Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Geno Smith silence critics

Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa shouldn’t hear about their teams pursuing other quarterbacks anymore.

The former Alabama teammates continued their MVP-caliber seasons with spectacular performances Sunday. They’ve silenced critics who questioned their ability to be franchise quarterbacks and are setting themselves up for huge contract extensions in the offseason.

Geno Smith is another QB who has proved people wrong this season. A full-time starter for the first time since 2014, the 32-year-old Smith has the surprising Seahawks (5-3) leading the NFC West.

Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 7-0 start following a 35-13 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tagovailoa again rallied Miami from a double-digit, second-half deficit in a 31-27 victory over the Detroit Lions. The Dolphins (5-3) are undefeated in the five games Tagovailoa has finished. He missed 2 1/2 games with a concussion.

Hurts threw four touchdown passes of 25-plus yards against the Steelers, including three to A.J. Brown in the first half. He has 1,514 yards passing and 10 TDs with only two interceptions. Hurts also has run for 293 yards and three scores.

The biggest question mark surrounding the Eagles entering the season centered on Hurts. They made the playoffs last year mainly because they had the best rushing offense in the NFL with Hurts leading the way. They were blown out by the Buccaneers in a wild-card game and knew they needed to improve their passing attack to compete for a championship.

The team considered trading for a quarterback in an offseason that saw Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson and several other big-name QBs switch uniforms. But Philly stuck with Hurts for another season and the third-year pro has been outstanding.

He still hasn’t even reached his potential.

“Jalen is the type of guy that’s going to continue to get better because of the type of person he is, the type of football IQ he has, the football character he has, the toughness he has, how much he loves football,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I was always taught those are the types of guys that reach their ceiling. I don’t know if we know what his ceiling will be. I know this: He’s getting better every day and he’s committed to that. That’s a good thing for the rest of your team when your best players and captain is getting better every day.”

Hurts is also a bargain. A second-round pick in 2020 who replaced Carson Wentz as the starter late in that season, Hurts is making $1.6 million. A total of 53 QBs make more.

“He’s not focused on what his next contract might be or what we’re going to do in three weeks or what the outcome of this season is or anything like that,” Sirianni said.

Just don’t ask Hurts to talk about himself.

“People don’t see the work that’s put in, not just by me individually but. … by everybody,” Hurts said. “It takes work. It’s a grind. The beautiful thing about this team is that we’ve grinded together.”

Hurts led Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman in 2016 only to lose to Clemson. He took them back to the national title game against Georgia the following season but was benched at halftime and watched Tagovailoa lead a comeback win. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma for his senior season and finished runnerup to Joe Burrow for the Heisman Trophy.

Now, he’s the man in Philly.

Tagovailoa left Alabama after suffering a serious hip injury during his junior season, was drafted by the Dolphins fifth overall in 2020 and went 13-8 in his first two seasons. Still, there’s been plenty of doubt about his future in Miami.

The Dolphins pursued Watson before the 2021 trade deadline and were penalized for tampering with Tom Brady after the season. Left with Tagovailoa, they surrounded him with more talent, acquiring star receiver Tyreek Hill in a blockbuster trade to team with Jaylen Waddle.

Hill has been dynamic, helping Tagovailoa take his game to another level. Despite battling injuries and a concussion, Tagovailoa has 1,678 yards passing, 12 TDs, only three picks and a passer rating of 112.7.

Tagovailoa was sensational against the Lions on Sunday, completing 29 of 36 for 382 yards and three TDs.

“That was a game that we all know he’s capable of,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “He was relentless during the game with worrying about the right stuff. I didn’t see him press and make forced decisions. He took what was there and protected the ball while being aggressive.”

Like Hurts, he’s not satisfied.

“The greatest thing about this game is that you can never get content,” Tagovailoa said. “You have to continue to keep growing. We’ll go and watch the film and look at things that we could’ve done better. So, that’s the best part about it.”

Smith tossed two TD passes and played another error-free game for Seattle in a 27-13 win over the New York Giants.

Playing for his fourth team, Smith was considered a placeholder for the rebuilding Seahawks until the team finds a franchise QB. So far, he’s outplayed the superstar he replaced — Wilson — and has resurrected his career after starting only five game in the previous six seasons.

Smith has thrown for 1,924 yards with a 72.3 completion percentage, 13 TDs and just three interceptions for a 107.2 passer rating.

“He’s the real deal,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “There’s no mystery he’s going to run out of gas or something. It’s not like that. He knows exactly what he’s doing and he shows you week in and week out, throw after throw after throw. There’s nothing for us to hold him but in the highest of expectations really. What a thrilling story for the kid. He just hung in there so tough and outlasted it, and now he’s enjoying all the fun of it. He did great.”

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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