Jason Kelce is on his third Eagles head coach. He has enjoyed winning seasons and long playoff runs. He became the King of all Speeches after his Parade of Champions delivery following the Eagles' Super Bowl win in February 2018. Too, there have been playoff droughts and difficult seasons. This one, 2020, is one in the latter category. The Eagles are 3-8-1. They've just made a quarterback switch from Carson Wentz to Jalen Hurts.
The sting in Kelce's voice was palpable as he spoke to the media on Wednesday prior to practice at the NovaCare Complex.
"It's kind of hard to believe that we're at this point now, to be honest with you," Kelce said. "This season has not gone the way any of us, obviously, anticipated or would like it to have gone. Sitting here 3-8-1, you've got to do something. You've got to try and make a change or whatever. Obviously, the offense has been absolutely terrible the last four weeks, in particular. I have no doubt that this is not the final chapter to the Carson Wentz story or saga. I will always have confidence in him as a person and in him as a player. I'm just going to go out there this week and play some ball."
Kelce was effusive in his praise of Wentz, whom he said "transformed" the offense from the moment he arrived at the NovaCare Complex in 2016. Wentz, indeed, took the Eagles to a new level in terms of their preparation and production all the way through the win in Super Bowl LII. Since then, of course, it has been tough sledding with injuries to deal with and, in 2020, eight losses in 12 games and an offense that has not performed to anyone's standards.
In comes Hurts to make his first NFL start, and Kelce and every player in the locker room is ready to support him. The offense knows its failings aren't only Wentz's alone, but he is the one losing his starting job for Hurts, the team's second-round draft pick in the spring.
"Jalen is going to go out there this week and get his opportunity," Kelce said. "He is a young kid, great attitude, went in at the end of the (Green Bay) game and did some things so we will see how he does in a full game."
A rookie shall lead them on Sunday against New Orleans …
"I think he's got leadership ability. Don't get me wrong. He's different than Carson, just the way Carson was different than Nick (Foles), the way anybody who goes in there is going to have a different personality," Kelce said. "He has all the intangibles. He's got great confidence in himself, first and foremost, which bleeds off into other guys. He's a little bit quieter, but then again most rookies are, especially when you're just trying to learn and figure out where your place is on the team and what you're doing. I think he's really smart, just from the questions he asked me. He wants to figure things out. He's very curious as to what's happening each week. He's accountable … I think he's just got a lot of good intangibles to work with so I'm just excited to go out there and to see what that feels like on a gameday."
Wide receiver Greg Ward, who caught Hurts' first career touchdown pass Sunday in Green Bay, has known Hurts since Ward played quarterback at the University of Houston and Hurts was a star high school quarterback in Texas. He and Hurts are good friends with an excellent rapport and Ward believes that Hurts will rise to the occasion.
When the lights go on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, the moment won't be too big for Hurts.
"Me and Jalen are very tight," Ward said. "We talk a lot. We communicate a lot just about everything – life, football, it doesn't really matter and I'm very excited for his opportunity. I was surprised (at the change at quarterback). We're all excited and we're ready to roll.
"For us to be in the same huddle, it's kind of crazy because of how we were following each other in college and what we saw each other do at the quarterback position. He's a natural leader. He's going to come in and try to take control and try to make plays and that's all you can ask for."
Said rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor: "It's not about one person. It's about a team. I'm really ready to see both of those guys battle and continue for the rest of the season."
Reagor and Hurts played against each other in college, and they've taken that relationship to a new level as rookies and top draft picks with the Eagles. With a full week of practice taking the starter's reps, Hurts will have more comfort with the rest of the offense and the scheme for Sunday.
It's all for one and one for all here. Wentz is an incredibly valuable member of the team, the franchise quarterback. He remains that. This week, it's all about Hurts and it's all about everyone supporting the rookie.
"We're here to be Philadelphia Eagles," Kelce said, "and part of that job entails that you go out there and do all that you can in the parameters that you're being asked to do your job. I think that we are all, not just professionals, but good people, we care about each other.
"The first and foremost job of being a Philadelphia Eagle is being a good teammate and that entails giving of yourself to others, doing everything you can to help the person next to you succeed … everyone wants everyone to do well. We have a good culture, in particular Carson Wentz is an incredible teammate. So, I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to do everything he can to help Jalen Hurts succeed and I think that anybody who isn't doing that, for all of their teammates, should be on the first ticket out of here because that's not the culture of the team that I want to be on."