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Marcus Hayes: Jalen Hurts says Eagles offense is 95% new. What are they keeping, the Tush Push?

Marcus Hayes, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

PHILADELPHIA — A lot of folks lost their minds Thursday when Jalen Hurts supplied a nonsense, word-salad answer about head coach Nick Sirianni’s enthusiasm, or lack thereof, regarding the offense imported by new coordinator Kellen Moore.

There may be something there, and there may not. Hurts gives lots of nonsensical, word-salad answers, usually in the guise of being philosophical or wise. At this point it’s hard to put much stock in what he says, because what he says so often is empty calories. It’s kind of his brand.

Besides, that wasn’t the important part.

Hurts also said the offense he’ll be running, ”majority of it, probably 95 percent of it, being new.”

Ninety-five percent? All but 5%?

Whoa. Whoa.

The fact that Sirianni might not jibe just yet with Moore’s concepts is entirely predictable. However, the fact that one of the most successful offenses in the NFL over the last three years has not just been stripped down, but junked? That’s astonishing.

Considering a good 5% of the offense was the Eagles’ controversial short-yardage play, which Sirianni thinks is his trademark, we can reasonably assume that the only vestige of the Sirianni Era is the Tush Push.

Not 50/50. Not 60/40. It’s 95/5.

That means Siriani won’t be designing the offense, won’t be calling plays, and won’t be vetoing anything. He’s been so neutered that the SPCA is satisfied.

Hurts revealed an entirely new, jaw-dropping narrative. Whatever happened to blending Moore’s concepts with Sirianni’s scheme? Whatever happened to, as Sirianni said Feb. 27, “meshing what he’s done really well together with the things that we’ve done really well?”

This isn’t “meshing.” This is a takeover. Frankly, we should reword Hurts’ revelation. The Eagles offense is not 95% new. It’s entirely new. It is, essentially, completely new.

If your house was 95% new, you wouldn’t consider the old powder room a relevant portion of your living space. If your car was 95% new, you wouldn’t be, like, “I’m so glad we kept the old glove box.” If your husband was 95%, Brad Pitt-new, you wouldn’t look fondly at his two remnant sixth toes.

So, the Eagles have a new offense. What does that mean?

It means a few things. None of them are particularly good news for Eagles fans; at least, not for the 2024 season.

Reset

With young players like Hurts, receiver DeVonta Smith, and center Cam Jurgens, and with the addition of new weaponry like running back Saquon Barkley, the Eagles will probably lose a game or two as they try to deal with new concepts and new terminology.

 

That’s not the worst thing. Growing pains are meant to be painful, and in this instance, they are necessary; Sirianni’s offense had become stale and predictable. But don’t underestimate how hard this is going to be.

First, it means that Hurts will be running a different offense for the fourth time in his five NFL seasons. Hurts struggled as a rookie at the end of 2020, when he replaced starter Carson Wentz. He struggled in 2021, when he took over the offense of then-coordinator Shane Steichen. He struggled in 2023, after Brian Johnson replaced Steichen. However, he played great and finished second in MVP voting in 2022, when, after a full season in the same offense, he’d mastered Steichen’s scheme.

Hurts is still a young quarterback. He ran gimmick offenses in college, and he has run a gimmick offense in the NFL for all but 11 of his starts: the last four games of Doug Pederson’s last year, and then the first seven games of Sirianni’s tenure, before Sirianni surrendered play-calling duties (or was stripped of them; this history will likely rewrite itself sooner or later).

Hurts seldom makes excuses when he does not produce. He is a bottom-line guy. The only time he makes an excuse, or gives a reason for his imperfection, is when he discusses the absence of continuity in his career. Since high school, only once has Hurts had the benefit of the same play-caller in consecutive years, and that was Steichen. Of course, that didn’t keep him from getting to the national championship game with Alabama, and it didn’t keep him from finishing runner-up in the Heisman voting with Oklahoma. He clearly learns quickly and he applies the knowledge skillfully.

But Hurts’ biggest problems remain: He fails to recognize and properly diagnose defenses, and he’s slow and imprecise when he goes through his progressions. Those are the same problems most QBs with just 56 total starts (including playoffs) have, but most franchise quarterbacks don’t have to deal with a revolving door of play-callers.

So far, so … meh

Not surprisingly, reports from the Eagles’ offseason workouts, which ended Thursday, painted a picture of an errant, hesitant Hurts. This, against his own team, in shorts, at practice speed.

There will be sacks. There will be picks. There will be losses.

Will there be growth? Of course. Eventually.

It could be worse.

The schedule actually helps. The Eagles won’t face a formidable defense after their bye week, by which time they will have played four games.

Further, if Sirianni does not continue to make the mistake of not playing the starters in preseason games, then Hurts and the rest of the regulars could get four or five more quarters of dress rehearsal before the real games begin.

Bottom line

So, what does all this mean beyond this season? It depends. If things go well enough — for instance, if the Eagles make the playoffs and win a game — then Hurts can expect continuity, as long as things don’t go too well and Moore doesn’t get a head coaching job. This sort of moderate success would probably entail at least a two-year extension for Sirianni, who otherwise would be entering 2025 as a lame-duck coach.

However, if things go poorly, after Jeffrey Lurie has invested so much in receivers A.J. Brown and Smith, added Barkley, and has a $255 million quarterback who isn’t winning, there will likely be a new head coach and maybe another new offensive coordinator.

And that, of course, means yet another year without continuity for the franchise quarterback.


©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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