Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2024, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.
Up first: Quarterback
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Philadelphia sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
Roob: While of course Hurts will be here for a fifth season and fourth as the opening-day starter, the real question is can a new array of offensive coaches get Hurts back playing that MVP-caliber football we saw in 2022 and at times the first half of 2023. I don’t see any reason they can’t. Hurts didn’t just lose his ability. He still has a remarkable skill set and all the intangibles in the world. Even in a down year playing under an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who would ultimately get fired, he still had the second-most combined passing and rushing TDs in the NFL and was in the MVP conversation until about Week 13. Yes, Hurts made poor decisions at times, looked uncomfortable in the pocket, struggled with the blitz. But that didn't happen in a vacuum. He also wasn’t getting the guidance and coaching he needed to fix those things. New staff should mean a new Jalen.
Dave: It’s true that Jalen Hurts didn’t have as good a season in 2023 as he did in 2022 but the word “regression” has probably been thrown around a little too loosely. While it’s very true that Hurts didn’t play up to the standard he set in the Super Bowl season, he was also far from the Eagles’ biggest problem last season. Heck, he was an MVP candidate halfway through the season before the wheels fell off. Sure, Hurts should be able to elevate the Eagles on occasion and that didn’t happen enough, but his coaches didn’t do him many favors either. I’m very curious to see how the addition of new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore works with Hurts. The biggest issue with Hurts in 2023 were interceptions. He threw 15 in 17 games after throwing just 6 in 15 games the year before. His interception rate of 2.8 ranked sixth-worst in the NFL behind Mac Jones, Sam Howell, Josh Allen, Desmond Ridder and Jake Browning. So that’s an issue that needs to be cleaned up and changing the offense enough to lower the level of difficulty might be enough to slow them down. It’s obvious the franchise quarterback is returning for 2024 but will he be an MVP candidate again? We’ll have to wait and see.
Roob: This was the first time since Hurts became the Eagles’ full-time starter that he didn’t miss any games with injuries, and it’s a good thing because Mariota never showed any ability to be able to keep things going if Hurts ever missed a significant amount of time. He ranged from terrible to mediocre in training camp and didn’t do anything special when he did play some mop-up snaps in the season finale against the Giants. Mariota cost the Eagles $5 million this year and I’ve got no problem paying a backup quarterback that kind of money but not Mariota. He’s not a $5 million backup. He’s 30 years old, he’s not cheap and I don’t think he’s very good.
Dave: The good news is that Mariota didn’t need to play very much in 2023 because Hurts started every game this past season. Mariota played a grand total of 44 offensive snaps and attempted just 23 total passes. Looking back at training camp, Mariota’s play was definitely very iffy, especially to start the summer. But he did look much better as camp went on. The Eagles gave Mariota a one-year, $5 million contract as an insurance policy last season. That’s $1.5 million more than Gardner Minshew was paid by the Colts this past season. So it was a significant amount of money to pay a backup for the Eagles, who definitely value the backup quarterback position. There’s a chance they could bring back Mariota to a similar one-year deal in 2024 but they’d probably prefer to not need to spend that type of money on a backup. I think they’ll find a cheaper solution this upcoming season.
Roob: I liked what I saw out of McKee in training camp and especially in the preseason games, where he was able to take what he was doing at practice and translate it into playmaking. And, yes, he was out there playing against backups, but he was also playing with backups, and he made guys like Joseph Ngata, Tyrie Cleveland and Deon Cain look good. McKee played like he belonged, He’s certainly cheaper than Mariota – cap hits for 6th-round picks on their rookie contracts are very team friendly, about $961,000 in 2024 for McKee – and I’d rather have him out there than the 30-year-old Mariota anyway. McKee went to Stanford, so you know he’s smart. He’s got the size at 6-6 and he’s got the arm. With a full offseason with Kellen Moore and Doug Nussmeier, I’d expect McKee to take over the No. 2 spot behind Hurts in 2024.
Dave: If the Eagles are looking for a cheaper solution to the backup quarterback spot, they might already have that with McKee. The 23-year-old from Stanford didn’t get to see the field as a rookie but he did have an impressive training camp. Sometimes you can just tell right away whether or not a quarterback has a chance and McKee certainly looked the part this summer. While that success with and against third-string players has to be taken with a grain of salt, McKee looks the part. The 6-foot-6 quarterback has a smooth release and looked really natural throwing the ball this past summer. In fact, he outplayed Mariota for a lot of the summer. Reporters didn’t get to watch much of McKee during the season but if he continued to develop from that strong training camp, the Eagles might be ready to go forward with McKee as their backup in 2024.