33.33% — that’s the rate at which quarterbacks have won their first career start over the last 10 seasons. They’re 34-68-1.
That’s honestly not as bad as I expected. Of course, Hurts doesn’t have a 1 in 3 chance of winning the game — with +300 odds for the Eagles to win outright at most sportsbooks, the implied odds of an Eagles win are really 1 in 4, at 25%. That’s because, independent of the quarterback situation for both teams, we know that the Saints’ roster is a lot better than the Eagles’ roster, and they’re a better-coached team as well.
One thing is nicely going Hurts’ way, in the scope of first career starts: his age. In the last 10 years, 22-year-old or younger QBs on their first career start are 12-15-1 — a more competitive 42.9% win rate. This makes sense. A 22-year-old making his first career start likely is in that position because of his developmental talent, as opposed to a 25- or 26-year-old making his first career start because of an injury in front of him on the depth chart.
But even beyond wins and losses, numbers for first-start quarterbacks are predictably not great. You’re about as likely to throw an interception (62% chance) as you are to throw a touchdown (67% chance), and just as many quarterbacks throw multiple touchdowns (30) as throw multiple interceptions. The median yards/attempt is 6.44 and completion percentage is 59.6% — Carson Wentz’s numbers this season are 6.00 and 57.4%, respectively.
Nobody expects Hurts to be a world-ender in his first start on a bad team against a great defense, but it’s still useful to understand what first-start QBs have done on average. One place he can be great? Rushing yards. The record for first-start QBs is held by Lamar Jackson with 119, who’s one of only two quarterbacks to have more than 70 rushing yards in his first start.
26 - that’s how many snaps of 11 personnel the Eagles played with Jalen Hurts in at quarterback. Incidentally, that’s how many snaps Jalen Hurts played at quarterback.
This is a pretty big deal. The Eagles were also universally in shotgun with Hurts at quarterback, which further goes to the point: the Eagles’ offense for Hurts is different than the offense for Wentz.
Of course, it also isn’t. The Eagles came out with the same basic passing concepts for Hurts as they did for Wentz, running their play-action boot game out of the gun instead of under center. Their quick game concepts were the same as well. So, while the personnel and alignments may look different, they’re still trying to accomplish the same goals with the same ideas.
Same "383 Arizona" concept he to the trips side. Explain the process from snap-to-snap for Carson here because I cant. pic.twitter.com/hDQPlFHAYz— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 8, 2020
Exact same concept (flipped).. Jalen Hurts puts this in a good spot for a 6 yard completion to Goedert vs. Amos - pic.twitter.com/WaJe0IJMMF— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 8, 2020
But the universal usage of shotgun and 11 personnel tells us a couple of things. Firstly, Hurts doesn’t have his teeth into the entire playbook. That’s an understandable and expected limitation for a rookie with a uniquely affected preseason and training camp, and with no starts yet in his career. The Eagles will probably get some runs from under center in, but I’d imagine they’ll keep Hurts in the gun for play-action, as keeping his eyes up will both help him read defenses, and augment the threat of the QB keep. Or maybe they won’t — this coaching staff isn’t super predictable.
Secondly, it tells us that the Eagles acknowledge that offense can work without two tight ends on the field. The temptation to use Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz in a variety of roles (H-back, fullback, out wide) with Jalen Hurts is certainly there, and perhaps with an offseason of creative offensive designing we would see such packages. But with Hurts, the Eagles are prioritizing space and speed, which means they are sticking with wide light boxes, four-wide formations, and quick players who can attack that new space in the spread. It’s a bit of a philosophy shift from their big-bodied themes of Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside of recent years.
3.5 - that’s how many points Dallas is favored by against Cincinnati this week. Dallas is currently 0.5 games back from Philadelphia, and accordingly ahead of them in the draft order.
Not for nothing, but the other team 0.5 games behind the Eagles, the Chargers, are only 1.5 point dogs to the Falcons at home.
Just how far have we fallen? You need something to root for when your team’s bad, and as a draft buff, I’m rooting for a Top-5 draft pick. The Eagles are currently sixth in the draft order with a record of 3-8-1, and with a game upcoming against the 3-9 Cowboys, will have every opportunity to pass them in the draft order and get into the Top-5. But that could happen earlier in the process with the game tomorrow against the Joe Burrow-less Bengals.
How much do spots matter at the top of the draft? A fair bit. Part of the value comes from simply picking earlier — the Eagles would be concerned with the Chargers taking WR Ja’Marr Chase from them, for example; or for both the Chargers and Cowboys taking a cornerback off the board.
But a healthy part of the value comes from board control: the earlier the Eagles pick, the more likely they are to receive trade offers for teams looking to move up for a quarterback — and the more they can ask in return for a trade package. That is, of course, if they don’t want to draft that quarterback themselves.
The Eagles have quickly pivoted from having every win matter to having every loss matter, now that their season has fully spiraled out of control. At a potential 3-12-1, the Eagles would be on pace for the fourth overall pick, which projects to be the QB pivot point in the upcoming draft after the Jets and Jaguars both select a quarterback, and the Bengals at No. 3 select an offensive tackle. Owning Pick 4 could be critical to the Eagles’ rebuilding efforts for the next couple of seasons.