Why is Jalen Hurts starting? Eagles bench Carson Wentz for rookie QB in Week 14

By | December 8, 2020

Jalen Hurts will start at quarterback for the Eagles against the Saints in Week 14.

Two days after Hurts entered in relief of Wentz against the Packers and played better than the incumbent, Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson made the call to go with Hurts on Sunday, according to ESPN. At least for a week, Wentz becomes a very expensive backup. The 3-8-1 Eagles could still catch up with the NFC East division leaders sitting at 5-8, but this could also just be a chance to see what Hurts can do in a full game. Hurts was taken 53rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft to learn under Wentz, but for the time being he’s surpassed him.

Here’s why the Eagles made this move now.

MORE: What’s wrong with Carson Wentz?

Why is Jalen Hurts starting vs. Saints?

Hurts played double-digit snaps in an NFL game for the first time in Week 13, and he had good moments. He threw his first touchdown, a fourth-and-18 strike where Hurts stepped up in the pocket before throwing on the run to Greg Ward along the right sideline in the end zone. Hurts finished 5-of-12 passing with that touchdown and also a late interception. 

There were also a handful of times when Hurts picked intelligent times to scramble, and he ended up with five rushes for 29 yards. 

“He played OK,” Pederson said of Hurts after the Week 13 loss. “It was the spark I was hoping for when I made the change.”

Wentz leads the NFL in interceptions thrown and sacks taken in 2020. Finding any semblance of a spark out of a quarterback has to be a victory for Philadelphia, and going away from that at this point doesn’t have much logic behind it.

Sure, the Eagles could close strong in a bad division, but that still might not mean a playoff berth, and it certainly wouldn’t guarantee any playoff success. Rather, two games back with four to play, it’s likely a chance for the Eagles to see what they have in Hurts. It could go a long way toward determining whether Philly tries to move Wentz’s expensive contract or sticks with him into 2021.

MORE: How Jalen Hurts’ college growth from Alabama to Oklahoma points to eventual NFL success

Why did the Eagles bench Carson Wentz?

Wentz’s 6-for-15 statline against the Packers was just the culmination of weeks of struggle. He’s thrown a career-worst 15 interceptions this season in 12 games, and he’s taken a career-high 50 sacks. Those both lead the NFL in 2020.

Whatever’s wrong with Wentz, be it mental or physical or both, it didn’t seem to be getting better. Against the Packers, he frequently appeared to give up on following his passing progressions and instead tucked the ball or made an ill-advised or inaccurate pass. There wasn’t much use for Philadelphia to keep trotting a struggling quarterback out there in a likely lost season.

The Eagles could very well be stuck with Wentz for at least 2021 because of his contract, which SN’s Vinnie Iyer breaks down here. But that doesn’t mean they need to watch him metaphorically slam his head into a wall over and over for the season’s final four weeks.

At worst, this could be the end for Wentz with the Eagles. Hurts could ball out and make Wentz expendable, and a team could pay the cost to acquire him. At best, it’s a chance for Wentz to recharge, to not take tons of unnecessary hits down the stretch, and to come back in a potentially more normal 2021 season as a new-and-improved QB. 

There’s no telling at this point which of those outcomes is the likely one. A lot will depend on Hurts, and some could depend on whether Pederson is back next season. But the Eagles are doing their due diligence to better decide their future at the quarterback position.