After the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2018, their future appeared bright as any team in the NFL.
If Nick Foles, their second-string quarterback, could lead them to a title against the greatest quarterback of all time, their potential when starter Carson Wentz returned seemed borderline dynastic (Wentz led the Eagles to an 11-2 record before tearing his ACL, ending his season).
Unfortunately for Eagles fans, this was not to be. The magical Super Bowl run in 2018 was followed by two consecutive 9-7 seasons, both concluding in unceremonious playoff losses, including a 2019 loss to the Saints in which the offense could muster only eight points.
After the two playoff flameouts, the wheels fell off – the Eagles finished the 2020-21 season with a record of 4-11-1. General manager Howie Roseman, not one to accept failure, immediately cleaned house.
On Jan. 11, 2021, head coach Doug Pederson was fired. Three months later, on Mar. 17, 2021, the Eagles traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts.
The seeds of the next iteration of the Eagles were planted in the 2020 NFL Draft. With the 53rd pick, the Eagles selected quarterback Jalen Hurts from the University of Oklahoma.
Hurts had an up-and-down college career. In his first season, he led the University of Alabama to the championship game of the College Football Playoff, narrowly falling to Clemson and their star quarterback Trevor Lawrence 35-31.
He led the Crimson Tide to yet another title matchup the following year but was benched at halftime in favor of freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who engineered a 13-point comeback against the Georgia Bulldogs to secure a 26-23 victory in overtime.
Despite speculation Hurts may transfer his junior year, he stayed at Alabama even as Tagovailoa was appointed starter. His patience was rewarded in the SEC Championship, where, in a reversal of the previous year’s CFP title game, Hurts relieved an injured Tua to lead a comeback victory against Georgia, securing the Crimson Tide a playoff spot.
However, Hurts then announced he would play his senior season at the University of Oklahoma. In his final college season, Hurts finished second in Heisman voting, led the Sooners to a College Football Playoff appearance and topped it off in April of 2020 with a selection in the NFL Draft.
Hurts’ rookie season for the Eagles was the disastrous 4-11-1 season, which resulted in the trade and firing of the quarterback and head coach. In Week 13, Hurts became the starter after Carson Wentz was benched in a matchup against the Green Bay Packers. In the final four weeks of the regular season, Hurts played competently, earning him the starting job in the following season.
In his first full season as a starter, Hurts, along with newly hired head coach Nick Sirianni, led the Eagles to a 9-8 record and a playoff berth. Despite a 31-15 loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card game, the Eagles had found their new franchise quarterback.
They doubled down on Hurts by trading a 1st and 3rd round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Tennessee Titans for star wide receiver AJ Brown.
Their faith was rewarded tenfold. Hurts has played excellent this season, in no small part due to a stellar season by Brown. Most major networks consider Hurts to be a top-three MVP candidate and give the Eagles a real shot at being the first team since the Miami Dolphins to complete an undefeated regular season.
After a 29-17 victory against the Texans to become 8-0, Hurts, in an impressive display of maturity, downplayed the accomplishment and recalled his college days, telling reporters, “I’ve been 8-0 before and lost the national championship.”
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Hurts said. “It’s a day-by-day thing of us controlling things we can, playing to our standard and trying to grow every day. I think that’s truly what it’s about.”