time2rock Posted July 11, 2021 Share Posted July 11, 2021 Carson Wentz or Jalen Hurts: Making the case for which QB you would rather have for the next three years The Eagles swapped Wentz out for Hurts, but who's the safer bet moving forward? By Cody Benjamin Jul 9, 2021 at 8:28 am ET8 min read Getty Images When the Eagles axed the figurehead of their championship regime in January, firing coach Doug Pederson just three calendar years after he delivered Philadelphia its first Lombardi Trophy, many assumed his replacement -- first-time head man Nick Sirianni -- would be chiefly tasked with rejuvenating quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz, after all, had thrived under Sirianni's mentor, ex-Eagles coordinator Frank Reich, and reportedly wanted a change of scenery in large part due to a fractured relationship with Pederson. But Wentz apparently had bigger issues with the organization, remaining steadfast in a desire to relocate even after Sirianni's arrival. It's impossible to know exactly how much the Eagles' eventual trade of Wentz, their one-time superstar and MVP candidate, was driven by the QB as opposed to a front office kicking off a total rebuild. But the reality is the decision to pull the plug on Pederson and Wentz could make or break not only Philly's 2021 season but the power structure tasked with righting the ship for the long haul. The Eagles' in-house QB successor, 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts, may or may not be the answer. And it won't be entirely fair to pit his 2021 performance against that of Wentz, who's due for a rebound after reuniting with Reich on the Colts. But Philly has invited the inevitable comparison by way of its abrupt, if necessary, change of direction: So which QB -- Wentz or Hurts -- is the better/smarter investment moving forward? For the sake of the discussion, let's use three years as a time frame -- the remaining life of Hurts' rookie contract. If you could have either QB through 2023, which one would most deserve your commitment? et's start with the basics: When this season begins, Hurts will be 23, and Wentz will be 28. So we're dealing with a five-year age gap. In three years, Hurts will be 26, Wentz 31. The latter also has more of an injury history, given that he's been in the NFL longer, albeit not nearly as concerning as his reputation might suggest. (Wentz suffered a season-ending injury in 2017 and 2018 but has missed zero games to injury in three of his five seasons -- 2016, 2019 and 2020.) From an age/durability perspective, you can give Hurts the edge, but in today's NFL, with QBs routinely playing well into their 30s, Wentz is still a long-term option. Now, about their past production? Wentz was bad for much of 2020, his freestyle tendencies resulting in one forced throw and turnover after another. But he was promisingly poised as a play-making rookie in 2016, MVP-caliber in 2017, and good, if unspectacular, for much of 2018-2019. In other words, through five years, he's been a mostly top 15ish QB with some really high highs and really low lows. Hurts, on the other hand, offers just a four-game sample size as a starter, appearing mostly as a gadget player before replacing Wentz. In a 1-3 stretch on a bad team, he flashed the poise and mobility of 2017-era Wentz, but struggled to hold on to the ball and connect regularly through the air. Here's how CBS Sports' fantasy experts project the two QBs faring in 2021: QB YARDS COMP. % TD INT RATING RUSH YARDS RUSH TD Carson Wentz 4,061 65% 29 13 92.5 327 4 Jalen Hurts 3,627 60% 23 18 78.2 795 6 Fantasy projections aren't the end-all, be-all when it comes to QB forecasts, but these basically bear out what we've seen from Hurts and Wentz so far: Wentz is the 15th-ranked QB in terms of passer rating among the CBS projections, and Hurts is 32nd, alongside the likes of the Broncos' Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. Wentz, then, is expected to return to at least mid-tier form in Indianapolis, and Hurts is expected to do more of what he did at the tail end of 2020 -- a whole lot of running production, but with mixed results as a passer. We'd argue here that Hurts is being a bit undersold as a passer. Consider the staff and supporting cast he had as a rookie after an unusual offseason, thrust into action in the flailing final moments of the previous regime, and it's hard not to foresee improvement from the former Alabama star in Year 2. He's got fresh offensive coaches, a healthier offensive line and a new No. 1 wide receiver in DeVonta Smith. And that's not accounting at all for the intangibles outside of the physical skill set -- an unteachable character already winning over the locker room. Still, true grit and an infectious personality don't always translate to long-term results and/or front-office commitment. Just ask Nick Foles. So what if we're putting more weight not on how Hurts and Wentz are wired or perceived but what they can consistently do with the ball in their hands? Using their college and NFL resumes as evidence, it's fairly clear that Hurts offers more as a runner, whereas Wentz offers more as a passer. Hurts can extend plays with the regularity of elite movers like Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson, though he's never displayed the kind of elite arm talent they have. (There's a reason Murray went No. 1 and Jackson went in the first round, whereas Hurts went 53rd overall despite posting big wins for big programs.) Wentz, meanwhile, has seemingly lost some elusiveness over the years but can still move off-script. More importantly, he boasts the prototypical size (6-5, 235) and arm strength to make any throw asked of him, if not always accurately or on time. Which skill set is better suited to guide a team to a championship, the ultimate "franchise QB" validation? History says moving the ball through the air is still the safest bet. Of the last 20 Super Bowl-winning QBs, all but one were primarily pocket passers, with only Russell Wilson eclipsing 85 carries during a title run. The list reads like a who's who of non-running throwers, at least in comparison to guys like Murray and Jackson: Tom Brady (2020), Patrick Mahomes (2019), Brady (2018), Foles (2017), Brady (2016), Peyton Manning (2015), Brady (2014), Russell Wilson (2013), Joe Flacco (2012), Eli Manning (2011), Aaron Rodgers (2010), Drew Brees (2009), Ben Roethlisberger (2008), Eli (2007), Peyton (2006), Roethlisberger (2005), Brady (2004), Brady (2003), Brad Johnson (2002), Brady (2001). For every Jackson that makes the playoffs, there are consistently about five Bradys or Flaccos. That's not to say run-heavy QBs can't buck the trend -- there are far fewer QBs who rely so heavily on their legs -- but it's fair to wonder if there's a reason more traditional pocket passers (even those who can move, but don't depend on it) remain the tradition. Even in today's NFL, it's the QBs who showcase their arm far more than their legs -- and, by extension, their teams -- who tend to win, or at least get to the playoffs. So where does that leave us on Hurts versus Wentz? It seems clear that Wentz gives you a much higher ceiling as a passer, and thus gives you a better chance at a title. By nature of being more of a gunslinger type, perhaps trusting himself too much and bottoming out mentally or mechanically, he's far riskier than more calculated (Brady) or more gifted (Mahomes) QBs. But at the end of the day, he gives you the requisite upside as a passer. It helps, in his case, that he's already proven, more than once, he can be a top-half-of-the-NFL starter, which historically makes him far more likely to last as a No. 1 than Hurts, regardless of the latter's promise. You can prefer all that comes with Hurts' upside, see, but at this juncture of the two QBs' respective careers, partly because of Wentz's proven production and partly because of what he offers as a passer, it's hard not to call Wentz the better QB bet. Now, Hurts' natural ability to extend plays, which could lend itself to more efficient passing marks moving forward, may very well make him the safer bet. Even with less traditionally good passing numbers in late 2020, he clearly gave the Eagles offense more juice. Why? Because at worst, he's still a high-effort, highly elusive ball-handler. But right here, right now, Wentz's ceiling looks superior. Try to imagine what an NFL team would trade for either QB at the present moment. For Wentz, we don't have to; the Colts just gave up a 2021 third-rounder and 2022 conditional second (which could become a first), and that was coming off a career-worst performance with very few other known suitors in the mix. It's hard to think Hurts, even being five years younger, would go for that much. Maybe a couple of later Day 2 picks? If Wentz reverts only to 2018-2019 form, not even 2017, he's still flirting with being a top 12 to top 15 QB, which isn't necessarily elite or worth $100 million but would be a very good outcome for Hurts' own career. Please don't misread the argument: Hurts probably deserves more credit than he's getting as a starting QB prospect going into 2021. This writer believes he's uniquely positioned to seize the Eagles' QB1 job, even if the Eagles themselves aren't planning for it. He has so many promising tools and traits. He may very well end up winning the heart of Philadelphia. But if you were re-drafting QBs or choosing any current starter with which to build a franchise, the landscape of the NFL says a close call should go to the more talented passer. The entire discussion almost has to happen outside the Eagles' perspective, too, because from a real-life angle, Philly could only do so much with a QB who no longer wanted to wear green. Wentz is far more replaceable than, say, Aaron Rodgers, but the investment concern is similar: Can the Packers really force Rodgers back to Lambeau if he's adamant about playing against them, not for them? Could the Eagles have forced Wentz to rebuild his standing with them if he already felt let down by the higher-ups? Wentz gets the nod in this debate, but the caveat is Wentz benefits quite significantly from his split from Philly. Had he returned to the Eagles, he might've still been a better bet than Hurts over the next three years, but that's a much tougher sell, considering not only the way he crumbled in 2020 but the baggage he'd already accumulated from past experiences -- like his previous backup, Foles, taking over for two different playoff runs. The comparison almost can't be made with strictly the Eagles in mind, because it's an alternate reality: In 2021, it seems, Wentz was never going to be Philadelphia's QB, and he and Hurts figure to be better because of it. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/carson-wentz-or-jalen-hurts-making-the-case-for-which-qb-you-would-rather-have-for-the-next-three-years/?fbclid=IwAR1Wziv3KXPLeZgJ2ByY-9tngIo-OZDDbBP5yATVAdevss7ZktsA4SN0OKI Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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