Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon may have a better feel for Jalen Hurts’ future than most quarterbacks who’ve played at the highest level.
The University of Delaware product, via St. Joe’s Prep, was a great athlete who ran Tubby Raymond’s Wing-T offense at a high level, setting 21 school records at what was then the Division I-AA level.
Gannon was such a superlative athlete that the New England Patriots selected him in the fourth round of the 1987 draft with the intent of getting him into camp and shiting his position to either running back, wide receiver, or defensive back.
Gannon, though, had other ideas and wanted an opportunity to at least try QB before changing lanes. He was unhappy that the Pats didn’t take him seriously prompting a quick trade to Minnesota, which agreed to give him a shot to lead a team and needed a developmental prospect as things were winding down for both Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson.
Bu 1990 Gannon was the Vikings’ starting QB and on a slow and steady race toward improvement over the years which finally plateaued in Oakland where Gannon turned into an MVP late in his career en route to a Super Bowl XXXVII appearance.
By the time it was over Gannon had 17 professional seasons under his belt as an NFL QB, almost a validation to the thesis of player development being real at the professional level, at least for a prior generation.
Fast forward to the Eagles in 2022 with Jalen Hurts.
In many ways Hurts had Gannon beat entering the league because there was no one seriously mulling positional changes for the current Philadelphia signal caller when he was taken No. 53 overall in 2020.
Appearing on JAKIB Sports’ Sports Take, Gannon sees a young player still learning as Hurts gets set to open his third professional season and his second as the starter in Philadelphia and offered a mine-scouting report.
“If you go back and look at the last [two] years he leads the National Football League in throwaways. He’s just not going to take a negative play. He’s not going to take a sack or a fumble. He throws the ball away and so I think that’s the thing with Jalen Hurts, he has to understand what he’s really good at. He has to also understand what his efficiencies are and spend a little bit more time working on those parts of his game,” Gannon told JAKIB Sports.
Gannon also noted that the familiarity of being in the same system, something Hurts hasn’t had since his dad was coaching him in high school, will help.
“I think the Eagles and particularly the offensive staff, they have a better understanding of who he is, what he does well,” said Gannon. “You’ve got to build game plans around that trying to really accentuate what he does and try and cover up some of his deficiencies.”
Experience is also a big part of the equation, according to Gannon.
“It took me until my fourth or fifth year to understand what defenses were doing to me,” Gannon admitted. “It does take a while. I mean there’s a process. I think for the quarterbacks in particular. I think understanding protections, having the freedom and flexibility at the line of scrimmage to change plays.
“I mean when you’re going up against a young quarterback like Jalen Hurts it’s a lot different than playing against a Drew Brees or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, you know guys that have been in the same system for 12 or 14 years.”
The game eventually slows down for those who make it far enough in the journey.
“I mean the game slows down,” said Gannon. “Their eyes are able to see the entire field. You’re able to anticipate. You’re able to get out of bad plays. I tell young quarterbacks all the time, there are only about 60-65 plays, offensive snaps in a game and if you waste three or four of them that’s way too many.”
Being a really good QB is all about consistency, according to Gannon. Not only from year to year or week to week but from play to play.
“You have to make every play count,” he said before launching into an example, “So we have a strong side run called. They’ve got a strong side overload with [a LB or safety in the box]. “You gotta get out of it. You gotta get us into a better play.”
Gannon saw plenty of positives from Hurts last season but also plenty of room for continued improvement.
“I think [Hurts] made some improvements last year. I think the anticipation, and the accuracy was a bit better. I think, like a lot of young quarterbacks with that skill set, with his athleticism, his ability to create and manufacture some offense. He’s got to learn just to slow his feet down to really slow his mind down and function and operate.”
The two things coaches can’t tolerate are MAs and MEs — missed assignments and mental errors — according to Gannon.
And then comes the evaluation from the organization itself which has to be accurate when it comes to the game’s most important position.
“If you don’t have a quarterback you’re better off selling life insurance,” Gannon smiled.
-John McMullen is the managing editor of JAKIBSports.com and covers the Eagles and the NFL for JAKIB Sports. You can reach John on Twitter at @JFMcMullen or by emailing JMcMullen44@gmail.com