Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Overreactions: Jalen Hurts' Playoff Dud Raises Big Concerns

The Eagles losing to a better team wasn't a problem, but the way Jalen Hurts played in Tampa absolutely should have fans (and the front office) scrambling.

Eagles overreactions: Why Hurts raised red flags Sunday originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles showed up to a playoff game on Sunday and got absolutely stomped.

It was an embarrassing showing from Nick Sirianni's team in all three phases. No one played well. The game was 17-0 at halftime and felt like a seven-score game.

Emotions are raw, frustration is high, and the Eagles aren't playing a football game for eight months. Let's overreact to the loss:

1. Jalen Hurts is probably not The Guy

From a 10,000-foot view, it's so hard to crush Hurts for what was an extremely underwhelming performance in his playoff debut. He was a youngster going on the road against the best football player of all-time, and he was leading a team that frankly was just overmatched.

The frustration with Hurts should not come with the loss, or even the how demoralizing and ugly the loss was. It should come from the mistakes he continues to make.

Hurts and Sirianni explained away his not finding a wide-open Dallas Goedert in the end zone late in the regular season with a pre-snap read, but not every missed open player can be a good and justified decision. Hurts has missed open players regularly this season, including Quez Watkins on Sunday vs. Tampa for what could've been a game-breaking touchdown and a huge momentum swing:

Hurts is young but he's not new to football, and this isn't Week 1. His ability to view and process the entire field and then make the right decision on time simply seems to be lacking, which is not ideal as quarterbacks across the league lean more and more into fast decision-making and hyper efficiency.

That slow processing also led to his brutal end-of-half interception on a pass to DeVonta Smith in the end zone. Smith was open, but Hurts was late to see that and couldn't get enough zip on the ball in time to fit the pass into the closing window:

Pair Hurts' slow decisions on some obvious plays with his unimpressive arm strength, one of the main drivers of his problems this year, and you're in a world of hurt.

And it's not the first time Hurts has made an iffy end-of-half decision and turned the ball over; he made the same mistake against the Giants in late November and was rightly hammered for it. Early in the season he was too conservative with some of his decisions, including throwing a ball away on a fourth down. It's good to see his aggressiveness, but a lot of his choices leave me wanting something else.

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Hurts is probably the best option at quarterback next year because of the way this team is built financially and because of the many, many holes they need to fill with better talent.

But before the game, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport suggested the Eagles' front office felt so swayed by Hurts' 2021-22 campaign that they he doubted they would be in any trade discussions for franchise-level QBs this offseason.

Howie Roseman & Co. tricking themselves into thinking that Hurts beating some of the worst teams in the NFL in the second half of the season means he's a bona fide Top 12 QB would be a big mistake. He showed on Sunday the numerous shortcomings that have lingered all year and should be a major cause for concern. 
I like Hurts, I've enjoyed watching him this year, and it'd be so cool if he succeeded as The Guy. But I just don't think it's there.

2. Jonathan Gannon Year 2 shouldn't be a guarantee

Every Eagles defensive coordinator since John Mazur in 1976 has held that position for at least 20 games. Even the ill-fated Juan Castillo experiment lasted 22 games. 

That doesn't mean Jonathan Gannon can't make some history.

Gannon has been tied to a few head coach vacancies in the days since the NFL's regular season ended, and frankly that would be a coup for Eagles fans eager to jettison the DC. And if he doesn't get one of those jobs, his spot here in Philly shouldn't be a foregone conclusion.

His defense had a strong second half thanks to facing a historically bad stretch of opposing QBs, and on Sunday he reminded everyone what the first half of the season looked like: vanilla scheme getting picked apart one completion at a time.

Tom Brady finished the game 29 of 37 for 271 yards and 2 TDs. He looked like he never broke a sweat. The soft zone, the five-yard cushions for receivers on the outside, the lack of any sort of creative blitz - it was all terribly familiar to those who watched Brady and the Bucs slice through Gannon's defense in Week 6. It was basically the same thing.

No Josh Sweat was a tough break, and losing T.J. Edwards late in the first half didn't help either. But Gannon's lack of any new ideas is where he really lost me.

If Gannon really had seven days to figure out a plan for the best quarterback of all-time, watched the hideous tape from the first time these two teams met earlier this season, and decided to simply run it back? That's a fireable offense.

Gannon seems to be well-regarded in NFL circles (hence the head coach interviews) but his performance in maximizing the Eagles' talent this season was thoroughly underwhelming.

3. Overall, this was a pretty fun year

It's a huge bummer that a season as surprisingly entertaining as this one had to come to such an embarrassing and ugly finish. 

The Eagles probably didn't belong in the playoffs this year, but they were legitimately fun to watch for a good chunk of the season thanks to some pluck, some exciting plays from young guys, and a little scheduling luck. After the absolute slog that was the 2020 regular season, it was so refreshing to watch Eagles football that didn't make you want to pull out your hair with every single snap - just some of them!

And in terms of what it means for the future, there are a lot of performances that should signal more good football in 2022:

  • DeVonta Smith is obviously a WR1
  • Nick Sirianni seems to be a good leader
  • Dallas Goedert has an elite ceiling
  • Landon Dickerson is a mauler
  • Josh Sweat is very good
  • Davion Taylor might actually work out
  • Avonte Maddox is a top-flight slot CB

That's all great! Plus the Eagles have three first-round picks in April.

I'm not sure if this qualifies as an overreaction - maybe an anti-overreaction? - but despite Sunday's game there are lots of reasons for Eagles fans to actually be excited.

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