Carson Wentz has been no stranger to having a strong backup quarterback through the majority of his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles as evidenced by Nick Foles filling in and leading the franchise to a Super Bowl title after the Eagles' franchise quarterback's MVP-caliber season was cut short following a season-ending ACL injury. The Eagles prioritize adding talent to their quarterback room and it's a position they want to have the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at. That was the mindset of the front office when Philadelphia decided to use a second-round pick on quarterback Jalen Hurts, despite the team's dire need for wide receiver, linebacker, and secondary help.
The Eagles couldn't pass up the opportunity to draft a reliable backup for Wentz, even though the franchise is 10 months removed from giving him $107.9 million in guaranteed money. It wasn't an easy decision, but given the importance the Eagles' current regime places on having multiple options they can trust at the quarterback position, it was a move they felt they had to make.
"We looked at this from all angles, and we didn't think this was much different than when we brought Nick Foles in, the amount of money we gave Nick Foles as a backup quarterback in 2017 and then bringing him back in 2018," said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman Friday night. "And I bring up Nick because Jalen is that kind of teammate.
"So we kind of looked at the future of our football team and said we keep getting in this situation and we keep kind of putting in resources, and to get a guy in here that can be in the system and learn and grow, that to us, it's worth its weight in gold.
"That position, that room, we want good people in it. That room, we want to be a strong room, and we know what kind of person this guy is. We know what kind of support he'll throw behind our starter, and again, that's our priorities. Our priorities are that, and most importantly that quarterback position."
What led to the decision?
The desire to select Hurts will always be a puzzling one in Philadelphia, but there some factors at player here that should be easy for us to understood and unpack. Wentz has suffered season-ending injuries in two of the four seasons he has been the Eagles' starting quarterback. While Wentz played all 16 games last season (the first time he's completed a season since his rookie year), he was knocked out of the NFC wild card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks after sustaining a concussion in the first quarter on a questionable Jadeveon Clowney hit. Getting knocked out of a playoff game with a head injury isn't an indicator Wentz is injury prone, but his prior history doesn't exactly paint a different picture.
Perhaps if the Eagles had a capable No. 2 quarterback (like Foles the past few years), they would have defeated an injured Seahawks team at home and take their chances in the divisional round with Wentz (reports are Wentz would have been cleared to play for the next week's game). Instead, with only aging Josh McCown to turn to, the Eagles were knocked out of the postseason.
"I think I was clear that we think that this is the most important position in sports, and we felt like this was a proven winner, a guy who is an incredible teammate. He's going to strengthen that quarterback room. There's no doubt we have a Pro Bowl, 27-year-old quarterback, but we've seen the value of quarterbacks on our football team," Roseman said. "We've seen the value of other teams. You guys mentioned some of the guys being used in different roles, and the factor that you can give and the weapons that this gives to our offense, to our play caller, who's an unbelievable play caller and has an unbelievably creative mind.
"This gives us somebody that is going to be incredibly supportive to our quarterback, and quite frankly, this is exciting. This is exciting. This is exciting for our quarterback. This is exciting for our football team, and this is the kind of decisions that we're going to make. And we're proud of it."
The Eagles value the No. 2 quarterback higher than any other organization in the NFL. Instead of spending their available cap space on a veteran to back up Wentz (like they did with Foles), Philadelphia decided to pay a rookie contract to a premium draft pick and develop him over the next four years.
As long as Roseman is in charge, the Eagles will put premium stock in the quarterback position. Philadelphia has seen seasons saved by the likes of A.J. Feeley, Jeff Garcia and Nick Foles (three times) -- and this has all occurred over the last 20 years. The Eagles decided to add Hurts to the mix in case Wentz would go down with another injury.
"Our job is to make sure that the organization is strong at the positions we believe in," Roseman said. "That's O-line and D-line. We put resources into both those positions. We'll continue to put resources into those positions and the quarterback positions.
"Again, we'll continue to put weapons around our starting quarterback, our Pro-Bowl starting quarterback. But we felt like when we got off this call and we met as a small group, this was the direction we wanted to go, and we felt like this was the right move for the Philadelphia Eagles going forward."
How does this affect Carson Wentz?
For all that Wentz has been through with the Eagles, selecting a quarterback with the No. 53 overall pick is unfair to a player that already had to watch his backup quarterback lead the franchise to Super Bowl glory (the Eagles have a statue of Foles outside Lincoln Financial Field). Wentz has been lurking in the shadow of Foles, waiting for his turn to win a Super Bowl of his own with the Eagles. He'll still get that opportunity for the next several years, as the Eagles made clear that Wentz is the franchise quarterback.
"I spoke to Carson before the pick, and I told him our thought process about the quarterback position and how that's always been part of our DNA in our organization, to draft and develop quarterbacks and to make that room as strong as any room in the National Football League," Roseman said in an adamant defense of his quarterback. "Listen, I know Carson wants whatever he can to help this team this year, and he is a Pro Bowl player, and he's not going anywhere.
"And I think at the end of the day, I understand my job is different than our players' jobs. My job is to make sure that we're strong at every position, and so I understand. My job is different than that.
"But we told him about it, and again, there's no threat to Carson here. Carson is a great player and great person, and I know that both these guys are great teammates."
Wentz has suffered a broken rib, torn ACL, a broken bone in his back, and a concussion in the four years he's been the Eagles quarterback. It's fair to say Wentz has been banged up over the years, but the franchise made it clear there are no lingering issues with their franchise quarterback.
"I want to be very clear, and I think I'm speaking for Doug and Andy, Carson is 100 percent," Roseman said. "He is a Pro-Bowl, young quarterback that we're totally excited about. The decision to draft Jalen Hurts is independent of Carson Wentz. This is about who we are, what we believe in and what we think this player is about. Period."
How will the Eagles use Jalen Hurts?
Philadelphia has been enamored with finding outside voices to invigorate their offense after head coach Doug Pederson admitted their attack has gotten stale over the past couple of years. The Eagles have revamped their coaching staff by promoting quarterbacks coach Press Taylor to passing game coordinator, pairing him with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who has been the run game coordinator for the past two years. The Eagles also hired former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive advisor and former Mississippi State passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Andrew Breiner to the coaching staff as a pass game analyst.
The revitalized coaching staff has a plan in place for Hurts (besides developing him as a No. 2 quarterback). Pederson is enamored with how the New Orleans Saints have incorporated Taysom Hill as a major part of their offensive game plan, envisioning the same with Hurts.
"He has a unique skill set," Pederson said. "You see what Taysom Hill has done in New Orleans and now he and Drew Brees have a connection there and a bond there, and you even look at -- when [Joe] Flacco and Lamar [Jackson] in Baltimore for the short period of time, how they gelled together. It's just something we're going to explore.
"I want to make a point here first and foremost that Jalen Hurts is a good quarterback, and he was drafted as a quarterback and he's a quarterback first, but he has a unique skill set that he's a great runner. Obviously, he throws well on the run. He has a unique set of skills that we're going to take a look at as we keep developing this off-season and this advancement, so to speak, as we get ready for training camp."
The Eagles have at least contemplated the idea of using Hurts in a variety of sub-packages in an effort to add another dimension to an offense committed to adding speed across the board. Miles Sanders and 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor are part of the equation -- now add Hurts on the field with those two with Wentz throwing them the ball.
That's one way the Eagles envision their offense in 2020, an attempt to get the most value out of a controversial second-round selection -- in a year where the wide receiver class was immensely deep.
"We've been the biggest beneficiaries in the National Football League over the last 20 years about doing that, about getting quarterbacks, getting them to play at a high level and then having the opportunity to also get value for them," Roseman said. "So I think when you talk about what the ideal situation is, that's obviously winning Super Bowls with our starting quarterback, getting this kid up to speed, showing what kind of talent that we think he has, and that's a great situation for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"And that's certainly worth more than the pick that we took him at right now."