Jalen Hurts is PSWA Pro Athlete of the Year
Before playing one training-camp snap and without muttering one word, A.J. Brown would place the 2022 Eagles season in perspective. All it would take was a black ball cap with white lettering.
Showing up for his first formal workouts at the NovaCare Complex, Brown’s headwear featured the message, “HURTS SZN,” shorthand for what everyone in the NFL had come to understand: For the Eagles to continue to grow as contenders, they would a capital-letter season from Jalen Hurts.
So it would happen that Hurts would lead the Eagles to a 14-3 regular season, the NFC East championship and the top seed in NFC tournament with a season spectacular enough to win the honor of Outstanding Professional Athlete for 2022 from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.
In becoming a strong candidate for NFL MVP, Hurts, who would miss two starts with a shoulder injury, completed 306 of 460 passes for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 760 yards and 13 scores.
At 24, he was the second-youngest quarterback in NFL history to win 14 regular-season games, behind only 14-2 Dan Marino in 1984 at the age of 23. Hurts was 14-1 as a starter.
“I will,” Jason Kelce said, “go to war with that guy.”
After growing from a 2020 second-round draft choice into a 2021 Pro Bowl alternate, Hurts entered the season with new expectations of greatness and, the Eagles had hoped, a championship. He was ready from the start.
“The work comes first every day,” he said. “You take it day by day. You just grow with time, getting everything together so we can all be on the same page.”
Early in 2022, Hurts had quarterbacked the Eagles into the playoffs after throwing for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns, adding 10 rushing touchdowns. That production would be expected to increase after Howie Roseman traded the No. 18 overall pick in the draft to Tennessee for Brown, a good friend of Hurts. With that – and Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith and Miles Sanders – Hurts was nicely fitted with accomplished teammates at the standard skill positions.
As Hurts grew from an accomplished starter to an MVP possibility, he helped one receiver, DeVonta Smith, set a club record for receptions, while assisting Brown to establish one for receiving yards.
“The guy is up for MVP,” Nick Sirianni said. “Why? He does everything right.”
The Eagles long have had confidence in the 2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up to Joe Burrow, even if they had been caught a few times perhaps since peeking at alternatives. But just days after last season, Roseman made it clear that Hurts was his 2022 quarterback and, despite some raging public skepticism, kept that promise.
The payoff was one of the greatest seasons ever from an Eagles quarterback, one highlighted by a 40-33 victory over Green Bay in which he rushed for 157 yards, the franchise record for a quarterback.
“I had faith in him all along,” Goedert said. “Everybody in the building knew he was going to be the guy. There was never a question in any of our minds. Throwing with him all offseason, he was slinging that thing, zipping it. And then you start camp and he is making checks, reads and throws on time, going through his progressions, hitting the open guy. It’s fun to see and fun to play with when you’ve got a quarterback that can do it like that.”
As he entered the season, Hurts was into the third year of a four-year $6.025 contract, meaning that without an extension he would enter next season on an expiring contract.
The season was critical to the Eagles, as it was to his financial future.
“I don’t want any of the guys to get ahead of themselves,” Hurts said. “Focus on the now and be in the moment. When we do that and communicate and try to get on the same page, I think that’s going to help us at the end.”
So he did. In Hurts Season.
By Jack McCaffery
Delaware County Daily Times
(Photo, Sports Illustrated)
***Jalen will record a video tribute to be played at our banquet