What made Jalen Hurts so good should work for Justin Fields, too
The NFL is a copycat league. I hope that Ryan Poles has a Kinko’s advantage card. He needs to follow Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s example.
It’s ridiculous that the Bears had their off week after their 13th game. It would matter more if they were in contention, but it’s still not great. Football is so brutal, and now with an extra game, teams are figuratively and literally limping into their bye. The serendipity of the Bears’ situation is that Justin Fields’ injury happened late in the season, so it works out that he could rehab with the time off.
The Bears have one of the hardest remaining schedules in the league. The Eagles, Bills, Lions and Vikings are all playing well. The Eagles have clinched a playoff spot and are looking to secure the top spot in the NFC. The Lions are trying to bite their way in, one kneecap at a time, and the Vikings and Bills are playing for seeding. In other words, there are no easy games left for Matt Eberflus’ squad. Considering the offenses that these teams have, it could be extremely entertaining. Sunday’s opponent offers Bears fans something more — a glimpse of what the future could be.
I’ve paid special attention to Jalen Hurts’ career. I was in graduate school at Alabama when he helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship. In the title game after the 2017 season, Hurts was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa, who rallied the Tide to an overtime victory against Georgia with a spectacular game-winning, 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.
It had to be bittersweet for Hurts. He led the team that whole year and was benched in the biggest moment.
After the season, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma. When I visited Tuscaloosa the next summer and fall, people gushed about how happy they were for Hurts. College football usually is “us against them,” so I was taken aback by how many people wished him well. That’s how much respect Hurts had garnered. Fans appreciated his hard work and mature approach to being replaced. Lincoln Riley’s offensive system was tailor-made for Hurts, who became a better passer and flourished. He was a finalist for the 2019 Heisman Trophy, with Fields.
It’s not the only thing they have in common.
There still were questions about whether Hurts could be effective in the NFL. He didn’t play much as a rookie but had flashes that made you want to see more. Sounds familiar, right? Then, after a coaching change, Hurts took a major step forward in his second season. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni worked to take advantage of Hurts’ dual-threat ability. His passing numbers were in the bottom fourth in the NFL for the 2021 season (3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns), but when the rushing element (784 yards, 10 touchdowns) was added, you could see a player who was ready to make a jump. Seeing a pattern?
The jump this season has been significant, to say the least. Why? Well, because the Eagles as an organization invested in the offense. Even though they have one of the best offensive lines in the game, they spent more money and draft capital to improve it. They traded for wide receiver A.J. Brown, then backed it up with a four-year, $100 million contract. Results have been astounding. The Eagles are the best team in the NFL with a 12-1 record. Hurts is the odds-on favorite to win league MVP, and they have everything they need to contend for a Super Bowl for years to come.
I’ve always thought that Hurts’ development arc is a template for Fields. I was getting crushed on the radio and on social media for saying it during the offseason, so excuse me if I feel a tad bit vindicated. What might shock you is that I believe Fields has more talent.
The NFL is a copycat league. I hope that Ryan Poles has a Kinko’s advantage card. He needs to follow Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s example. Talent at quarterback is so precious that when you see it, you must invest in it. This should be the last year that Fields has to play the role of Superman. Poles needs to start building a whole Justice League around him and watch him soar.
You can hear Laurence Holmes talk Chicago sports Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on 670 The Score with Dan Bernstein.