ABOVE PHOTO: Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards (32) intercepts a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) during the first half of an NFL wild-card football game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
The Philadelphia Eagles used house money to get into the NFC Playoffs. With Sunday’s loss, the speculation begins.
By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN
The result of the Philadelphia Eagles unceremonious first-round exit in the Wild-Card round of the NFC playoffs wasn’t surprising to me. They were playing Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs were better in every phase of the game than the woefully inexperienced and overmatched Eagles in Tampa’s 31-15 win. The inexperience and flaws of quarterback Jalen Hurts were exposed before a national TV audience. The defense, while it had some good moments, wasn’t going to stop Brady from doing his thing.
Hurts’ poor performance in his first playoff game gave his detractors another reason why he shouldn’t be a franchise quarterback. He completed just 53 percent of his passes for 258 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. Hurts missed open receivers and just didn’t have it in his playoff debut.
Despite all of Hurts’ best efforts to get his team into the playoffs, which was no small feat considering that the Eagles started the season with a 2-5 record, the loss to the Buccaneers once again cast doubt on his ability to be the franchise quarterback.
Last Saturday, I saw Hurts’ former Alabama teammate Mac Jones struggle with two interceptions in a 47-17 horrific loss to the Buffalo Bills, but from what I’ve read, no one was questioning whether Jones was the guy moving forward.
More often than naught, young quarterbacks making their postseason debut often struggle and play bad games. I don’t know of too many rookie or first-year starting quarterbacks lighting up the defending Super Bowl champions in their playoff debut.
Despite his rough playoff debut, both general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni both said Hurts would be the Eagles starting quarterback in 2022.
The sweeping declaration from fans on social media that Hurts is not the guy to lead this franchise moving forward is a bit extreme. A bad day against Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champs does not mean that he can’t get better moving forward. What this loss tells me is that Hurts has a lot of work to do during the offseason to get better. You can say same thing for a lot of young quarterbacks.
“I feel good with what have in place right here at the quarterback position,” Sirianni said. “I thought he had a great year, and he came a long way. And that’s what I expect from Jalen, just because of the type of football character he has, the love for football he has …I’m really pleased with how he came along and the leader he is on this football team.”
“There’s no replacement for the physical reps you’re going to get, but you try to do that as much as you can with the film and as much as you can with the review of the season and other quarterbacks around the league,” Sirianni continued. “That’s where it will start of our personal film going through all those things and all the reads and going through there to get him to play at even a faster level.”
I think that’s possible because Hurts is willing to work on his game. The irony of the same fan base that’s been bitching and moaning about Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons’s refusal to work on his game wanting to write off a young quarterback that’s shown a willingness to improve and has the respect of his teammates is not lost on me.
If this season has shown us anything, it’s shown that Hurts has the resilience and the determination to do whatever it takes to make his team better. The fact this team, with all of its warts and shortcomings, made it to the postseason says more about him than anything else. This team was not supposed to make it to the postseason according to the experts and here we are today complaining about a first-round playoff exit.
“For me I can look at myself in the mirror and I tell myself that first-year starter stuff is over with and I’m hungry for what’s to come,” Hurts said after the game. “I’m hungry to do the things that need to be done.”
“This game does not define us — it does not define who we are, it does not define us at all,” he added. “I know as a football team we’ll be back.”
To be sure, Hurts is not the only one who has to improve his game. The defense could use a better linebacker group and it could get younger along the defensive line and in the secondary. The Birds could also use another receiver and a better kick return specialist.
But those are questions for the NFL Draft, which happens in April.
If you’re interested in seeing more playoff football, you can do so on Saturday when the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals face off on Saturday at 4:30pm on CBS-3 and the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers face off at 8:15pm on Fox-29.
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