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Grotz: Hurts’ inability to keep his mates happy undercut his leadership qualities

The question came out of nowhere Tuesday and caught Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni off guard at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis: Does quarterback Jalen Hurts need to be more of a vocal leader this season?

Standard combine stuff, you know.

Sirianni had to be wondering what he’d done to deserve that outlier.

“There’s not a book that is written on ‘this is how you lead,’ ” Sirianni said.

Not a book, but several books. Off the top of my head are: “How to Lead,” “Who You Are Is How You Lead,” “Lead Like It Matters,” “Dare To Lead,” “Lead The Way,” “How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge…”

Sirianni went on to make personal points about leadership which I’ve always believed is overrated in the NFL because leadership in the ultimate bottom line sport is about winning. You can be the most vile, self-centered piece of you know what and still be a guy players and coaches rally around if your performance produces victories. The league has a ton of those guys. But it’s also loaded with talented, law abiding, solid citizens who generally are the type of guys you’d like to be your neighbor.

Think Michael Vick after he did his time for dog fighting. In all my years on the beat, no Eagles quarterback was more competitive, accommodating, and inspirational. Not even Nick Foles.

Anyway, there was Sirianni providing his definition of leadership in the town where he worked before becoming head coach of the Eagles. Talk about what comes around, goes around. Fairly interesting remarks, too, considering the epic collapse of his team last season. Stop me if you’ve heard this but the Eagles lost six of their last seven games, including a playoff, after a 10-1 start.

“People lead in different ways,” Sirianni said. “One thing I learned early about in leadership is that you have to be yourself, because if you lead and you’re trying to be somebody you’re not, that gets seen through. That’s the same scenario I was put in when I became the head coach or an offensive coordinator or whatever it was. Everybody has to lead their way, and Jalen has special qualities that people will follow, and people will want to follow. And he’s got to do what he needs to do to lead in that way. Some people’s leadership style is loud and aggressive. Some people’s leadership style is by example. And some it’s a mixture of both.”

Gotcha. Clearly Hurts was at his leadership zenith during his near MVP 2022 season. The man rushed for 13 touchdowns in the regular season and five in the playoffs, including a Super Bowl record three scores in the ultimate game. Then there’s the Tush Push, which is unstoppable. Nothing like a quarterback sneak to rally the guys around you. All of that is the way Hurts leads along with the skills to make off script plays and throws mortal quarterbacks can only dream of cashing.

That does not mean Hurts can only lead when he runs. Far from it. He leads when his runs make the offense successful. And last year he wasn’t ready to take the next step, nor were the coaches around him.

More than anything, Hurts and the coaching staff failed to keep the weapons around him happy. Remember when A.J. Brown went on a pass-catching tear after throwing a tantrum on the sideline? He wasn’t getting the football, and he let his QB know. The Eagles had a pretty good two-man game going on with Brown catching and D’Andre Swift running the football.

When the opposition took away Brown, Hurts and the play-callers were lost, and the Philly sideline turned into must-see TV for the networks. Brown stared down Hurts and Sirianni, who tried to patch up the quarrels.  On another occasion DeVonta Smith attempted to mediate. Center Jason Kelce became animated. The drama ended in a 32-9 loss to the Buccaneers with tight end Dallas Goedert, who never complains, standing up and pointing his finger at Hurts. Goedert didn’t walk away until quarterback Marcus Mariota intervened.

That’s as ugly as it’s been for Hurts in his tour with the Eagles. Again, asking Sirianni if Hurts needs to change his leadership style and be more vocal this season is kind of silly because Hurts is a guy who leads by example. Through those Tush Push conversions. Through those red zone rushing scores. Through the off-schedule plays. There are only so many times you can tell the guys the rent is due every day.

Sirianni sees the leadership thing the way I do judging by his remarks about Brown, who just cannot seem to embrace the media the way Kelce has (no word on the pivot coming back but consider him retired).

“You look at the stats and you look at what A.J.’s done in a two-year span,” Sirianni said. “He’s had the two most productive years ever as an Eagles wide receiver. Man, like when you have one of your best players being also one of your best leaders, that’s special.”

Winning is leadership. Let’s not fool ourselves that it’s something else.

Contact Bob Grotz at rgrotz@delcotimes.com


Source: Berkshire mont

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