PHILADELPHIA -- For all of Jalen Hurts' good moments during Philadelphia Eagles training camp -- and there have been a lot of them -- it was a miscue that led to one of the summer’s most revealing moments.
The team was simulating an end-of-game situation where there were under 30 seconds to play. The offense had no timeouts and needed a field goal to win. When a third-down QB keeper was ruled short of the sticks, Hurts ran off as the field goal unit came on, neglecting to hand the ball to the official to help expedite the next play. Coach Nick Sirianni gave him an earful in front of the media and gathered fans, letting him know in no uncertain terms that if time expired, it was going to be on him. Hurts said something inaudible back and Sirianni countered more emphatically. After a moment of reflection, Hurts dropped to the ground and started doing pushups, owning up to his mistake.
“Everybody is worthy of being coached," Hurts said. "I can’t get on another guy for acting a certain type of way towards something if I’m not practicing what I’m preaching. We’re all here to learn and to continue to grow.”
"Shoot," said Sirianni, "when you can coach your best player the hardest, that's good for everybody."
Much has changed since the Eagles last gathered on the NovaCare practice fields for training camp. Hurts put together a near-MVP regular season in 2022 and saved his best game for the biggest moment, erupting for 374 total yards and four touchdowns in a heartbreaking 38-35 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII. His stardom has risen dramatically. Hurts, who turned 25 on August 7, recently finished No. 3 in the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2023 ranking, as voted on by his peers. The Eagles won't argue: In April, they rewarded him with a five-year, $255 million contract extension, making him the face of the franchise and one of the league's highest-paid players.
But for Hurts, it's been business as usual. Coaches and teammates paint a picture of a player who is disinterested in the accolades, unchanged by the acclaim and as fiercely focused as ever on his craft; who has grown his knowledge of the game to the point where it's like having another coach in the quarterback room; and who is poised to once again level up, driven by the Super Bowl loss, and history, and the pursuit of greatness.
The lock screen on Hurts' phone is a photo of him walking off the field at State Farm Stadium following the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs on February 12, red and yellow confetti falling all around him as he looks forward stoically.
This was not supposed to be public knowledge -- Hurts plays everything close to the vest -- but a teammate's live Instagram feed unintentionally captured the image, offering the outside world a glimpse of how last year's shortcoming has turned into this year's motivation.
“I’d rather not talk about that," Hurts said. "I don’t think it’s really appropriate considering if it were up to me, y’all wouldn’t know about it, no one would know about it. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Hurts is known to store any slight or stumble for future fuel, so it's no surprise he is giving himself a constant reminder that he fell short of the goal, no matter how close he came to it. But that's different than being distracted by it.
"He’s got one of the most incredible mindsets, work ethics," teammate Dallas Goedert said. "Right after the Super Bowl, he flushed that, he was ready to get to this season."
Hurts and some of his pass-catchers gathered in California early this offseason to get extra work in. Goedert said Hurts brought "his whole computer system" with him to watch film, Goedert joking it's much more elaborate than the iPad the Eagles give him to study tape.
"I’m sure after they paid him, they hooked him up with something real good to make sure he stayed on his Ps and Qs, but everybody knows he will,” Goedert said. "He wants to be a great player in this league for a long time and he wants to win. It’s an everyday thing for him. He doesn’t take a day off."
Back in Philadelphia, new defensive coordinator Sean Desai was busy studying film in his office around dinner time one evening when he looked up and saw Hurts standing in the doorway.
"I'm like, ‘What's up?’" Desai said. "He just started asking questions."
It was something former DC Jonathan Gannon had grown accustomed to. Hurts, ever in search of more football knowledge, likes to get inside the minds of defensive coaches to get a better understanding of what the opponent might be thinking on game day.
"He's so sharp, he’s so bright. You see, now being a part of the organization you understand why he's so special," Desai said. "The way his brain works, the types of questions that he asks, you could tell that he's just trying to elevate his game to the next level."
Sirianni has noted that the conversations in the quarterback room have deepened as a result of Hurts’ growing mastery of the system -- talks that have "opened new doors" on offense, Hurts said.
He likes to call himself a "triple threat" -- able to attack with his arm, his legs and his mind. The last part is a particular point of pride for him.
“I think for a long time, the world told guys like me that they couldn’t process and they couldn’t have that approach to the game and have the fundamental and mental awareness to execute and play the position at a high level," he said, telling NBC that he's "trying to put that to sleep."
Hurts has been highly efficient this summer. The ball is getting out quickly, the passes have been accurate, and his throwing motion looks more effortless than in seasons past.
His growing chemistry with good friend A.J. Brown has stood out, from their precision on back-shoulder catch and throws to timing on the deep ball.
Hurts is entering his third year in Sirianni's system, and with the offense loaded with talent and returning all but two starters, there is a smoothness to the operation that doesn't always materialize this time of year.
“The first couple days, I definitely felt like he was on another level … making it look easy," said Brown. "Being real calm, like he’s in a game.
"Of course I’d love to see him take another step because that means we all take another step.”
The hiccup during the end-of-game simulation was a rare blemish, and Sirianni pounced. It's Sirianni’s style to coach players hard anyway, but a conversation from his early days with Hurts provided reassurance he would react positively to criticism. When Sirianni first arrived in Philly, Hurts encouraged Sirianni to get after him, saying that as a coach's son he can take it -- and even wants it.
That hasn't changed now that Hurts has moved into star status.
"Those guys have a great relationship, and I think it obviously helps your team when one of your best players is eager to be coached hard," said offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. "I think that just sets an unbelievable standard for the entire organization."