Where Hurts fits in surprising NFC quarterback landscape

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Dave Zangaro and I were chatting before one of our Eagle Eye podcasts this week, and this question came up: Who’s the second-best quarterback in the NFC?

We sat there silently for a moment or two staring into space trying to come up with an answer.

“Kirk Cousins?” I offered.

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“Derek Carr?” Dave suggested.

“Matt Stafford? Jared Goff? Kyler Murray? Brock Purdy? Dak Prescott???”

We threw out a bunch of names, but the reality is that there is no clear No. 2. 

Assuming Aaron Rodgers winds up with the Jets, the gap between Jalen Hurts and the rest of the NFC quarterbacks is enormous.

He’s only 24, he’s already been an MVP runner-up, he’s already had a record-setting Super Bowl performance, and the rest of the conference is playing big-time catch-up when it comes to quarterbacks.

At the most important position on the field, the Eagles are the only team with a true superstar.

The AFC has some elite young quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence is 23, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are 24, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen are 26, and Patrick Mahomes is still only 27.

But get this: Of the seven-highest passer ratings in the NFL last year by quarterbacks 27 or younger, six were by AFC quarterbacks. 

Here are the NFC starting QBs 27 or younger who threw at least 200 passes last year: Hurts, Daniel Jones, Murray, Baker Mayfield and Justin Fields.

There's some potential there. But only one guy who's a star.

Of the 52 active quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 500 passes, Jones, Murray, Mayfield and Fields rank 16th, 30th, 31st and 46th in career passer rating. All have career losing records. Only Mayfield has won a playoff game and that was four teams ago.

Let’s take this one step farther and forget about age for a minute.

Of the 16 projected NFC starting quarterbacks in 2023, only three have ever played in a Super Bowl and only two have done it for their current team – Hurts and Stafford in 2021 with the Rams. The only other NFC Super Bowl QB is Jared Goff in 2018 with the Rams.

Four former NFC Super Bowl quarterbacks are now in the AFC – Nick Foles with the Colts, Russell Wilson in Denver, Rodgers presumably with the Jets and Jimmy Garoppolo with the Raiders.

Tom Brady is retired, Matt Ryan isn’t currently on a roster, Cam Newton is essentially retired and before that you’re back to Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Kurt Warner and Rex Grossman.

The only AFC Super Bowl QBs still with a team they took to the Super Bowl are Burrow and Mahomes. The only other Super Bowl QB who’s still active is Joe Flacco, who isn’t currently on a roster. 

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So here’s the bottom line: There are only four quarterbacks in the NFL who are with a team they took to the Super Bowl: Hurts, Mahomes, Stafford and Burrow. And the only one in the NFC other than Hurts is 35.

There are only four other active starting quarterbacks who’ve started in a Super Bowl: Goff, Foles, Wilson and Rodgers. Of the active Super Bowl QBs, only Hurts, Mahomes, Burrow and Goff are under 34.

And then there’s this: Of the 16 projected starting NFC quarterbacks, only Stafford has won more playoff games than Hurts, and he’s a 14-year veteran. Only four other NFC QBs have won any playoff games – Prescott (2-4 in seven years), Goff (2-3 but with a Super Bowl win), Kirk Cousins (1-3 in 11 years) and Mayfield (1-1). 

None of this guarantees anything. There are plenty of young quarterbacks in the NFC who could bust out next year. 

Maybe Trey Lance will blossom in his third season or possibly his teammate Brock Purdy. Maybe Fields will live up to his terrific potential. Maybe Jordan Love, Sam Howell or Desmond Ridder will become a star. Maybe Murray will finally put it all together.

But for now, not only do the Eagles currently have the best quarterback in the NFC, the gap is huge. 

As long as Hurts stays healthy and Howie Roseman continues to surround him with talent, the Eagles aren’t going to go away. They're going to continue to have the opportunity to be a top team in the conference, which means an honest shot at the Super Bowl. 

There may be a young QB who can challenge Hurts for NFC quarterback supremacy, but we haven’t seen him yet.

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