Jalen Hurts Will Once Again Need To Learn a New Environment

Environment highly impacts performance. For the seventh time in eight years, Jalen Hurts is entering a new one. How long will the learning curve last?

Behavior change occurs when the environment around us either reinforces or punishes our existing behaviors. When the environment changes, it forces us to find the behaviors that will make us successful, or allow us to survive in this new environment. “Performance” is another word for behavior.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, a year removed from the most successful season of his football career, will again need to find a way to behave successfully in 2023.

Jalen Hurts Has Undergone Environmental Changes Before

Coming off of their Super Bowl loss, and an MVP-worthy statistical season from Hurts, the Eagles have needed to change the team’s environment. They will have new offensive and defensive coordinators.

So, in reality, they are changing the environment of those typically responsible for creating the playing environment for the players. The question becomes, what behavior change, if any, can we expect from Hurts?

We all remember when Hurts was benched at Alabama for the second half of the National Championship Game for Tua Tagovailoa. That prompted him to voluntarily transfer to Oklahoma for his senior season, following his junior year spent as Tagovailoa’s backup.

The Alabama Years: Constant Change

At Alabama, Hurts had three different offensive coordinators. Lane Kiffin, Brian Daboll, and Steve Sarkisian. That is three different environments to adjust to in three years. Each time, his statistical production went down. His freshman season was his best, as he threw for nearly 2,800 yards and 23 touchdowns.

The following year, during an environment change, his production dropped, and he threw for barely 2,000 yards and 17 TDs. His completion percentage dropped by two points as well. This was the year he was benched in the title match. The following year, in yet another environment with a third offensive coordinator, he was primarily a backup to Tagovailoa.

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Hurts entered into a radically different environment at Oklahoma under head coach Lincoln Riley. Riley is seen as a quarterback guru. Kyler Murray was Hurts’ predecessor at Oklahoma, and Riley guided him to a Heisman trophy and the first overall selection in the NFL Draft. In this new environment, Hurts posted nearly 4,000 yards, 32 touchdowns, and a near 70% completion percentage.

Clearly, this was a fit with a coach who knew how to build an environment that would evoke the best performance of Hurts’ college career.

Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates the touchdown of running back Kenneth Gainwell (not pictured) during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field.
Nov 27, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates the touchdown of running back Kenneth Gainwell (not pictured) during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Being a Pro Has Brought More Change

Hurts entered the NFL by coming into his fifth different performance environment in five years. He didn’t play a ton as a rookie but did have 150 attempts, where he completed about half of those for six touchdowns against four interceptions. It was not a stat line that screamed bona fide franchise quarterback, but it was enough to warrant an extended look.

His second pro season brought about, you guessed it, his sixth consecutive year of environmental change. Nick Sirianni was just hired as the head coach, bringing a new system with him.

Hurts would become the full-time starter and again have mixed results. He would throw for close to 3,100 yards in 15 games with just 16 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Again, not stellar, but enough playmaking ability to warrant a “make it or break it” year as the unquestioned starter the following season.

MORE: Best Offenses in the NFL 2023 

In his third NFL campaign, Hurts would finally be in the same system for the second consecutive season, his first time since he was in high school. The results were undeniable.

Playing in 15 games, he threw for nearly 4,000 yards, over 20 touchdowns, and rushed for an additional 13 scores. He would finish second in MVP voting and lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance, in which he performed incredibly well and cemented himself among the best quarterbacks in the league. And this offseason, he signed a massive contract extension.

More Change on the Horizon for Hurts

Rather than continue to build off of that highly successful season and continue the performance development that led to incredible success, the Eagles will ask Hurts to undergo yet another environmental change in his career, his seventh in eight years.

Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen left Philadelphia in the offseason to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Hurts had a close relationship with him, and he was largely credited for Hurts’ huge jump in production this year. They hired QB coach Brian Johnson to replace him. On the one hand, this signals continuity. On the other, it is still a change in need of adjusting to.

Familiarity Is Not Equal to Fluency

Fluency is defined as the mastery of one’s environment. Where behaviors or performance occurs with limited latency, or delay, from stimulus to response. What the Eagles are doing is providing Jalen Hurts with familiarity. But that should not be confused with continued fluency.

Brian Johnson and Hurts go back years. Nearly two decades, in fact. Hurts’ dad coached Johnson in high school. When Johnson was a coach for both Mississippi State and Florida, he recruited Hurts to come play for him.

MORE: Philadelphia Eagles 2023 Schedule

Johnson had no previous coaching experience at the pro level until the Eagles hired him before the 2022 season. It was a smart move for them, as they look to add familiarity to Hurts’ environment. However, it was still Steichen coordinating and setting up the playing environment itself last year.

With Johnson now the coordinator, the assumption is the system will stay the same, and the familiarity Hurts and Johnson have with one another will pay dividends. It might. But what the Eagles need to keep the momentum moving forward is fluency. Steichen and Sirianni worked together with the Chargers. Then Steichen worked as his offensive coordinator for two years, furthering his immersion in Sirianni’s system. His fluency in that environment was apparent.

Johnson has no such fluency. He has no previous history with Sirianni, and he was only immersed in that environment for one football season. He is still trying to adapt to this new environment. Now he is being charged with keeping the environment fluent for Hurts. This will be the first time Johnson is in this environmental role with Hurts. There will be growing pains.

Hurts is likely going to see a drop-off in production this upcoming year. This does not necessarily mean that last year was his ceiling, but that there will likely be a step back. He is undergoing yet another environmental change that will require a learning curve.

The question will be how quickly he can flatten the curve and get back to where he was in 2022. Johnson is still undergoing his own learning curve, and now they will not only need to navigate new environments, but they will also need to navigate one another in new roles.

This is not something likely to doom the Eagles’ season, but we would be remiss not to be on the lookout for it, and examine how the team adjusts in these new waters so that they can remain on top in the NFC. Though, that may be a tall task.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Join the Conversation!

Related Articles