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Nobody Does Quarterback Controversies Like The Eagles

Jalen Hurts runs with the ball against the Arizona Cardinals. It's all blurry and artsy.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Eagles fans were excited. Their team didn’t win on Sunday, but there were things to be excited about. The previous QB had stunk all year. The new guy seemed to give the team an extra step. Was this new QB the future?

It was 1997, and Eagles quarterback Bobby Hoying had just completed 26 of 38 passes for 270 yards. The Eagles only tied the Ravens 10-all in Week 12. But Hoying was the story. “Bobby Hoying leaves you wanting to see more,” wrote Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann. After Hoying threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 13 win, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan wrote that Hoying was “taking another step toward stardom.” That paper’s Bill Lyon wrote that the whole team looked better with Hoying in the lineup. (The lead story that game was the new in-stadium courtroom as it was the first home game after a fan fired a flare across Veterans Stadium. The AP said fans were that Eagles fans were “relatively well-behaved,” which meant there were only 20 arrests; 60 fights had been reported the previous week.)

It was back to Hoying the next week. He threw for 313 yards and four TDs, leading the Eagles to a 44-42 comeback win over the Bengals as Eagles fans chanted “Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!” The Daily News declared: “HOY TO THE WORLD” and ran a photo of Hoying with his fiancée like he was a real celebrity. The Eagles, 6-6-1 and winners of three in a row, had a real chance to make the playoffs.

You already know that Bobby Hoying was not the future. The Giants picked him off three times, in the do-or-die game the next week, and the Eagles lost out to end the season. The next year Hoying threw for no touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven starts. (Everything went south in the end. In 2014 the judge who rode his fame from Eagles Court to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Seamus McCaffery, retired amid a scandal over lewd email forwards.)

The Daily News, then and now.

It is 2020. And even though the Eagles lost to the Cardinals 33-26 yesterday, Jalen Hurts threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another score. Last week, he beat the Saints. He has looked better the last two weeks than Carson Wentz has all year.

Everyone is excited. The Inquirer called him “magnificent” and “courageous.” NJ.com is calling for the Eagles to trade Wentz. “Let’s be honest,” longtime Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank wrote, “it’s been a while since we’ve seen quarterback play like this around here.” National media is salivating. The Eagles are 4-9-1; they could still win the woeful NFC East.

Jalen Hurts is not Bobby Hoying. But he is the latest in a long line of Bobby Hoying–like figures in Philadelphia, new quarterbacks who Eagles fans convince themselves are the signal-callers of the future. You can forgive Philadelphia media for getting a little excited over Hoying in 1997—the previous Eagles starting QBs since Randall Cunningham began his career were, in reverse order, Ty Detmer, Rodney Peete, Ken O’Brien, Bubby Brister, Jeff Kemp, Brad Goebel, Jim McMahon and Matt Cavanaugh. (Peete was the only one to win a playoff game.) Eagles fans are well aware that finding a new starting quarterback hurts, don’t it?

Every team that doesn’t land a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning does this dance: Is this new QB going to be The Guy? What’s odd about the Eagles’ current situation is they thought they already solved it a few years ago. Though backup Nick Foles—himself a former Eagles QB of the future—stepped in and won the Super Bowl in 2018, the Eagles’ fate was tied to Wentz. Foles returned to the bench the season after the Super Bowl. Wentz signed a deal that guaranteed him $107 million in the summer of 2019.

But then Wentz got hurt in last season’s playoff game. The Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts last spring, surprising everyone. Wentz was not just the worst QB in the league this season, but his numbers put him among some of the worst QB seasons in modern history. The Eagles finally benched Wentz midway through a loss to the Packers earlier this month.

Sunday morning, Adam Schefter reported that Wentz was “not interested” in being a backup quarterback. “Wentz is not pleased with the way events have unfolded in the organization, according to sources,” he wrote. Later in the day, longtime Philly AP reporter and former reality TV star Rob Maaddi reported Wentz would like to stay.

The Eagles front office may not care as much about Wentz’s Christian-themed food charity or his friends. It would be complicated to move on from him, though. Last week, Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski ran through the scenarios: The Eagles can’t cut Wentz without taking on nearly $60 million in dead money next season. If they were to trade Wentz, it would be the biggest dead-money cap hit in NFL history—$34 million. The Eagles would also have to find a trade partner that both needs a quarterback and has the cap space. (Kempski suggests the Patriots or the Colts.)

Still, this is the team that once had a quarterback controversy consisting of longtime starter Donovan McNabb, second-round pick Kevin Kolb, and post-prison Michael Vick. The Eagles once literally had to consult the National Humane Society on their quarterback situation. This time seems a little easier.

And Jalen Hurts almost certainly isn’t going to end up like Bobby Hoying. But now the Eagles have to find out if he’s going to end up like Carson Wentz.