There’s a scene in the third season of “Breaking Bad,” when Mike Ehrmantraut warns Walter White about the dangers of not seeing things all the way through, of taking what he calls half measures. Perhaps it’s appropriate that although this show takes place in New Mexico, Mike is a Philly native — and the anecdote he uses as a warning to Walt is from his days as beat cop back home — as the Eagles could probably use a similar warning right about now.
Because this certainly feels like a half measure.
According to multiple reports, the Eagles have been giving backup quarterback and second-round pick Jalen Hurts more first-team reps in practice this week in advance of Monday night’s game against the Seahawks. He won’t be starting — or playing entire series — but he will see an increased number of snaps. And, according to McManus, those snaps will come with Carson Wentz on the sideline.
Carson Wentz is still expected to start, but there’s been a noticeable increase in Hurts’ snaps with the first team at QB, signaling the likelihood of a more expansive role as Wentz’s struggles continue.
Hurts, the team’s second-round pick in April, has been used primarily as a gadget player to date, with just two of his 31 snaps resulting in him throwing a pass. But signs point to more opportunities with the ball in his hands Monday night. [espn.com]
How you view this news likely depends on how you view this team, the season, and the two players involved.
To some, this might be seen as the long-awaited turning of the corner, with Wentz’s time in Philly appearing to come to an end. But that’s not necessarily what’s happening here, as the Eagles literally can’t afford to move on from Wentz after this season — and sitting him on the bench for a full season when his cap hit is so high (and your team is so far over the cap) makes about as much sense trading him and taking the absurd cap hit that comes along with it.
To others, they see this as the team possible preparing to pack it in for the season and turn their attention to the future. After all, falling short of a division title likely equals a top 10 draft pick. And if that’s the case, isn’t it about time to take stock of the young assets you have and decide which are keepers and which should be sent packing? Still, to others, this could look like a desperate move to accomplish several things at once — to appease a certain section of the fan base, to avoid rattling the QB you just committed franchise money to, and to continue to give the appearance that you’re still playing for something beyond the regular season.
In actuality, it’s doing the opposite. It’s a half measure. And it’s one that’s going to come back and bite the Birds in a big way, no matter the outcome.
Simply allowing Hurts into the game more — while taking Wentz off the field, something the Eagles have been hesitant to do in the past — is going to mess with the starter’s head. No matter how much he or the team denies it, it’s going to affect him, especially since he already knows he’s playing so poorly. But it goes well beyond that.
By shuffling back and forth between quarterbacks, neither one is going to really be able to get into a rhythm. While that might not matter much with Wentz, who hasn’t been able to find a rhythm all season, it’s certainly important for Hurts.
See, if Hurts was some sixth- or seventh-round gadget QB who doesn’t figure into your longterm plans anyway, then sure, throw him to the wolves if that’s what you want. But the Eagles spent a second-round pick on the former Heisman finalist, and simply spending that draft capital on a player (when you had other glaring needs) is a sign that you have greater plans for him. Not allowing him to get into the flow of the game isn’t really going to tell you much in terms of whether or not he can be a winning quarterback in the NFL. You’ll see flashes, sure, but that’s not enough in this league. You need consistency. And we’re not even getting into the fact that he’ll be playing behind an offensive line that has already been decimated by injury, features several moving parts, and will now have to adjust its style from play to play depending on which quarterback is under center.
By going this route, the Eagles have essentially put themselves in a no-win situation.
If Hurts struggles — and that’s not a stretch given his lack of experience and the lack of talent around him — then the front office is going to look foolish for wasting a second-round pick on a QB, even if it’s far too early and far too unfriendly of a situation to accurately judge Hurts. If he plays well — and especially if Wentz plays poorly again — then it’s going to be almost impossible for the Eagles to justify continually rolling Wentz out as the starter week after week. They’re almost going to be forced to make a quarterback change at that point. And if that happens, will Wentz’s ego be able to recover? Either way, this is a surefire way to spark a quarterback controversy in a city that doesn’t need any extra fuel.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for giving the rookie a shot. But not like this.
This feels like a half measure. And with Wentz looking like one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this season, perhaps it’s time for a full measure.
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