After the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round in 2020 — a move that “left mouths agape across the country,” NFL.com reported at the time — even then-coach Doug Pederson seemed to endorse the notion that Hurts might not be an NFL-caliber passer.
“Taysom Hill on steroids,” Pederson called Hurts, referring to the manner in which the Saints had used the run-first Hill as a complement to Drew Brees.
So what has Hurts done since then? Taken over for a clearly less-talented Carson Wentz. Taken his own lumps — in the form of continued criticism of his passing ability — while growing into the job. And now, of course, as one of the leading MVP candidates in the NFL, taken the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
Was Justin Fields watching? One hopes.
Can Justin Fields follow in Hurts’ footsteps? One prays.
Hurts will be overshadowed in Glendale, Ariz., by Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the best player on the planet, but to doubt he can hold his own on the Super Bowl 57 stage would be to ignore his path. He is the same guy who went to Alabama and, as a freshman, beat out a second-year QB who’d been Nick Saban’s top recruit ever at the position. The same guy who went 25-2 as a starter before being lifted — stunningly — for Tua Tagovailoa in a national-title game, then spent the next season as a backup so he could graduate from Alabama and finally transferred to Oklahoma and had one of the greatest statistical seasons of all time.
Fields was beaten out at Georgia before he transferred to Ohio State and became a Hurts-level college star. Like Hurts, Fields knows what it’s like to be dismissed as an NFL thrower despite having an embarrassment of physical tools. But Hurts is 16-1 as a starter this season, and if that seems a few million miles from where Fields is with the Bears, well, it is.
That doesn’t mean forever.
The 49ers falling short means no shot to tie the Patriots and Steelers with a sixth Super Bowl title, the most ever. Who gets to seven first? It could take a while. …
Ayo Dosunmu’s name keeps popping up in trade rumors. It would be kind of sad to see the Bulls guard and native South Sider have to leave his hometown behind, wouldn’t it? But Dosunmu is all business, as he famously was in college at Illinois. Wherever he is, he’ll be living at the gym. …
Honestly such an underrated Ayo Dosunmu moment. Breaking the losing streak (and starting a winning streak) against Wisconsin in Brad Davison's face pic.twitter.com/ob5oPQvXcg— Armchair Illinois (@ArmchairIllini) August 20, 2022
Illinois has owned Wisconsin since Dosunmu hit all those big shots down the stretch in 2020 to snap a 15-game losing streak against the Badgers. A 61-51 win Saturday in Madison was the Illini’s sixth straight in the series. Is it fair to say Brad Underwood’s program has surpassed Greg Gard’s? By all means, go right ahead. …
What a huge win Oklahoma got for coach Porter Moser over the weekend, blowing out No. 2 Alabama 93-69. The Sooners had lost to Texas by one point, to Iowa State by three, to Kansas by four, to Baylor by two — mercy. A breakthrough like that was coming.
“I just sat there when the crowd rushed the floor,” the ex-Loyola coach said. “My younger self might have run out in the middle of it. I just sat there and said, ‘This is the vision.’ ” …
After the Big 12 smoked the SEC in a 10-game weekend challenge between the best two conferences in the land, we can put away the debate about which is No. 1. It’s the league that won the last two national titles (Baylor, Kansas). …
My latest college basketball AP Top 25 ballot: 1. Purdue, 2. Houston, 3. Tennessee, 4. Virginia, 5. Arizona, 6. Alabama, 7. Texas, 8. Kansas State, 9. Kansas, 10. UCLA, 11. TCU, 12. Gonzaga, 13. Clemson, 14. Baylor, 15. Xavier, 16. Iowa State, 17. Marquette, 18. North Carolina, 19. San Diego State, 20. Providence, 21. Florida Atlantic, 22. Saint Mary’s, 23. NC State, 24. New Mexico, 25. Indiana.
THIS YOU GOTTA SEE
Clippers at Bulls (7 p.m. Tuesday, NBCSCH): Patrick Williams’ play has been trending up, but is “the Paw” ready to deal with “the Claw”? Because that Kawhi Leonard cat is still kind of good.
Northwestern at Iowa (8 p.m. Tuesday, BTN): Are the Wildcats an NCAA Tournament team? They’re on the bubble for now, but ending an eight-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes would get all the bracketologists stirring in their moms’ basements.
“30 for 30: Bullies of Baltimore” (7:30 p.m. Sunday, ESPN): This documentary recalls the glory of the team with the single greatest defense in NFL history, none other than your 1985 Chicago Bea … oops, sorry, make that the 2000 Ravens.
ONLY BECAUSE YOU ASKED
From Tony, via Facebook: “Why is Big Ten basketball so down this year?”
Last season’s all-Big Ten squad — Johnny Davis, Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey, Kofi Cockburn and E.J. Liddell — was a great one, and all those guys have moved on. The new batch of all-leaguers, even with the national player of the year in Purdue’s Zach Edey, doesn’t quite stack up. Let’s call that Part One.
Part Two: The best players around the league — Edey, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson — are big men, not a bad thing in itself. But the relative absence of star guards stands out, particularly in the playmaking department and especially so at some of the league’s traditionally powerful programs. Illinois doesn’t have a point guard. Indiana and Michigan lost their point guards to injuries. Most of the best facilitators in the Big Ten aren’t surrounded by Top 25 talent.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
Brock Purdy: It’s a great nickname and all, but the NFC Championship Game is high on the list of the worst possible times to be “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Josh Johnson: Pretty amazing that the 36-year-old quarterback has played for a record 14 NFL teams. If only the 49ers were one of them.
Schadenfreude: You know who’s only 35? Colin Kaepernick. I’d crack wise about that, but it wouldn’t be nice.
Matt Painter: Purdue’s Edey was a bucket short of 40 points Sunday when his coach subbed him back in with a huge lead on Michigan State and a couple of minutes left to play. We’re sure Tom Izzo appreciated the heck out of that maneuver.
Joel Embiid: You’ve got to feel for the 76ers big man. After being snubbed when All-Star Game starters were announced, all the poor son of a gun has left is a supermax contract, the NBA scoring lead and a still-perfect career record against the Bulls.