Jalen Hurts arrived at his press conference Wednesday afternoon in his usual stoic fashion. Hurts had spent the morning attending meetings as the Eagles prepared to host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday.
The 24-year-old quarterback was apparently so deep into his preparations that he wasn’t aware he had been named a finalist for the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award.
“I didn’t know that,” Hurts said of being a finalist. “We put the work in. I think it’s a cool honor. I don’t really have much to say about it. I don’t know, I’m at a loss of words for it, to be honest.”
The other four finalists, as announced Wednesday by the NFL, are quarterbacks Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs), Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills), and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
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Hurts also is one of three finalists for Offensive Player of the Year, along with Mahomes and Jefferson.
Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was named a finalist for Assistant Coach of the Year. The other finalists are 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, a former Eagle, and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
The winners, to be determined by a panel of 50 sports writers chosen by the AP, will be announced during the NFL Honors awards event Feb. 9.
In other award news, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was named the winner of Maxwell Football Club’s Greasy Neale Professional Coach of the Year Award while Hurts won the Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year Award.
“Jalen deserves it,” wide receiver DeVonta Smith said. “He comes in and does the things he needs to do every day. He’s been the leader of this team. He deserves it for sure. Fifteen-and-one with Jalen as our quarterback. The results speak for themselves.”
Tight end Dallas Goedert added: “I think he should win it. He’s been the biggest piece of what we’ve done this year. He’s been incredible all year. It’s an incredible thing for him to be up there. Hopefully he gets all [the votes].”
Hurts showed dramatic improvement in his third season. He led the Eagles to a league-high 14 regular-season wins and the NFC’s top playoff seed in his second year as the full-time starter. In addition to his 3,701 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, Hurts added 760 yards on the ground and 13 rushing touchdowns. His 35 total touchdowns tied Randall Cunningham for most in a single season in franchise history.
In addition to his MVP candidacy, Hurts also was named to the Pro Bowl and selected as a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
Asked if he’s had a chance to reflect on his success this season, Hurts offered a pointed reply: “It’s not the time for me to reflect on all that because I’m not done.”
With Hurts under center, the offense flourished. Smith and fellow wideout A.J. Brown became the first duo in franchise history to each record 1,000-plus receiving yards. Both receivers are hoping to make an impact this weekend as the Eagles prepare for a 49ers defense that boasts playmakers across every level.
The 49ers rank first in total defense (300.6 yards allowed per game) and points per game (16.3).
“They’re really good all across the board,” Hurts said. “It starts off with their front seven, and then having a really good defensive back group. They fly to the ball. They’re disruptive at every position. They’re well-coached. We have a task, a really big challenge in front of us. As always, we want to go out there and execute, and be efficient.
“I have a desire to win. I try to be diligent with everything. I try to be the best teammate and leader I can be. I try to set the pace and set the temperature in the room. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of sacrifice. It takes a lot of trust. Ultimately, all those things bring respect. As a team, we’ve come a very long way. ... We just want to continue this journey.”