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Tuesday February 7th, 2023 3:40PM

Hurts puts MVP talk behind him, focuses on NFC title game

By The Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Asked about being an NFL Most Valuable Player finalist, Jalen Hurts revealed, “I didn’t know.” Nick Sirianni pounded his fist on a table in mock disgust and cracked “Oh man!” when queried about his finalist snub for Coach of the Year.

In other words, individual awards don’t mean a whole lot this week in Philly.

Not when there’s a Super Bowl to win.

The trophy is within reach for the Eagles as they head into the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Sirianni and several Eagles stumped for Hurts to win MVP in the wake of The Associated Press award finalists being announced Wednesday. Hurts took a moment to soak in having his name in the mix with fellow quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow as a candidate for the NFL’s highest individual prize. No Eagle has won MVP since QB Norm Van Brocklin in 1960.

“I think it’s a cool honor,” Hurts said. “I don’t really have much to say about it. I’m at a loss of words, to be honest.”

Hurts put up numbers in the regular season worthy of such consideration: Philadelphia went 14-1 in his starts and he had 3,701 yards passing, 760 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns combined. He led the Eagles to the top seed in the NFC and a playoff victory over the New York Giants.

“I hope Jalen wins it,” Sirianni said. “You want that for your players. He’s had a great year.”

The funny thing is, Hurts’ MVP push may have been aided by results in the games he didn’t play. The Eagles went 0-2 when Hurts sat out two late-season games because of a sprained right shoulder. The message was clear as they stumbled behind backup Gardner Minshew — what kind of team would they be without Hurts?

“I think he should win it,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “I think he’s been the biggest piece of what we’ve done this year.”

Hurts is still achy in his right shoulder — he told FOX Sports before the win over the Giants that he was “nowhere near 100%” — but it didn’t show on the field. He went 7 of 7 for 89 yards in the first quarter, threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score in the 38-7 romp.

Hurts brushed off questions about his health again Wednesday.

“I’ve felt better, but it doesn’t really matter,” Hurts said. “I’ve got to get it done.”

Much has been made of the fact that 49ers QB Brock Purdy is just a 23-year-old rookie as he makes only his second career postseason start. Hurts, though, is just 24 and playing in his first NFC title game.

No one on the Eagles expects the moment to swallow Hurts. Hurts wore a Michael Jordan “I’m Back” shirt into Lincoln Financial Field for the season finale, in a nod to both of their comebacks (Hurts from the shoulder injury; Jordan from retirement). Sirianni hasn’t been shy about comparing Hurts’ competitiveness to Jordan's famed fierceness. Jordan, of course, won six NBA championships. Hurts so far has an NFC East title.

“The things that Michael Jordan, you were able to see a lot of things about him in ‘The Last Dance’ about his competitiveness and about just his desire and will to win,” Sirianni said. “So when you make that comparison, you think, the first thing, as good as he’s played this year, as well as he’s run the football, as well as he’s thrown the football, reading defenses, accurate throws, as well as he’s done all that, what you notice first about him is his will to win, his competitive drive.”

Modest at the podium, Hurts has a different fire in the locker room and on the field.

“I try and set the pace, set the temperature of the room,” he said.

That’s one reason why he’s an MVP candidate. He also is in the running for Offensive Player of the Year. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was a finalist for AP Assistant Coach of the Year.

New York’s Brian Daboll, Jackonville’s Doug Pederson and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan are the finalists for AP Coach of the Year award. Sirianni went 3-0 against Daboll and the Giants this season. Sirianni beat Pederson and the Jaguars in October.

There’s only one more name on the list to knock off.

“Those awards are nice. I’m really happy for Jalen and Shane that they’re on that,” Sirianni said. “But we have obviously much bigger things ahead and on our sights than individual awards.”

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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