The Philadelphia Eagles are facing two big external questions heading into the 2021 NFL season: Do they have the right quarterback and head coach to return to relevance?
Nick Sirianni was the surprise replacement for head coach Doug Pederson, who was let go in January despite leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl title a mere three years earlier.
Jalen Hurts was the surprise second-round draft pick in 2020 who replaced QB Carson Wentz late last season.
Both Hurts and Sirianni were considered untraditional candidates for head jobs in the NFL by some other franchises. Now they represent possible hope in Philadelphia — even if not everyone is convinced they'll be a dream pairing.
Hurts doesn't appear too concerned with public perception. He spoke with Yahoo Sports on Tuesday to discuss his new offense, his relationship with his new offensive coaches and also what his former Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith might provide as a rookie.
At Alabama, Hurts played with three different offensive coordinators (four if you count Steve Sarkisian's one-game service in that role). Then Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, where he played in a new system under Lincoln Riley.
Entering Year 2 in the NFL, Hurts is now learning another brand-new system under Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. This year's offense, Hurts said, contains elements of his past systems. His biggest focus now is trying to see things through his new coaches' eyes and carry out the play calls as best he can with the talent he has.
"It's been a mixture of a few different things," Hurts said. "I've had a different play-caller every year for the last six years. But coming into this year, I feel like I've built a great relationship with coach Steichen and Coach Sirianni. It's a daily grind to always make sure we're on the same page and that we're seeing everything the same.
"We just want to go out there and attack, play physical football and execute."
Jalen Hurts not fazed by talk of him being a temporary starter
Hurts isn't concerned about the perception that the Eagles might not have Hurts in their long-term plans, having traded for 20-game starter Gardner Minshew (a player who almost transferred to Alabama to back up Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa in 2018) and owning a trove of high draft picks in 2022.
What Hurts is leaning on is his equanimity — a trait that served him well in a successful college career, as well as late last season when he was thrust into the starting lineup for four games with the Eagles still in a playoff race. Although Hurts' numbers were both good and bad, it's hard to say he looked overwhelmed by the heft of it.
"Before you master or conquer a situation, you have to conquer yourself," he said of his mental approach. "You have to conquer your mind. I've always had the mindset of keeping the main thing the main thing. Never getting too high, never getting too low.
"It comes from my childhood, it comes from the things I was around as a child."
Help on the way from an old friend?
If Hurts is successful this season, it's likely because he received some assistance from Smith, the team's first-round wide receiver this year.
Hurts and Smith played together for two seasons at Alabama, and though Hurts was only the starter in Smith's true-freshman year, he sees the same kind of composure in the rookie as he does in his own approach.
"Smitty has always been a smooth, cool, calm and collected guy," Hurts said. "Always been a blue-collar guy. Always came in and did his job and worked really hard."
Smith was limited by a knee sprain in training camp and played a mere 26 snaps in the preseason, all of them coming in the second game against the New England Patriots. His production (two catches, 19 yards) wasn't that eye-opening for a first-round pick who could become the team's go-to receiver this season.
But Hurts believes that Smith's business-like approach — something Smith himself spoke extensively about this week — will serve him well in preparing the receiver for the season heading into the opener at the Atlanta Falcons.
"I've always had a respect for his game and how he goes about his business," Hurts said. "We're going to need everybody."