There's a reason why Eagles won't give Gardner Minshew a chance to start over Jalen Hurts

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eagles coach Nick Sirianni quelled any kind of quarterback controversy with three simple words:

"Yeah, of course."

That was in response to whether Jalen Hurts will remain the starter when he’s able to return from his ankle injury, presumably for the Eagles’ next game against Washington on Dec. 19.

This came after Sirianni had just watched Gardner Minshew pick apart the Jets' defense in leading the Eagles to a 33-18 win Sunday.

Sirianni left little doubt that it'll remain Hurts' job, and it's easy to see why.

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Minshew could have been perfect, and he was still not going to get another chance – and he almost was perfect.

Minshew completed his first 11 passes and had the maximum passer rating of 158.3 in the first half.

Minshew finished 20-for-25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He completed 80% of his passes, something Hurts hasn't done in any of his 12 starts this season or four starts last season.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) looks to throw the ball in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in East Rutherford.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) looks to throw the ball in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in East Rutherford.

Minshew's final rating of 133.7 is higher than Hurts' rating in any of his 16 starts, or higher than any Eagles' QB since Nick Foles had a 141.4 in the NFC Championship game in Jan. 2018.

So why is Sirianni so confident in Hurts as his starter?

"I think he’s played good football," Sirianni said. "There have been times where’s he’s been one of the best in the league with the way he’s moved around and made plays.

"We look at that quarterback rating, and what he’s had there. He’s played really good football when he was in. When he’s healthy and he’s back, he’ll be our starter."

Of course, Hurts' quarterback rating is a pedestrian 83.9, ranking 28th out of 34 quarterbacks in the NFL.

But this season isn't about finding out if Minshew will be the franchise quarterback going forward.

The Eagles already know that answer: He won't be.

Tight end Dallas Goedert, who had 6 catches for a career-high 105 yards and 2 touchdowns, admitted as much.

"I think we all know what to expect," Goedert said. "I think when it comes down to it, (Hurts) will be our quarterback."

That's not a knock against Minshew. He's perfectly capable as a quarterback, as he showed Sunday, and he's certainly better than some starters in the NFL. That includes the quarterbacks of the Eagles' last two opponents – Daniel Jones of the Giants and Zach Wilson of the Jets.

And Minshew certainly enjoys himself on the field. Miles Sanders said Minshew was cracking jokes in the huddle and keeping his teammates loose, like when he converted a 4th-and-1 on a QB sneak when the Eagles led 27-18 late in the third quarter.

Minshew was ruled short of the first down, before a replay review overturned it.

Sanders said Minshew exclaimed: "Maybe it's because I'm strong as hell."

Minshew confirmed Sanders' story.

“Yeah, dude. That’s why I wear short shorts,” he said. “Them legs, bro. Felt it right there.”

Then he added: "I like to have fun, especially when you’re winning like we are, running the ball. It’s fun to have fun out there."

It certainly meant a lot to Minshew, as he was seen on video in an emotional postgame embrace with his father.

"It felt so good, man," Minshew said. "It’s the best time I’ve had since Week 1 of last year. There’s nothing like that feeling, you know. Glad to do it with this group of guys. They made it easy for me, so it was a lot of fun."

Sirianni knows what Minshew was referring to.

In Week 1 of the 2020 season, while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minshew was again as close to perfect as a quarterback can be. He completed 19 of 20 passes for 173 yards and three TDs that day. He had a passer rating of 142.3.

The Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-20. Sirianni was the Colts' offensive coordinator.

But that was the Jaguars' only win last season. And last spring, the Jaguars drafted Trevor Lawrence first overall. Minshew, who was 7-13 as a starter in two seasons with the Jaguars, became expendable.

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The Eagles don't see MInshew as a franchise quarterback, just like the Jaguars didn't.

The Eagles will have three first-round picks next spring, and their decision comes down to Hurts, a quarterback in the draft, or one via trade.

That will ultimately be up to general manager Howie Roseman and team chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie.

But Hurts has impressed Sirianni enough to keep playing.

Hurts' bona-fides are easy to see: He gives the Eagles a running dynamic that Sirianni called "unique." Hurts has 695 yards rushing this season, second to only Lamar Jackson among NFL quarterbacks.

That has made the Eagles' rushing offense the best in the NFL. They have run for at least 175 yards in six straight games, unheard in the NFL these days.

By running so often, the Eagles haven't had to rely as much on Hurts' arm.

Can they win on Hurts' arm if they're trailing? Here, the Eagles are still finding out. It certainly didn't seem that way last week, when Hurts threw a career-high three interceptions and completed only 45.2% of his passes in the 13-7 loss to the Giants.

Still, as poorly as Hurts played, he had the Eagles on the precipice of a last-second win.

Could Minshew have done any better?

It doesn't matter.

Sirianni had one directive for Minshew, and that was to be a game-manager. The Eagles ran the ball behind Sanders, who had 120 yards on a career-high 24 carries.

When Minshew passed the ball, it was the safe pass, such as on check-downs to his running backs or the TD passes to Goedert that went for 36 and 25 yards, respectively.

That does not scream "franchise quarterback."

Neither does this, when Sirianni was asked about Minshew's performance:

"I think our message to Gardner was, ‘Go out and be yourself. Protect that football. You have a good supporting cast around you.'"

Minshew was himself. He completed his passes and protected the football. He had fun. And the Eagles won.

That was his job, and he did it well.

Good news on Kelce injury

Sirianni said Monday that "everybody holds their breath" when they see center Jason Kelce slowly and painfully walk off the field with what appeared to be a knee injury late in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Kelce had hurt his knee the previous week against the Giants in the first quarter, but came back in the third.

"I got positive news back on him," Sirianni said.

He added that "we're hopeful" that Kelce can play when the Eagles return from their week off. Kelce has started 118 straight games, the longest active streak among centers.

Sirianni said he's also hopeful that RB Jordan Howard can return after missing two straight games with a knee injury.

He said starting CB Steve Nelson (shoulder) and LB Patrick Johnson (back) should be fine after the week off.

In addition, Sirianni said offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is doing well. He went to the hospital for an undisclosed ailment just before the game Sunday but returned for the second half and was back at the NovaCare Complex on Monday.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Here's why Gardner Minshew won't have a chance to become Eagles' QB

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