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Eagles’ hype train sails into overdrive

by Mike Sielski The Philadelphia Inquirer | September 22, 2022 at 2:33 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA -- Jalen Hurts has had 21 games now as the Eagles' starting quarterback, and their 24-7 victory over the Vikings on Monday night was his finest hour in those 21. He threw for 333 yards and a touchdown, ran for 57 yards and two more TDs, was sharp and commanding in every regard.

It was a brilliant performance, and it was almost enough to make you forget that he wasn't supposed to be the Eagles' quarterback Monday night. The guy they face this Sunday at FedEx Field was. The guy they had to get rid of was. Carson Wentz was.

As it turns out, this is an ideal time to have the Eagles play Wentz and the Washington Commanders -- not ideal for the Eagles necessarily, but ideal for everyone who roots for and follows them. Everyone around here remembers 2020, the year it went bad between Wentz and the Eagles: the drafting of Hurts, Wentz's lousy play that season, his benching, all of that turmoil leading to his trade to the Colts in February 2021. The likely inflection point then was the ESPN story that broke on the night of the Eagles' final game of the 2020 season, a story that said Wentz's relationship with Doug Pederson and the team, less than two years after he signed a massive contract extension, was "fractured beyond repair." Oh, yes, everyone remembers that.

Here's what everyone might have memory-holed: Five years ago, Wentz was Hurts. Wentz was in his second full season as the Eagles' starter, just like Hurts is. Wentz was the young leader of a team that had the look and feel of a Super Bowl contender, just like Hurts is. Wentz dazzled the nation on Monday Night Football with his arm and his legs and his toughness, just like Hurts did.

I'm not suggesting that Hurts is a threat to nuke the Eagles' plans in the same way Wentz did. He's not -- not now, anyway. But then, that's the point. Nobody thought Wentz was such a threat at that stage of his career, either. Nobody could see what was coming, because nobody ever can, and the same principle applies to the Eagles now. Monday's win was impressive, but it was one game, the second of a 17-game regular season. There is a long way yet to go for Hurts and for this team, and all the big reveals about him and the Eagles are likely to come later. Maybe they are this good, and maybe the curse of covering sports for a long time is that you remember all the occasions when the Eagles and their quarterback were supposed to take the NFL by storm and, for whatever reason, didn't. Maybe, when everybody is climbing aboard the hype train, there's something to be said for the person who keeps a loose grip on the hand brake.

Go back to Oct. 23, 2017, for instance, when Wentz threw four touchdown passes for the Eagles in a 34-24 win over Washington. If you had said, in the immediate aftermath of that game, that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl that season without Wentz, that their triumph would in many respects precipitate his fall from grace with the franchise and the city, that Wentz would soon be regarded as a disappointment and one of Philadelphia's great sports villains, people wouldn't have believed you.

It's easy for people to get swept up in the good vibes they feel after a decisive Eagles victory, for local TV anchors to start wearing Kelly green face paint and reporters to take on the tone of cheerleaders. It's easy to make declarations like Jalen Hurts just proved he's a franchise quarterback! or The Eagles are the favorites in the NFC! It happens all the time, and it's natural and understandable. McNabb finds Freddie Mitchell on fourth-and-26. Michael Vick leads a miraculous comeback at the Meadowlands. Wentz escapes a sack like he's Houdini in a box. You start texting family and friends to find out who can bring a case of lager and a couple of soft pretzel trays to your house for the Super Bowl party.

And who knows? Perhaps the Eagles will remain at this level, playing this well, all season. Perhaps Hurts will demonstrate, beyond any doubt, that when the Eagles drafted him to be their backup quarterback, they did more than ignite the chain of events that led to Wentz's departure, that they actually stumbled into their latest superstar. Just remember: All it will take is one glance to the home team's sideline Sunday for a reminder of how everything was supposed to go for the Eagles once upon a time, and how it went.

Print Headline: Eagles’ hype train sails into overdrive

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