional round win. "He's your leader. He's your guy.
"Hopefully that's the biggest respect I can pay to him comparing his ability to being on the field to a Michael Jordan type. This guy leads. He brings this calmness to the entire team. He plays great football. He's as tough as they come.
"I mean, to me, nobody has played any better football than him this year."
What possesses Hurts to have these Michael Jordan qualities? How has he shown that ability on and off the football field? Hurts has shown he truly is the Eagles' version of Michael Jordan. The proof is in the pudding.
All he does is win
The Eagles are 15-1 in games Hurts is their starting quarterback this season -- and 18-2 in their last 20 games. Not only is the team winning, but Hurts has played at an MVP level in elevating his play into a top-five quarterback.
Hurts has been spectacular in his 16 starts this season (including playoffs), completing 66.5% of his passes for 3,855 yards with 24 touchdowns to just six interceptions for a 102.1 passer rating. Add in the 794 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns and Hurts has 4,649 total yards and 38 total touchdowns to just six turnovers -- and it's no wonder why Philadelphia is 15-1 when he plays.
In that 18-2 stretch (including postseason), Hurts has completed 65.6% of his passes for 4,822 yards with 28 touchdowns to nine interceptions (99.0 passer rating). Add in the 922 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns and Hurts has 5,744 yards and 44 touchdowns in his last 20 starts (287.2 total yards per game).
The Eagles have one of the biggest difference-makers at quarterback in Hurts, who is as good throwing the football as he is running it. He's a cheat code in the red zone and on short-yardage situations as well.
Winning 90% of the last 20 games Hurts has started is pretty impressive. Hurts is 23-11 in his NFL career as a starter (67.6%). For comparison, Michael Jordan won 65.9% of his regular-season games and 66.5% in the playoffs.
Leader of the locker room
Hurts has taken command of the locker room since he became the starting quarterback of the Eagles, impressing his teammates with his ability to lead a group of talented veterans despite being only 24. He's been a team captain the last two years and has always been honest with his teammates about his goals for the organization.
"I think just trying to do things the right way for the team and putting the team first and doing everything I can with all my ability to play at a high level for the team, lead in the right direction and set the right example for everybody," Hurts said back in September. "You have to be able to assess the team, assess your group and you have to be open to trying new things for different individuals because ultimately we all have the same goal. I think that's what makes it unique."
Hurts has experience leading football teams at Channelview High School in Texas as well as at Alabama and Oklahoma. He's always had the spotlight on him, yet continues to put the team first and foremost.
Like Jordan, Hurts cares about wins and losses -- not individual accolades.
Dedicated to his craft
Hurts is known for being a hard worker, never satisfied with being great. The Eagles quarterback is always striving to get better, fitting the blue-collar mentality of the city he plays for. Hurts puts his blood, sweat and tears into the Eagles organization -- working the extra hours in the weight room, on the practice field and in the film room to get the edge on his opponent.
Hurts is motivated to be the best player he can be, taking the ability to work the extra hours from his father and the culture at Alabama -- an ideal fit for a player with his work ethic. He enters the NovaCare Complex early and doesn't leave until late, making sure he lives by his expression of "not leaving money on the table"
Hurts takes the time to have his assistant coaches work extra hours with him on his game and preparing the game plan for the next opponent. Unlike other quarterbacks, Hurts takes those extra hours and takes them into the weight room to improve his peak physical condition. The MVP candidate leaves no stone unturned.
Even after a playoff victory, Hurts isn't even close to what he strives to accomplish.
"Every team comes into the year trying to accomplish the same thing. When you climb that mountain it gets harder and more treacherous," Hurts said after Saturday's playoff win. "We take it day by day and just take it one step at a time. Trust the process of getting better every day and let that take care of itself.
"I love the fact that that's the mentality of this team. We're not just hungry for it, we're starving for growth, getting better and learning from our mistakes. I think that's a beautiful thing and that was a little motivation as a team. We wanted to come out and play our best ball."
Sounds like Michael Jordan doesn't it? The hunger to be great will always be there, along with the quest to hoist the trophy.
Hurts is rewriting several franchise marks in just his third season with the Eagles, part of building that legendary status with the organization. He's just the fourth quarterback since the start of the 2000 season to lead his team to 14 wins, score 35-plus touchdowns and have eight-or-fewer giveaways (Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the others).
Hurts is the second-youngest quarterback to win 14-plus games, trailing only Dan Marino (won 14 games with the 1984 Miami Dolphins at the age of 23). He is tied for most regular-season wins (14) by a quarterback within his first three NFL seasons (since with Philip Rivers (2006) and Dan Marino (1984). Including playoffs, Hurts is tied with Cam Newton for the most rushing touchdowns in a season in NFL history (14). He's the first quarterback to have 10-plus rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons and joins Newton as the only quarterbacks with multiple seasons of 10-plus rushing touchdowns.
The youngest quarterback in franchise history to start a conference championship game in Eagles history (24), Hurts can become the fifth quarterback to enter the Super Bowl with 16-plus wins and one or fewer losses -- joining Joe Montana (1984), Tom Brady (2007), Cam Newton (2015) and Patrick Mahomes (2020).
What Hurts has accomplished this early in his career is a sign of things to come, making his own legacy in the game. Hurts is already mentioned in the same category as the great quarterbacks as be continues to build his resume -- just like Michael Jordan before he won his first championship.
If Hurts can win Super Bowl LVII, he'll finish with one of the all-time great seasons. Hurts won't be satisfied with just one title if he gets it, wanting to stay on top of the mountain as long as he can.
That's the ultimate Michael Jordan comparison.