In probably one of the biggest surprises in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts with 53rd overall pick in the second round on Friday night.
No one would have expected the Eagles to pick Hurts, especially when you consider that Philadelphia has Carson Wentz, who recently signed a four-year, $128 million deal.
The Eagles had other needs, but they decided to add Hurts to their quarterback room.
After the selection, Eagles GM Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson addressed the media via a conference call.
Here is what they had to say:
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time. I know originally, we said we would do this after our last pick, but obviously with this pick here we wanted to get to you and be available to answer your questions.
When [Head] Coach [Doug] Pederson came in and we sat down in 2016, we said we were always going to be about the quarterback position, that it was the most important position in sports. We were very fortunate to get a young, Pro-Bowl quarterback in Carson Wentz. Our goal is to surround him with as many good people and good players as we possibly can. So for us, in this pick, when we sat and talked about it as a smaller group and looked at where we were on the board, and what was the thing that we believed in the most and what were the kind of people we believed in the most, [QB] Jalen [Hurts] stood out in all those regards. We think he is an incredible teammate. He has a lot to learn here, obviously.
We have shown how we feel about Carson by our actions. We showed it by the amount of picks we put into him, and we showed it by the contract extension, and we believe this is a guy to lead us to our next Super Bowl championship. For better or worse, we are quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory. We have the right people in place to do that. No team in the National Football League has benefitted more from developing quarterbacks than the Philadelphia Eagles. When we make these kinds of decisions, we always go to our principles and who we are and what we believe in and right or wrong, this is who we are. Earlier today, I spoke to Carson about the options at this pick, and one of them was Jalen, so he had a heads up ahead of time.
We’re sitting here at the end of the second round. This is not a first-round pick, this is the end of the second round, and I think when we looked at it, the difference between taking someone at the end of the second round and maybe the middle of the third round with the way our board was, we just felt like this was the right thing to do and the right thing to do based on our beliefs.
Q. Howie, you guys have made a lot of efforts to have a comfortable environment for Carson Wentz and to make sure that you’re throwing your full support around him. Why risk the fact that it could lead to — certainly it’s going to be a conversation, but potential controversy and create that potential dynamic around him?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Well, obviously we looked at this from all angles, and we didn’t think this was much different than when we brought [former Eagles QB and current Bears QB] Nick Foles in, the amount of money we gave Nick Foles as a backup quarterback in 2017 and then bringing him back in 2018. And I bring up Nick because Jalen is that kind of teammate. He obviously had to take a backseat to Tua [Tagovailoa] in Alabama for a little bit and we’re in a situation where we brought [QB] Nate Sudfeld back, and Nate has been very clear that he wants an opportunity to go lead a team. So we kind of looked at the future of our football team and said we keep getting in this situation and we keep kind of putting in resources, and to get a guy in here that can be in the system and learn and grow, that to us, it’s worth its weight in gold. That position, that room, we want good people in it. That room, we want to be a strong room, and we know what kind of person this guy is. We know what kind of support he’ll throw behind our starter, and again, that’s our priorities. Our priorities are that, and most importantly that quarterback position.
Q. Howie and Doug, because we talked a lot about the evolution of offensive football and how the game is changing, Saints QB Taysom Hill in New Orleans, even Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh talked about putting two quarterbacks on the field at one time. Do you see a unique skill set that would let you open up the offense in any way?
DOUG PEDERSON: With Jalen Hurts, he has a unique skill set. You see what Taysom Hill has done in New Orleans and now he and [Saints QB] Drew Brees have a connection there and a bond there, and you even look at — when [Joe] Flacco and [Ravens QB] Lamar [Jackson] in Baltimore for the short period of time, how they gelled together. It’s just something we’re going to explore. I want to make a point here first and foremost that Jalen Hurts is a good quarterback, and he was drafted as a quarterback and he’s a quarterback first, but he has a unique skill set that he’s a great runner. Obviously, he throws well on the run. He has a unique set of skills that we’re going to take a look at as we keep developing this off-season and this advancement, so to speak, as we get ready for training camp.
Q. Howie, following up on your opening statement about the value of the pick, you said this is not a first-round pick, but do you go into a draft with the second-round pick, with the expectation that player becomes a starter under his rookie contract? And was this a pick you were not willing to sacrifice in trade negotiations last night?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think when you talk about it again, there’s no team that has got more value from the quarterback positions than the Philadelphia Eagles. We talked about it, and obviously that’s a factor. Our history is a factor, and that’s the most important position in sports. When we talk about that pick and the trade discussions, and when we had the trade discussions yesterday, those were on a separate note. Those were in a situation there where teams were looking for a lot to go up, and we like [WR] Jalen Reagor. Jalen Reagor is a guy that we were excited about. Jalen Reagor is a guy that has the skill set that we were looking for that we were extremely excited about. We think Jalen Reagor is going to be a very good player for our offense, an explosive player, he has the ability to get the ball in his hands in different ways.
I don’t know that we were accurately able to convey our enthusiasm because the communication was a little bit hard last night, but let’s be clear on Jalen Reagor; Jalen Reagor is a player that we are extremely excited about. A guy that really fits what we want to do offensively, really complements the skill set on our team. We didn’t select Jalen Reagor for any reason other than we think he can make a difference on our offensive football team. He fits the skill set of our starting quarterback, he fits the skill set of our team. He is a guy that is hard to find in the National Football League. I don’t think I was adamant enough yesterday because I was a little bit thrown off by the communications.
I start with that. We felt like we had an opportunity to get a player who could make a huge difference, and we look at this pick as somebody who is really a tremendous player and person, and that’s what the draft is about. The draft isn’t about just doing whatever is best for a team in the short-term. The draft is about making smart, long-term decisions for your organization based on the priorities that you believe is key to winning football games. We’ve won a lot of football games around here the last three years, and I feel very confident that the decisions we make are going to serve us well for the short-term and the long-term and there are other ways for us to add players. We have a lot more picks coming here not only today, but tomorrow. We have opportunities in free agency to continue to improve our football team, and that is what we will do.
Q. With a team that’s made the playoffs in the last few years, it seems like you have a chance to obviously do that again and make a run. Why prioritize drafting a quarterback who theoretically won’t play very much instead of a player who would make an impact this season and the next couple seasons?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think I was clear that we think that this is the most important position in sports, and we felt like this was a proven winner, a guy who is an incredible teammate. He’s going to strengthen that quarterback room. There’s no doubt we have a Pro-Bowl, 27-year-old quarterback, but we’ve seen the value of quarterbacks on our football team. We’ve seen the value of other teams. You guys mentioned some of the guys being used in different roles, and the factor that you can give and the weapons that this gives to our offense, to our play caller, who’s an unbelievable play caller and has an unbelievably creative mind.
So I think that if you’re just looking at it from that perspective as kind of — instead of the way we’re looking at it is this gives us another weapon. This gives us another weapon in that room. This gives us another incredible teammate. This gives us somebody that is going to be incredibly supportive to our quarterback, and quite frankly, this is exciting. This is exciting. This is exciting for our quarterback. This is exciting for our football team, and this is the kind of decisions that we’re going to make. And we’re proud of it.
Q. You mentioned Nick Foles a minute ago. I think we all know that that wasn’t a long-term situation that could be comfortable, and that was why Nick Foles was allowed to go elsewhere. It seems like you’re kind of setting up the same situation again with a highly-regarded quarterback coming in. Every incomplete pass that Carson Wentz throws, people will be looking at Jalen Hurts. Why do you want to do that?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I don’t agree with that. I think that Carson is a phenomenal player, and we think Carson is a phenomenal player. Nobody is going to be looking at a rookie quarterback as somebody who’s going to be taking over a Pro Bowl quarterback, a guy who’s been on the cusp of winning an MVP. At the end of the day, I’m going to go back to who we are and what we believe in. We believe in the quarterback position. We believe this guy, when we saw our board and we looked over the guys that we thought we could pick at this point, the board had kind of gone in a different direction, and we just felt like we are stewards of the organization. Our job is to make sure that the organization is strong at the positions we believe in. That’s O-line and D-line. We put resources into both those positions. We’ll continue to put resources into those positions and the quarterback positions.
Again, we’ll continue to put weapons around our starting quarterback, our Pro-Bowl starting quarterback. But we felt like when we got off this call and we met as a small group, this was the direction we wanted to go, and we felt like this was the right move for the Philadelphia Eagles going forward.
Q. Doug, did any of your coaches work out Hurts individually?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, so [Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Press Taylor, before the pandemic hit and before we were locked out of our facility there, Press had a chance to go to Oklahoma to the pro day and visit, watch him throw, and watch him move around. Obviously, the combine, I felt like he had a really good workout there at the combine. But Press Taylor did have a chance to sit with him in Indianapolis and then again go watch him throw in Oklahoma.
Q. Howie, you mentioned Nate Sudfeld at the beginning of the call. He’s still in the plans to be part of things going forward here, at least in the short-term?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Yes. We want to get back to having a strong room. I think we’ve talked about it a lot, and I think we’re feeling like it was getting away from us a little bit. Nate has been very clear that he wants an opportunity to go start somewhere. So we felt like a year from now, we’d be throwing resources at this position. We wanted to get out in front of it a little bit and make sure that that room was a really strong room and the player mattered. We were sitting here, and we just felt like this player, like Andy described, he has a lot of the traits that we’re looking for to develop. And we’re not telling you that he’s ready right now, but we have the right resources at our disposal and the right time for him to get comfortable and to learn from one of the best players in the league.
Q. And I don’t know if this is better for you or Doug or Andy, but some of the things that I’ve read is Hurts didn’t have to make a whole lot of reads at the line of scrimmage or complex NFL-type reads. Is that the areas where he’s going to have to come along and work on a little bit?
DOUG PEDERSON: I think that’s with any young quarterback, learning this game, learning our game. This is a complex — he’s going to see more defensive schemes. He’s going to see the complexity of coverages. That’s something that he’ll learn. He’s very capable of learning. I had a great conversation with his coach, [University of Oklahoma Head Coach] Lincoln Riley, and just the communication that they had and the things that they do at the line of scrimmage, and it is a different world coming from college to the NFL, but he’s very capable. He understands ball. He’s smart, he’s sharp, he can articulate. There’s going to be a learning curve, obviously, of just picking up our system of terminology, especially now with not having or potentially not having an off-season. We have to do our best job as coaches to get all our quarterbacks caught up, especially him now with learning a new offense.
Q. Howie, you mentioned the board changing a little bit. There haven’t been a lot of trades in the first or second round. Did that alter your way of thinking towards this pick, maybe trading up or trading down? And was this the plan going in kind of within the last 10 picks, or was it just kind of a you planned this all day, you said you talked to Carson about it?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: We had a list of guys that we felt very comfortable about taking at 53. We knew what happens every time at the start of the second round is you make this list of guys, and everyone has the same list at the start of the second round. And they go off — we’re joking, we’re making this list and we understand they’re going to go off boom, boom, boom here as you start the second round because that’s where the first round’s grades guys go. So we had a list of guys that we were going to target, and when we got to about pick 45 we kind of got together and made our list and talked about guys that we’d consider moving up there, if there were more guys that we’d consider moving back. When we looked at it, we kind of looked at our list and where we were and felt like the next tier of guys would be guys that would be considerations for our next pick, too, and we have four picks in the 43 picks after we pick next. We have a long way to go, and we have to make some hay with those four picks.
Q. Starting with those guys, you kind of look at the upside and what they can bring over the course of their rookie contract. I think a question with Jalen Hurts is sort of the what is the best-case scenario with him over the next four years given that you do have Carson and you just paid him and he’s obviously your starting quarterback?
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think when we look at the upside that this player has and the players he can learn from in that room with Nate and Carson this year and the coaching staff that we have, we think he’s more valuable than the pick we took him at. And we think where the league is going, when he gets experience and coaching, he’s going to be a valuable player, and for us that’s our job is to acquire as many assets as we can and utilize them and also utilize them to get more value. So that’s really what the draft is about. It’s about value, it’s about acquiring players that we think have high value, and really when you look at the quarterback position, there’s nothing that has more value.
Andy(Weidl) said this, and I thought it was a great line: We’ve been the biggest beneficiaries in the National Football League over the last 20 years about doing that, about getting quarterbacks, getting them to play at a high level and then having the opportunity to also get value for them. So I think when you talk about what the ideal situation is, that’s obviously winning Super Bowls with our starting quarterback, getting this kid up to speed, showing what kind of talent that we think he has, and that’s a great situation for the Philadelphia Eagles, and that’s certainly worth more than the pick that we took him at right now.