It wasn’t long ago that the Eagles were a mess. Their quarterback looked lost, their offense was disjointed and their coach was firing misguided metaphors all over the place in an effort to explain it.
Then, all of a sudden, things clicked. Jalen Hurts has settled in, the Eagles began relying on their running game, they have won three of four, and now they are the darlings of the "in the hunt" group with a seemingly clear path to the postseason.
How did they find their identity as an offense and as a team?
They figured out how to best use their assets.
It makes them a dangerous opponent for the Giants to face on Sunday, but also a terrific example of what the Giants want to become.
That players-over-plays philosophy seems to have been at the heart of coach Joe Judge’s decision to fire Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator and replace him as the in-game play-caller (presumably with senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens, though that’s not official).
Judge is so devoted to this concept that he and his coaching staff have been soliciting ideas from players as they game-plan for the Eagles.
"They kind of told us as we were going through the week that we’ve got to start figuring out and knowing what we like, because we’re going to be the ones on the field," running back Saquon Barkley said of the instructions from the staff. "If you’ve got your five top runs, come let me know your five top runs. These five plays that you know and you believe that are going to work? Let me know the play that you believe is going to work. Just be open, be honest, the plays that we like, the plays that we don’t like."
Perhaps no player in the NFL has benefited more from that kind of management than Hurts. He hasn’t necessarily become a better quarterback in the past month. It’s more that the Eagles finally embraced how best to use his skills.
"If you look at the quarterbacks that I’ve coached in the past, they’ve all been a little bit different, right?" Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, noting his past pupils in Indianapolis included Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers. "And now we have Jalen Hurts. I don’t ever like to say offensive identity because the identity that I always want to be known for is doing what the players do best."
Judge certainly approves of the Eagles’ thinking there.
"You’ve got a guy like Jalen Hurts, why take away something that’s such a strength of his?" he said of leaning into Hurts’ athleticism rather than trying to rein it in. "Find a way to utilize it and use it."
Now he has to do that for his own team. He knows he has playmakers in Barkley and Daniel Jones and Kenny Golladay (and when they are healthy, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard). The job of the offense for the rest of this season will be to find out if they can tailor their play-calling and game plans to fit them rather than the other way around.
"At this point, I think it’s just about getting the right guys in the right spot," Golladay said.
The Eagles seem to have figured that out. Maybe the Giants can, too.