PHILADELPHIA − The Eagles traded for Gardner Minshew in the summer of 2021 so that he would be ready to take over if necessary, even if it means starting in perhaps the Eagles’ biggest game of the season against their most bitter rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
But the Eagles might not have a choice after starter Jalen Hurts, a leading candidate for the MVP award, suffered a shoulder injury Sunday in the Eagles’ 25-20 win over the Chicago Bears.
Hurts has a shoulder sprain and could conceivably miss the final three regular-season games.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, who was not available Monday, has a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
There is a lot at stake against the Cowboys, likely with Minshew at quarterback. With a victory, the Eagles (13-1) can clinch the NFC East division title and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and the bye week that goes with it.
But the Eagles would still be in good shape for those goals with a loss. That’s because the Eagles lead the Cowboys (10-4) by three games with three games remaining. All it would take is one more Eagles victory or one more Cowboys loss.
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In that scenario, the Eagles could let Hurts sit out until their first playoff game the weekend of Jan. 21.
Minshew has started 22 games in his NFL career, with 20 of them coming in his two seasons as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starter in 2019 and 2020.
While it would be easy for Eagles fans to dream about a Nick Foles redux with Minshew, the circumstances are very different. In 2017, then-Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz was a leading candidate for the MVP award as he led the Eagles to an 11-2 record before tearing his ACL.
Foles, an experienced backup like Minshew, took over, and eventually led the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory. Foles was the MVP in the championship game, throwing for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns.
But Hurts’ injury is not considered nearly as serious as Wentz’s. There was no fracture in Hurts’ shoulder, and the best remedies are rest and rehab.
Hurts apparently suffered the injury midway through the third quarter on a running play that gained six yards. Hurts landed on his right shoulder with the full force of Bears defensive lineman Trevis Gipson.
Hurts writhed in pain on the ground momentarily. He was helped to his feet before the referee could call for an injury timeout. Hurts later made his best throw of the game in the fourth quarter when he hit receiver AJ Brown on a deep ball for 68 yards down to the Bears’ 3 yard line.
Hurts then ran the ball in for his third rushing touchdown of the game, giving the Eagles a 12-point lead.
“He’ll be sore from that,” Sirianni said after the game Sunday. “We’ll be on a short week. He’s tough … I know he took a couple big hits, but they were pretty clean shots. He got up and he was good to go.”
When asked about that hit after the game, Hurts said: “Wasn’t the first time I was slow (to get up), it won’t be the last. They play a really physical game and it was real cold, too. “
Hurts finished 22 of 37 passing for 315 yards. He threw two interceptions in the first half, the most he has thrown in a game this season.
Hurts has thrown for 3,472 yards, completing 67.3% of his passes, with 22 touchdowns and 5 interceptions this season. He is fourth in the NFL in passer rating at 104.6. Hurts also ran for 747 yards and 13 touchdowns. His combined 35 TDs this season is tied with Randall Cunningham for the most in team history. Cunningham did it in 1990.
In 2021, Minshew started two games in place of Hurts, one of them a critical late-season game for the Eagles, who needed a win over the Jets to help their playoff chances. Hurts had sprained his ankle the week before in a loss to the Giants.
Minshew completed 20 of 25 passes for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns that day as the Eagles won 33-18. After the game, Minshew asked Sirianni if he could remain the starter, but Sirianni told him that he was sticking with Hurts.
The Eagles had their bye the following week, and Hurts returned after that. Minshew started one more game that season, the season-finale against Dallas. That game was meaningless because the Eagles had already clinched a playoff spot, enabling them to rest Hurts.
Minshew went 19-for-33 for 186 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception in the Eagles’ 51-26 loss.
Last summer, Minshew said he understood his role with the Eagles.
“All I want to do is get better, man,” Minshew said in August. “In my mind, I’ve proven to myself that I can play in this league. That’s all that matters. I know that if I continue to get better, then I have a chance to have a really good career in this league.”
Minshew has appeared in three games this season, all late in blowout wins by the Eagles. He has thrown 4 passes, completing 2, for 34 yards.
And he will likely get that chance to prove himself again.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.