Here's what the Gardner Minshew trade means for Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco and the Eagles' 'quarterback factory'
There was no reason for Jalen Hurts or Joe Flacco to be surprised, or even resentful, that the Eagles traded for a quarterback who has had significant starting experience.
After all, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman famously used the term "quarterback factory" to describe his philosophy after the 2020 draft, when he picked Jalen Hurts in the second round even though Carson Wentz, at the time, was ensconced as the franchise quarterback.
Roseman later regretted using the term, but not the philosophy, as he has completely overhauled the quarterback depth on the roster since then.
The moves continued Saturday when Roseman traded for former Jacksonville Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew. The Eagles sent Jacksonville a conditional sixth-round pick that, per reports, can become a fifth-round pick if Minshew plays at least 50% of the snaps this season.
If he does, that could throw the Eagles' quarterback situation into chaos.
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As it is, it's worth asking if the Eagles see Minshew as Hurts' backup this season, thus pushing Flacco down to third string even though the veteran is in his 14th season, has thrown for more than 40,000 passing yards and was once a Super Bowl MVP.
Or do they see Minshew as Hurts' replacement, either later this season if Hurts struggles, or in 2022? After all, Mishew, who's 25 years old, has started 20 games in his two-year career for the woeful Jaguars, who went 7-13 in his starts. Minshew completed 62.9% of his passes, with 37 touchdown passes against only 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 93.1.
As a comparison, Hurts completed 52% of his passes, with 6 TDs and 4 interceptions last season, with a passer rating of 77.6. He replaced Wentz for the final 4 1/2 games.
But Hurts' running ability sets him apart from all but a few NFL quarterbacks. Still, Minshew has rushed for 497 yards in his career, showing that he's at least a threat.
It's possible that the answer to Minshew's status on the Eagles is both yes and no.
For now, he'll likely start out as the third quarterback because it will take him a while to learn Nick Sirianni's system. But that could change later in the season, and definitely after the season. Flacco, who's 36 years old, is on a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. Minshew is still on his rookie contract worth about $900,000.
What about Minshew as Hurts' replacement?
This is what Roseman said the night of April 24, 2020, when the Eagles drafted Hurts: "For better or worse, we are quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory."
Sure, you can question the Eagles’ success as "quarterback developers,” but Minshew is young enough to qualify as a developing QB. Since that comment, Wentz had a terrible season, was replaced by Hurts over the final 4 1/2 games, then traded to Indianapolis.
Hurts was elevated to the starting quarterback this season after posting pedestrian stats while replacing Wentz. But Hurts, who just turned 23, is also developing. And Sirianni has had an entire offseason to design an offense for Hurts.
Then again, Sirianni has still not officially named Hurts the starter with the season opener less than two weeks away. That’s simply semantics. Hurts will start after taking every first-team rep in spring practices and training camp.
But the Eagles haven't committed to Hurts much beyond that, and certainly not beyond this season.
In the meantime, the Eagles were rumored to be interested in Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. That likely ends now with a Yahoo Sports report Saturday saying the Watson would not be willing to waive his no-trade clause for them in a deal.
The Eagles, however, will have as many as three first-round picks in the 2022 draft. That's certainly enough to put them in position to draft a franchise quarterback.
This logic applies to Flacco's backup role as well.
The Eagles signed Flacco in March, presumably as a backup to Hurts. That seemed secure when the Eagles added Jamie Newman as an undrafted free agent. But then Newman was waived and the Eagles signed Nick Mullens, who started eight games last season for the 49ers.
But there are some differences between Mullens and Minshew.
For one, Mullens was coming off elbow surgery and it was clear that his arm strength hadn't fully returned. In three preseason games, Mullens went 16 for 29 for 129 yards with 3 interceptions.
So the factory spewed out Mullens and brought in Minshew, a revelation as a sixth-round pick out of Washington State in 2019. That's when he replaced ex-Eagles QB Nick Foles in the season opener, and then for the next eight games, while Foles was out with a broken collarbone.
Minshew played so well that Foles was benched two games after his return.
Still, it was only a matter of time before "Minshew Mania" was going to end in Jacksonville. The Jaguars went 1-15 last season, Minshew missed several games with a broken thumb, and new coach Urban Meyer took Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick.
Meyer named Lawrence the starter last week. A few days later, Minshew was traded.
So where does that leave the Eagles?
Perhaps Flacco summed it up best when asked what it will be like knowing that the next time he might play would be coming in cold to replace Hurts if he's injured in a game.
"Before last year, I hadn’t had a lot of experience at that, and it is different," Flacco said Friday night, just hours before the Minshew trade. "You have to make sure you attack the early parts of the week just as if you were the starter, even though you’re not going to be able to get the reps.
"That’s nothing to be taken lightly. You have to work your tail off and approach it the right way ... And if something happens, that’s what you’re there for."
As the Eagles have demonstrated, that something could be just about anything.