The way Jalen Hurts understands his situation in Year 2 of his NFL career with the Eagles, he has to earn everything he gets. If he's good enough to beat out Joe Flacco to become the starting quarterback, hey, he'll move forward in that role.
This is a mindset that Hurts has carried forward since his college days and it applies to his professional career. Four starts last season produced some high highs and some frustrating lows, and in the end, Hurts knows he has a lot of work in front of him to get to where he wants to be.
"I value everything that Coach (Nick Sirianni) has brought here," Hurts said on Wednesday on Day 2 of the team's Phase Two workouts at the NovaCare Complex. "I remember back in my days at Alabama, Coach (Nick) Saban, hearing him talking about discipline, commitment, effort, toughness, and pride; having these core values that he's trying to instill in the team, and in the end, it all worked out for the team. And you see coach Nick Sirianni preaching connection, preaching accountability and competition and fundamentals and football IQ, preaching all these things. I know in all those different avenues, all those different principles and values that we're trying to instill here in Philly, no one is above that and everybody's got to go to work.
"So, for me, rent is due every day. It's always been that way for me, always been a get-better mentality every day, grow every day, be a better leader every day, be a better quarterback every day. And when that rent's due, I don't plan on missing any payments, so it's work."
In 15 games in 2020, four of them starts, Hurts passed for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. He completed 52 percent of his passes and complemented his passing with 354 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Playing behind an offensive line that changed every week because of injuries, Hurts showed calm and composure and injected an offense that needed a boost with some life and energy.
But that was last year. The Eagles have a new head coach. The offense is going to look different. Nobody in the NFL lives in the past, and that is the approach Hurts is taking.
"I'm very happy that we're able to kind of get in the building now," Hurts said. "One, get acclimated to new coaches, new system, you've got some new faces in the building. I think all of that is important to our growth as a football team.
"I'm happy we're able to do that. You're going to have differences and changes everywhere but ultimately we talk about being committed and I think that's what it comes down to, right? Being committed to what coach is preaching and going out there and playing together and believing in one another."
This has been an offseason of change for the Eagles, as we know. Hurts has worked closely with veteran Joe Flacco in the quarterback room as the two have learned, first in the virtual program and now at the NovaCare Complex. Hurts said he is "not above" having competition at the position, one of Sirianni's core values. So far, then, it's been a great marriage as Hurts works with Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson, whom he has known since he was a child. Johnson tried to recruit Hurts to Mississippi State, but Hurts chose Alabama. Now, Hurts says, he wants to "do something special together" with Johnson.
We're still in the very early stages of the on-field work and the Eagles aren't working in an 11-on-11 environment. That comes in Training Camp. Hurts continues to show maturity and poise and professionalism as he goes about his craft, "improving every day." He celebrated the selection of wide receiver DeVonta Smith in the first round of the NFL Draft – "a stoic guy, kind of like myself" – and welcomed back the young receivers room heartily. Hurts wants the entire offense to grow together.
To do that, it requires a steady progression. Progress every day in a new system for new coaches and a new daily routine.
"I feel like it's very important to have the system down, one. Getting the system down, being on the same page with the coaches, and having some consistency," Hurts said when asked what areas he wants to see his most improvement. "I think consistency comes from being fundamentally sound but actually knowing what you are supposed to do and being comfortable with what you're doing. I think that's the biggest thing, being consistent."
At the end of the day, Hurts is going to be himself. He was a rock last season in a most turbulent environment since the day the Eagles selected him in the NFL Draft. One year later, nothing has changed in terms of the way Hurts will approach his job.
"I think my intent doesn't change," Hurts said. "The mentality that I have, it doesn't change. The urge and thirst for growth and being a better leader and being a better quarterback, that doesn't change. I want to obviously impact the people around me in the best way that I can, be somebody that people see as an accountable person and as an accountable quarterback who is going to go out there and do my job. At the end of the day, you earn the respect of your teammates when you go out there and make plays and do those things. I want to continue to do that and bring everybody together."