The Eagles’ 2020 first-round decision generated some intrigue, especially as Justin Jefferson made a quick ascent to the All-Pro level and put together the most prolific three-year receiving stretch to start a career in NFL history. The Eagles were split on Jefferson and Jalen Reagor, going with the latter, who was preferred by Howie Roseman and the team’s coaching staff.
That call obviously proved incorrect, with Reagor now one of Jefferson’s sidekicks in Minnesota after an August 2022 trade. But the Eagles made a better choice, albeit an unexpected one, a round later. An extensive research effort into Jalen Hurts, which had begun during his senior year at Oklahoma, led Philly to pull the trigger on the ex-Sooners quarterback in Round 2. The move came despite the organization having extended Carson Wentz less than a year prior.
The Eagles decided on Hurts over safety Jeremy Chinn, with some in the organization preferring to add the Southern Illinois product — who later went to the Panthers at the end of Round 2 — instead of taking a quarterback so early. Again, the Roseman-Doug Pederson preference won out.
“Coach Pederson and myself liked Jeremy Chinn, but our job is to determine the vision and then make sure it’s executed,” Roseman said, via The Athletic’s Dan Pompei (subscription required). “So when we were on the clock and having those conversations, it really came down to the quarterback versus safety. The quarterback we like. The safety we like. We’re going with the quarterback.”
Hurts as a second-round option came about partially because the organization did not want a repeat of 2012, when it intended to take Russell Wilson in the third round before seeing the Seahawks swoop and taking the future Pro Bowl mainstay at No. 75. With no pro days in 2020 — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Eagles did not have a good idea how other teams valued Hurts, with Pompei adding the team believed it was possible the ex-Oklahoma and Alabama passer fell into Round 3. But the Wilson experience helped lead to the Eagles ruling out the prospect of waiting until Round 3 for Hurts.
Philly made that pivotal pick at No. 51 overall, leading to outside skepticism due to Wentz’s presence. Some inside the Eagles’ building were not entirely sold on Hurts as well.
“[Hurts] was a polarizing figure in the sense that some people liked him, some saw him as a developmental quarterback and some thought he was a backup,” former Eagles exec Ian Cunningham, now the Bears’ assistant GM, said (via Pompei). “I thought he was a developmental quarterback that had upside.”
At the time, the team based the move on wanting a better backup option behind Wentz. Teams do not exactly make a habit of choosing backup QBs in Round 2, but the Eagles have needed a number of QB2 contributions this century. Donovan McNabb went down with a broken ankle during the 2002 season, leading to A.J. Feeley and Koy Detmer seeing extensive time for an Eagles team that earned the NFC’s top seed. McNabb was lost for the year late in the 2006 season, moving UFA addition Jeff Garcia into the fray. The organization’s controversial decision to sign Michael Vick after his prison term in 2009 led to him replacing McNabb in 2010, and 2012 third-rounder Nick Foles eventually usurped Vick three years later. Foles delivered one of the NFL’s most famous fill-in performances in 2017, taking over for an injured Wentz to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. The Eagles, however, soon made bigger plans for Hurts.
The Eagles cleared the Hurts move with Wentz, with Pederson calling his then-starter to inform him of the pick. But the five-year Eagle struggled in 2020, leading to a late-season benching. The Eagles soon traded Wentz to the Colts, and Jeffrey Lurie angled for the organization not to bring in a starter-caliber QB in 2021. That led to Hurts being given a legitimate opportunity. Lurie was believed to be behind Hurts, even when Roseman had questions about his ceiling, and the Eagles — after showing interest in Wilson and Deshaun Watson — stuck with the former second-rounder last year.
Philly staying with Hurts turned out to be a seminal decision, as the team booked another Super Bowl berth. The Eagles went 16-1 in games Hurts started prior to the Chiefs matchup, with the third-year QB showing significant improvement as a passer. Hurts’ 2022 season earned him a then-record-setting five-year, $255MM extension from the Eagles in April. The Eagles also greenlit their Wentz extension shortly after he became extension-eligible; they will hope the Hurts Year 4 investment turns out better.