With due respect to Salt Lake City NBA All-Star WeekendGlendale, Arizona is 2023.”Black Super Bowl.” A week before NBA superstars and celebrities arrive in Utah, Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes they will take the field as the first pair of black quarterbacks to start against each other in the Super Bowl.
Mahomes has been here before. Hurts won the NCAA national championship after falling to the bench in the second half, and lost one despite heroism on his part. However, he came to the Eagles as a second-round project. In 2020, ESPN’s lead cartoonist Mel Kiper Jr.planted by describing It hurts like a Taysom Hill type gadget player.
Only a small number of quarterbacks improved their status in two gamesseason time Hurts has. Two years ago, anonymous NFL talent evaluators, executives, coaches, coordinators voted Hurts as 30th best defender throughout the NFL. A few months ago, 50 voters ranked Jalen Hurts 20th among 32 running backs. According to NFL institutionalists, he was somewhere between Carson Wentz and Baker Mayfield. After becoming a leading contender for the MVP award won by Mahomes (after Hurts sprained his right shoulder) and reaching his first Super Bowl, he clearly took the top spot at quarterback.
People still don’t believe in Jalen Hurts?
Still, hesitancy remains about the credibility of the new and improved Hurts. All season long, league watchers have been waiting with bated breath for Hurts to descend from the Cloud Nine he was floating on. It never came. Since Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen took over call-up duties in the second half of the 2021 season, the Eagles have jumped.
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Hurts has turned into an offensive motherboard whose triple-threat ability to read coverage, run and pass, and decide in the moment to demobilize defenses has transformed the Eagles into a three-dimensional offense that has broken rushing touchdown records. Operating out of a clean pocket behind a superior offensive line, Hurts is a scalpel-wielding RPO master. He’ll occasionally swing the sword and decapitate defenses filling the box to stop a run with a deep bomb to DeVonta Smith or AJ Brown.
The irony of San Francisco was beaten after scratching the bottom of their depth chart where their fifth “break the glass in case of emergency” linebacker was supposed to be is that Hurts fits the archetype that Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers had in mind when they drafted Trey Lance. Having Hurts’ run to the Super Bowl buried in the Niners’ memory banks could be what keeps Lance in San Francisco for another season.
How do Mahomes and Hurts stack up?
Hurts and Mahomes represent a dichotomy in the game between mobile backs. What Mahomes does it is more difficult to replicate. He is the best side scrambler in the NFL. His habit of improvising and leading defenders into a kind of labyrinththen creating plays outside the pocket while keeping the passing threat alive until he decides to push it forward for a first down or keep it to himself is a cheat code.
Breaking through the passage reveals Hurt’s mortality. Under duress, Mahomes has an innate poise. While Hurts seems like a calculated run or tackle in efficient, straight lines, Mahomes is an abstract dancer who can get out of muddy pockets with a bleached white jersey. This season, his deep passing has been less frequent due to the void left by Tyreek Hill, but he has spread the ball to tight end Travis Kelce first, running back second and receiver third with outstanding efficiency.
And yet, with that reliance on his legs, he led the entire league in passing for the second time in five years. Through 13 playoff games, Mahomes is the all-time pacesetter for the highest-rated QB, has the lowest interception percentage, second-highest completion percentage and fourth-highest yards per attempt average. His first touchdown on a sprained ankle to beat Cincinnati was an illustration of Mahomes’ brilliance.
The meeting between Hurts and Mahomes takes place in the background of 2023 An NFL draft that will feature two black running backs coming off the board in the first two picks is evidence of the changing tides for the NFL’s prestigious position.