So much was different a year ago.
The world was trapped indoors, held hostage by a pandemic that, at that point, had only begun its stranglehold.
The NFL Draft was in its second day, televised courtesy of satellite images of team and league personnel inside their own homes, rather than presented at an outdoor venue in Nashville before thousands of football fans.
A lot has changed since then in the world. And, because of one fateful pick on Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft, a lot has changed with the Eagles.
They had a number of significant holes to fill on their roster: safety, linebacker, offensive line. They could have even doubled up on wide receiver after drafting Jalen Reagor from TCU with the 21st pick the day before. A pick that could have helped a team that barely made the playoffs a season before, thanks to a Herculean effort down the stretch from their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Instead, they drafted another quarterback: Jalen Hurts.
This was the most 2020 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. And it happened a year ago today.
A team that had signed Wentz to one of the richest contracts in league history just 10 months prior, selected the one position they most definitely did not need.
What followed was inexplicable. Wentz had, by far, the worst season of his career. The Eagles, as a result, had their worst season in nearly a decade. And the team was forced to trade Wentz after the schism between franchise QB and head coach or front office – depending on what/whom you believe – became too great to mend.
A perennial playoff team became a disaster area. A Super Bowl-winning head coach, Doug Pederson, was kicked to the curb. And a franchise QB became a couple of future draft picks, and the largest dead money salary cap figure in NFL history – $33.8 million.
Did all of this happen because the Eagles drafted Hurts? It’s difficult to say. Wentz’s confidence was obviously shaken throughout the season, until he was benched for Hurts at halftime of the team’s Week 13 loss to the Packers.
Was Wentz distracted by the Eagles’ drafting who he viewed as direct competition, not long after cementing his place as the QB of the present and the future? If so, where does one lay the blame? With the front office, who certainly didn’t need to reach for a quarterback with a highly valuable second-round pick? Or with Wentz for viewing the Hurts pick as an undermining factor?
There’s plenty of blame to go around, and what remains is a team that took a colossal step backwards in the year since selecting Hurts. And now Hurts is the de facto franchise quarterback of a team headed nowhere anytime soon.
Now, Hurts can do plenty to change that. He can step up in his inherited QB1 role and lead a team that still has weapons on offense. Zach Ertz, for the moment, is still under contract, and has plenty of football left. He doesn’t, however, have his BFF Wentz still under center. Wentz threw Ertz more passes – by far – than any other target during his five seasons in Philadelphia.
He has Miles Sanders, who could turn out to be a solid, if not spectacular, all-around running back, if we can trust his hands again. And Hurts has the receiver selected a day before he was taken in Reagor, who will be eager to erase a rookie season that could be described as average at best.
On the steps of the Art Museum three years ago, Pederson said presciently, “This is our New Norm.” Since the 2020 Draft, and the selection of Hurts, normal seems light years away.