GLENDALE — Much as around 70,000 people rushed into State Farm Stadium to watch Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes go head to head, seemingly just as many reporters scrambled from Platform No. 1 to Platform No. 2 in a media interview room when there was an announcement that Hurts’ postgame press conference would not be where the media members expected it to be.
Tripods, cameras and lighting kits were quickly hauled in hand, as reporters flocked across the room to await Hurts — a star player whose pull has been paralleled by few others, wherever he goes and with whomever.
It was true at Alabama, where Nick Saban named him a team captain as a true freshman ahead of actualizing a 26-2 record and two National Championship appearances as a multi-year starter.
It was true at Oklahoma, where then-coach Lincoln Riley welcomed him to lead the Sooners to the College Football Playoff as a Heisman hopeful after he’d lost the Crimson Tide’s starting job as a junior.
And it is true in Philadelphia, where Nick Sirianni has trusted him enough in a two-year span to become the Most Valuable Player candidate and locker-room catalyst who carried the Eagles back to the Super Bowl fewer than three years removed from the franchise’s second-worst record since the turn of the century.
This was the person Sunday whose perspicacity on the stand arguably rivaled what Sirianni pegged as the “best game” he’s played in an Eagles uniform, even in what ended as a 38-35 loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl 57.
Hurts had himself another “teachable moment” to add to an already long list.
“I think the beautiful part about it is everyone experiences different pains,” Hurts said. “Everyone experiences different agonies of life, but you decide if you want to learn from it.
“I know what I’ll do.”
In the week leading up to perhaps the biggest game of his life to this point, Hurts reflected on the reading that rang true during his deepest of disappointments — at Alabama, Oklahoma and now presumably Philadelphia. It was a Bible verse: John 13:7.
“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand,” it reads.
It is more than an affirmation. It is the affirmation that Hurts said has protected his patience and steadied his strength through the toughest trials, all of which have given him the power to build a proven body of work. There may be no better way to consistently affect change amid strife than by doing so over and over and over again, and being able to say, I have done this before and can do it again.
To Hurts, the process of progress is more valuable than the progress itself.
“Everything that I want to do is just quantify my work, just quantify the work that I put in,” Hurts said Thursday. “I don’t really like to look at the results … just the process of getting better.
“I had a purpose before everybody had an opinion.”
For what it’s worth, those opinions probably should have shifted in the last 24 hours. Mahomes said as much, and for good reason.
As dynamic as usual, Hurts dominated in and out of the pocket as much as he did past the line of scrimmage on scrambles and designed runs. Passing 27 of 38 for 304 yards and a touchdown, the dual-threat signal-caller also used his legs to add the most rushing yards by a quarterback in Super Bowl history (70) and three touchdowns — tying the Super Bowl record set by legendary Broncos running back Terrell Davis. Plus, when the Eagles needed a two-point conversion to knot the score at 35 with 5:15 to go, he improvised on a wide-developing quarterback power play by splitting several defenders to stretch the ball beyond the goal line.
“If there was any doubters left, there shouldn’t be now,” Mahomes said. “The way he stepped on this stage and ran, threw the ball, whatever it took for his team to win, I mean, that was a special performance. I don’t want it to get lost in the loss that they had.
“You make sure you appreciate that when you look back on this game.”
In hindsight, some on social media appear to be stuck on his second-quarter fumble that led to Nick Bolton’s game-tying scoop and score. And Hurts even admitted it was costly. But after 60 minutes of football, there were many other plays made by the Chiefs and missed by the Eagles that facilitated the final.
Such was a reoccurring sentiment in postgame interviews.
“Everybody’s going to want theirs back, but you don’t get them back,” said Jason Kielce, the Eagles center and team captain.
The loss will linger throughout the city of Philadelphia in the coming days or even weeks to start an offseason that will shape the future of the franchise.
While Hurts may be in line for a massive contract extension before entering the final season of his four-year rookie deal, the Eagles have a notable number of starters and key depth players with expired contracts. The list includes three starters on offense — running back Miles Sanders, right guard Isaac Seumalo and Kelce — and six on defense — defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, defensive end Brandon Graham, cornerback James Bradberry, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and linebacker Kyzir White — as well as several significant reserves in safety Marcus Epps, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and defensive end Robert Quinn among others.
“Howie Roseman has a lot of work this offseason,” Kelce said. “There’s a lot of free agents and a lot of guys coming up. That’s one of the things that’s frustrating is obviously we knew as a team that it was going to look very different the next year and there are a lot of guys that have been here for a long time.”
It’s possible that the three veteran Eagles who walked out for Sunday’s coin toss won’t return: Kelce, Cox and Graham. They each were drafted by the organization and have been part of it for more than a decade. The franchise’s lone Super Bowl win in 2017-18 was due in large part to their contributions.
And their tenures could conclude in a matter of months.
Not to mention, Roseman and Sirianni will have at least one coordinator role to fill after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Monday that offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is set to soon finalize a deal to become the Colts’ new head coach. Earlier Sunday, Schefter also said defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is expected to have an opportunity to interview for the Cardinals’ head coach vacancy this week.
“You wanted that because you know every year, it’s a different team,” Graham said of the added motivation to win with this year’s collection of players and coaches. “I think Howie and everybody upstairs does a great job of knowing who they need to bring back, knowing where we can go in the draft, but it would’ve been so nice having that parade while we all could still be together for this year.
“I’ll never forget this team.”
Still, the roster and staff turnover is a reality all franchises are faced with. Survival is often predicated on stability at quarterback. Signs say Hurts can be that steadying force for the Eagles.
“It wasn’t just this game,” Sirianni said. “It was this entire season that he’s shown to be a special leader, a special player. I’m sure glad he’s our quarterback.”