PHILADELPHIA – Jalen Hurts really tried to be diplomatic when asked about Carson Wentz.
But the reality was their season together in 2020 was miserable for both.
Wentz was clearly perturbed that the Eagles drafted Hurts in the second round, and he proceeded to have a terrible season. He was rated among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL until he was benched and replaced by Hurts over the final 4½ games of a lost 4-11-1 season.
Hurts made it seem like Wentz didn’t do much to help him. In fact, he didn’t. Wentz had checked out upon being benched, both literally and figuratively, reportedly asking for a trade even before the season was over.
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Rather than compete with Hurts for the starting job in 2021 under new coach Nick Sirianni, Wentz got his wish and was traded to Indianapolis.
That lasted for one playoff-less season, after which Colts owner Jim Irsay traded him to the Washington Commanders, saying, “I think the worst thing you can do is have a mistake and try to keep living with it going forward.”
Here’s where the revisionist history stops.
The mistake wasn’t that Wentz isn’t a good quarterback. His statistics with the Colts backed that up. Wentz threw 27 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. And he’s off to a strong start with the Commanders, tied for the NFL lead with seven TD passes and a passer rating of 100.3.
But there’s more to it than that. A successful quarterback goes beyond the numbers, and Wentz still doesn’t get that.
Just listen to what Hurts said when he was asked what he learned from Wentz in 2020: “I just saw that he has a great arm. He’s a big guy, hard to tackle. He just makes kind of crazy plays in the pocket, so I definitely took notice of that when I was a rookie. And he still does it now. Kind of ducking and dodging and weaving and doing those things.”
Hurts did not say anything like Wentz was a mentor, or that Wentz helped him get through a tough season, or that he and Wentz developed a close relationship.
In fact, when asked to describe their relationship, Hurts responded: “There’s definitely a mutual respect between the two of us. When he went to Indy and now (Washington), definitely a mutual respect, and I wish him nothing but the best. “
Again, Hurts could have said he and Wentz developed a bond, that they still keep in touch, or pretty much anything else.
Yet Hurts chose his words carefully and then shut down any more Wentz questions when asked if Wentz gave him pointers while Wentz was benched.
“I’m just going to say, I think we’re focused on the now,” Hurts said. “I’m focused on the now.”
In other words, no.
It was pretty much the same when Wentz answered a question from reporters who cover the Commanders if it means anything extra going against Hurts.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into that,” Wentz said. “It’s a new team. A lot of new faces over there. So yeah, it’ll be fun.”
Look at it another way.
Granted, it’s only two games, but Hurts has led the Eagles to two victories, using his right arm and his legs. He has made pinpoint passes on the run. He has thrown over the middle. And he has run over opponents, as he did on his 26-yard TD run against the Vikings on Monday night.
He’s clearly better than he was last season when he completed just 61.3% of his passes and was often hesitant about throwing over the middle.
So far, Hurts has completed 69.8% of his passes after a dominant performance against the Vikings in which he completed 26 of 31 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown. Hurts also ran for 57 yards and two more TDs.
That, however, didn’t impress Eagles coach Nick Sirianni the most about Hurts.
This did: “We talk about all his abilities as a player, but the thing that makes you reach your ceiling as a player is when you have the other things − the toughness, the love of football, the football IQ.
“Those guys that reach that ceiling are what Jalen has inside, and that’s what’s so special and that’s why you’re continuing to see him develop in my opinion.”
Sirianni added that he still doesn’t know what Hurts’ ceiling is.
Neither does it hurt.
“I never put a ceiling on myself, and I always felt that way,” Hurts said. “So nothing changes. I try to climb every day, learn from my mistakes and keep pushing forward. That’s the mentality.”
Sure, Wentz wants to improve every day, too. But he’ll turn 30 in December. He has had a torn ACL, a stress fracture in his back, a concussion and foot surgery last summer (he didn’t miss any games).
But Wentz still keeps trying to play as he did in 2017 when he would have been the MVP if he didn’t tear his ACL.
Wentz isn’t that quarterback anymore, at least to everyone besides Wentz.
So when Wentz makes the “crazy plays in the pocket,” as Hurts described, he often gets sacked or throws an interception.
Sometimes, the frustration is evident among his teammates and coaches. It was with the Colts last season, and there are even hints with the Commanders this season.
Head coach Ron Rivera, in a conference call Wednesday, was asked about Wentz’s rumored stubbornness and inability to take hard coaching, like in 2020 with the Eagles.
Rivera seemed to stammer somewhat before answering: “I haven’t found that. It’s a two-sided thing. It’s not just about the individual as much as it is also about the people that are there. You want to work with people. You don I don’t want to fight with people.
“This dude has been nothing but cooperative and been exactly the guy we had hoped for.”
But that’s all relative. The Commanders fell behind 22-0 to the Lions last week before making the final score of 36-27 somewhat respectable.
“We started pretty bad, myself included,” Wentz said.
Wentz played better in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. If that’s “exactly the guy we had hoped for,” then it’s going to be a long season for the Commanders.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.