SUPER BOWL LVII - Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Everyone wants to know about the smile. Or, more accurately, why Jalen Hurts doesn’t smile. How is it possible that someone who is 25 years old, who just signed a contract through the 2028 season worth a reported $255 million, at the time an NFL record, who was a finalist for the league’s MVP Award in 2022, who put up 374 total yards and four touchdowns in the narrow Super Bowl loss in February isn’t smiling all…the…time?
Well, the truth is that Hurts does smile, and he does smile quite a bit. But when he’s in the public eye – on the football field, in press conferences, etc. – he’s all business. And he is deadly serious about his business because, for Hurts, football is just his love. If you really want to know, Hurts is just a young man who loves the game of football – the competition, the mental challenge, the brotherhood – and that’s his focus when he’s out there “keeping the main thing, the main thing,” when he’s outrunning flailing defensive linemen and when he’s dropping back in the pocket and delivering strikes down the field to wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, or when he’s barreling into the end zone using those power-driving legs to score six points.
Hurts has demonstrated that in his meteoric rise to greatness in the NFL. A four-star recruit in high school, where his father coached him at Channelview High School in Texas, he was in the limelight from an early age. Hurts chose Alabama and had a career that helped shape who he is today – Hurts led the Crimson Tide to the FBS Championship Game in 2017, but was replaced at quarterback by Tua Tagovailoa and then came back the next season to replace Tagovailoa in the SEC Championship Game to lead Alabama to the win, and then he transferred to Oklahoma for his senior season and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and in all compiled a 38-4 record as a starter – so the idea that Hurts has come from nowhere isn’t exactly accurate.
“I think what people don’t see is how dedicated he is to the game because he has that drive to win every day, every game. He loves to compete and it doesn’t matter what he’s competing in,” says Brown, his best friend whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with Tennessee on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft. “He just doesn’t accept losing. He’s going to kick and scream every bit of the way and I think that is a big reason Jalen is so successful. He has that crazy drive.”
Hurts is the focal point of an Eagles team lining up in 2023 as a favorite to return to the Super Bowl and win it. None of that crazy talk is part of the conversation around the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles have this “one-day-at-a-time” mentality, but it’s out there in the ether. Everyone is talking about the Eagles and the conversation usually starts with Hurts, a second-round draft pick in 2020 who stayed quiet and learned the NFL game in a volatile season for Philadelphia as starter Carson Wentz played himself out of a position. Hurts started the final four games of that season and gained a taste of what the league was all about, and then everything changed after the season when Doug Pederson was fired and Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie hired Nick Sirianni as the new head coach.
With that came Wentz’s request to be traded, so General Manager Howie Roseman obliged, sending Wentz to Indianapolis and clearing the way for Hurts to be the starter.
“This is an opportunity for Jalen,” Sirianni said at the time.
No doubt, Hurts has taken full advantage. The Eagles won down the stretch in 2021 and reached the postseason, losing to Tampa Bay and exposing an offense that relied on an NFL-best rushing attack to make the playoffs. In that offseason, Roseman traded for Brown to complement Smith, beefed up the offensive line and added those necessary pieces to surround Hurts with the right supporting cast. The idea was to build the offense into a multi-pronged attack capable of slicing and dicing defenses in a myriad of ways.
That’s what happened last season when Hurts delivered 4,461 total yards, breaking a franchise record set by former quarterback Randall Cunningham. Hurts threw 22 touchdown passes and ran for another 13, and those 35 scores tied Cunningham’s Eagles mark. It’s fair to suggest, then, for those old enough to remember, that Hurts could be the modern version of “The Ultimate Weapon,” except that Hurts plays more into the “Triple Threat” idea, that his third weapon is his brain and that is what truly separates him from the other quarterbacks in the NFL.
“I know that I am embracing the uniqueness of my game and just being a triple threat out there, being someone knowledgeable and understanding what’s going on out on the field, being able to make those throws, and being able to cause problems on the ground as well, those are the three areas of being a quarterback that I’m embracing and I want to continue to excel at,” Hurts says. “We talk about identity; everybody has different styles of doing things and I think that’s why quarterback is one of the most unique positions because everybody gets it done in different ways. I just think my way is a little different and it’s rare in a sense. Regardless, I talk about just finding a way to get it done and we have great players on the team and we all play well together and we just want to continue to do that.”
What does Hurts do for an encore in 2023? He’s just hitting the prime of his career – Hurts turned 25 on August 7 – and he has contract stability, a coaching staff that he knows well, and a cast of players around him who give the Eagles a chance to have one of the best offenses in the league – so the present is bright. Philadelphia’s offense has the same threats – Brown, Smith, tight end Dallas Goedert and now running back D’Andre Swift, a big-time weapon in the passing game as well – with an offensive line that should be among the best.
The goal for the Eagles is, obviously, to win one more game than they won a season ago. But nobody on the team talks about that. They know this season is a long one, and they understand they are a hunted team.
Everybody wants to knock off the Eagles.
“That’s fine. That’s what this is all about and I welcome that,” Hurts says. “It’s a competitive environment. The best bring out the best, so that is the challenge every day. It’s how you prepare that dictates how you play. I like to challenge myself every day. Nothing that has been done prior will get us to where we want to be now. There are a ton of experiences that we documented and definitely deposited in the bank, if you will, to learn from and we will learn from and have learned from. It’s a day-by-day thing and I think everybody is taking that approach and we’re excited to continue that progression.”
That’s our quarterback and there is every reason to love him for the way he approaches the game of football and the game of life. If you’re looking for a blowout expose’ on his personality or what he likes to do off the football field, it’s going to be hard to find because, truthfully, Hurts is all about the challenge of football. He loves to ball and has ever since he was a little kid in Channelview, TX, attending Houston Texans’ practices, getting an autograph from former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and remembering to this day how it meant so much to him.
Jalen Hurts is here to win a Super Bowl and nothing else will make him satisfied. It’s the mission. It’s his purpose. And it is the goal for the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles as they start on the day-to-day, week-to-week 17-game regular season, with a big target on their collective backs, just the way Hurts likes it.