In Jalen Hurts vs. Gardner Minshew QB debate, answer is clear for Eagles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Monday marks the one-year anniversary of Carson Wentz being benched in favor of Jalen Hurts.

Calls for the Philadelphia Eagles to make a quarterback switch came weeks earlier than that, as Wentz struggled through the worst season of his career. Then-coach Doug Pederson resisted for a while, understanding the weight and potential consequences of such a decision. But with the Eagles trailing the Green Bay Packers 20-6 in Week 13, and the offense once again stuck in neutral, Pederson went to Hurts early in the third quarter.

Hurts brought the offense to life and pumped some juice back into the season. He beat the 10-2 New Orleans Saints the following week in his first career start, and despite up-and-down play over the final three games, he proved to be the more effective quarterback of the two. However, the move to Hurts set in motion a chain of events that led to a disgruntled Wentz being traded and Pederson and most of his staff being fired.

Lessons from that situation should be applied one year later with the Eagles quarterback position once again the subject of conversation. Gardner Minshew got the start Sunday in place of the injured Hurts and lit up the New York Jets, going 20-of-25 for 242 yards with two touchdowns in a 33-18 win. Tight end Dallas Goedert (six catches, 105 yards, two TDs) had a career day and the passing game was efficient, stoking curiosity about what the offense might look like with Minshew at the helm on a longer-term basis.

Coach Nick Sirianni did his best to end the debate before it had a chance to gain steam.

"He's played really good football when he's in," Sirianni said of Hurts, "so when he's healthy and he's back, he'll be our starter."

Hurts has earned that right.

He is coming off the first three-interception performance of his career against the New York Giants and has been inconsistent in the passing game -- his 60.1 completion percentage ranked 28th in the NFL entering Week 13 -- but overall, he's had the offense operating at a pretty high level. The Eagles rank eighth in red zone success rate (66 percent), fifth in third-down conversions (45.4%) and 10th in points per game (25.9) under Hurts. Hurts is second among quarterbacks with 695 rushing yards, behind only Lamar Jackson. From Weeks 7-11, Hurts was the No. 1-ranked QB in the NFL in QBR (75.0) before taking a step back against New York.

This is not a case of the starting quarterback holding a team back. There is not a similar desperation as last year to get things kick-started.

Even if there were, switching to Minshew would not be the right answer. Unlike other positions where you can change starters without much blowback, flipping quarterbacks can have an irreversible impact. It can cause split allegiances in the locker room and force players to second-guess the coaching staff and the entire operation. The chances of pushback are far greater when the demoted QB has cemented himself as a respected team leader, as Hurts has.

With Wentz, whatever trust he had left in the organization flew right out the window the moment he was replaced in the lineup. The risk is not worth the reward in testing the relationship with their current QB1.

With Wentz being granted a trade in the offseason, Hurts was handed the controls. The team has shifted into a state of transition, and with the Eagles holding upwards of three first-round picks in April's draft -- capital they can use to pursue a quarterback if they so choose -- this season became largely about figuring out whether Hurts could be the long-term answer.

That remains the most important question facing the Eagles. There are four games remaining on the regular-season schedule, giving Philadelphia four more opportunities to evaluate Hurts before making a franchise-altering decision.

Minshew can be an effective quarterback. He has 39 career touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He looked really good on Sunday. But it was against the Jets, who have a habit of making opposing quarterbacks look really good. Even before giving up 418 yards to the Eagles on Sunday, the Jets' defense was the NFL's worst through the first 12 weeks, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

Minshew mania is fun. It's natural to wonder what the offense might look like in their next game against Washington with him at the controls.

But you don't have to look back very far at this team's history to know that short-sighted quarterback decisions often blow up in your face.