Jalen Hurts' cool demeanor, toughness makes 'super' impression on Eagles teammates, brass
PHILADELPHIA − More than an hour after the game had ended, long after the celebrations on the field, the victory cigars in the locker room, and the thunderous noise at Lincoln Financial Field, Jalen Hurts sat by himself at his locker.
He was dressed top to bottom in a purple jacket and magenta pants with dark sunglasses on as he looked at his phone in solitude while smoking a cigar.
The Eagles' quarterback had earned this moment of peace, acting as calm and cool as if it was after preseason Game 1, while his teammates celebrated throughout the locker room.
The Eagles were going to the Super Bowl, and Hurts had led them there in a 31-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. They'll face the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
By now, there should be no doubt that Hurts is approaching Mahomes' elite level. It’s an incredible feat considering everything Hurts has gone through over his three NFL seasons, and even what he went through against the 49ers.
It wasn't as much with Hurts' stats − his longest pass was 29 yards and he threw for just 121 total, and he ran for only 39 yards, averaging 3.5 per carry − as much as his toughness, and yes, even his stubbornness.
Jalen Hurts, the coolest cat in the room. #Eagles pic.twitter.com/C1Kf6LIDo6
— Martin Frank (@Mfranknfl) January 30, 2023
Hurts, after all, had brought the noise all throughout the game. He attacked the 49ers with his gutsy fourth-down pass on the opening drive that DeVonta Smith hauled in, somehow, with one hand for a 29-yard gain down to San Francisco’s 6-yard line, setting up the first touchdown. And he did it with his no-doubt painful runs, and while standing in the pocket absorbing hits as he completed passes to receivers in tight coverage.
Hurts was playing his third straight game on a sprained shoulder, which he initially suffered Dec. 18 against the Chicago Bears, causing him to miss two games. Hurts would never admit the pain he played through, but you saw glimpses Sunday.
But you also saw him refuse to acknowledge it, perhaps even to himself.
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So in the third quarter, Hurts took off down the left side, the Eagles leading by 21-7. He gained 12 yards to the Niners’ 23. It was his longest run to that point. He was tackled hard by defensive backs Tashaun Gipson and Deommodore Lenoir, both driving his shoulder into the ground.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata rushed over to Hurts and lifted him up. The TV cameras caught Hurts wincing in pain.
"I was picking him up. I saw it happen," Mailata said. "I was like ‘(Expletive), we gotta stop doing this.' Then he got right up. He hit (the hole) to the left side, (Jason) Kelce leading. That was pretty dope, dude."
Hurts calmly went back to the huddle, ran the ball again for 2 yards, this time sliding to avoid a hit. The next play, Hurts ran the ball again down the right sideline. He gained 14 yards to the 49ers' 7, then was hit late out of bounds by Charvarius Ward, who was penalized for the shot.
Again, Hurts got up slowly and jogged back to the huddle. If he was in pain, that seemed to make him even more determined.
After a 2-yard gain by Boston Scott to the 1, Hurts ran twice more on quarterback sneaks, scoring on the second try, to give the Eagles a 28-7 lead.
Good night, 49ers, let the celebration begin.
For a quarterback who threw for 3,701 yards during the regular season, who was fourth in the NFL with a passer rating of 101.5, who ran all over beleaguered defenses, that sequence of five carries for 29 yards personified why Hurts is and will be the Eagles' franchise quarterback for years to come.
"All I know is, and this is a fact, he’s about to get PAAAAIIIIIDDDDD!!" Mailata said. "Oh my, God, pay the man. Second year as a full-(time) starter, and he’s taking us to the Super Bowl. I don’t know how many records he set. All I know is that man is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in my life."
Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie knows this, too, of course.
And at some point after the season, when Hurts is eligible for a contract extension, Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman will start having those talks with Hurts and his agent. And at some point, Hurts will become among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, possibly for an average annual salary approaching $50 million per season.
"Just awesome," Lurie said about Hurts. "He is a great young leader. He is a terrific young quarterback. When we drafted him, it was the upside we were banking on. We thought he had a huge upside. It takes a couple years. And somebody so dedicated as Jalen, and such a great teammate.
"Inevitably, he is going to maximize everything he has, and that’s what he’s done."
Not bad for someone drafted in the second round in 2020, ostensibly to be the backup to former franchise QB Carson Wentz.
Yes, Hurts heard all of that, too, from fans and media saying it was a wasted draft pick on a backup quarterback who might never play. Not when it came one year after Wentz signed a mega-contract of his own.
"My first year here, (people) probably didn’t even want me drafted here," Hurts said. "It was probably one of those things. But it always handles itself."
No, it doesn't.
Hurts got the opportunity because Wentz couldn't handle it.
Wentz played poorly that season, got benched for Hurts, then traded and then traded again, and benched again.
Hurts, meanwhile, kept working. He transitioned from a running quarterback with limited passing ability, or so it seemed last season, to an MVP finalist, and now a Super Bowl quarterback.
Perhaps Hurts thought about all of that during his quiet moment at his locker, victory cigar in hand.
Or perhaps he thought about everything he had overcome, getting benched in the national championship game while at Alabama, one year after winning it as a true freshman. Then transferring to Oklahoma as a senior to prove himself one more time, finishing second in the Heisman voting.
And then Hurts proved himself all over again in the NFL. Hurts kept his head down, kept making his so-called "daily deposits," and let his play do his talking.
So finally, after all of the celebrations Sunday night, there was nothing more for Hurts to say except for this:
“I love the game and I know this city loves the game," he said. "It's a beautiful thing.”
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Jalen Hurts' cool demeanor leads Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl