Birds Of A Feather
Eagles QB Room Ultra Competitive
PHOENIX – Inside the Komatke Ballroom of the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, Ian Book slouched in his chair, almost as if fatigued. Even mildly dejected.
Book would soon confess to falling to teammate Gardner Minshew in their latest competition, much to the chagrin of the second-year quarterback.
“We just played ping-pong,” Book said. “That’s why I’m sweating. I just lost to frickin’ Gardner in ping-pong.”
Whether it’s ping-pong, playing P-I-G on Fridays and Saturdays during the season, or even Book and Minshew standing for five minutes in the cold tub up to their necks to see who who’ll concede first, competition has strengthened the camaraderie within the Eagles quarterback room.
“We’ll play some ping-pong, we’ll play some P-I-G,” Minshew confirmed. “But it’s not as competitive – I mean, Ian is just, like, not good.”
Even in the midst of an MVP race, when the margin for error narrows significantly and scrutiny is often akin to a pressure cooker, Jalen Hurts would also get in on the action.
“For sure, man,” Minshew said. “He’s competitive and he loves winning.”
The chemistry between Minshew and Hurts can be explained by the fact that the two set to wrap up their second season together.
In contrast, Book was added to the position room this season at the eleventh hour.
A New Orleans Saints fourth-round selection in 2021, Book found himself in a numbers crunch last August, with the Saints opting to carry just two quarterbacks in veterans Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton.
The initial plan was for Book to return to the Saints’ practice squad, where they would continue to nurture, develop, and refine his athletic skill set – provided he cleared waivers within the 24-hour window.
In constant communication with the Saints throughout the process, Book learned before going to sleep that a couple of teams were interested in his services.
But with seemingly nothing ready to materialize, he proceeded to the Saints’ facility that day with the intention of finalizing the papers, securing his position on the team’s practice squad.
As fate had it, Book’s phone began buzzing almost simultaneously.
It was his agent, informing him that the Eagles had claimed him at precisely 11 am local time.
The 24-year-old immediately headed home to pack his essentials, then hopped on a 7 a.m. flight to Philadelphia.
Upon arrival, he passed his physical and practiced with the team that Saturday before flying back to New Orleans to pack up the rest of his belongings and close the book on his tenure with the team that drafted him.
The moving company delivered his belongings to his new home, and on the next Monday, Book was handling scout-team reps alongside Minshew, who served as a vital resource for Book during the acclimation process.
“Gardner’s been great,” Book said. “I try not to bug Jalen too much. I do ask questions, but that’s how I am. But we have a very open room, everybody talks in there. It’s pretty cool, so I feel comfortable enough to ask questions.
“And then [Assistant Quarterbacks coach/Offensive Assistant coach] Alex Tanney has been huge for me. He’s always available. I got there on game week, so I didn’t wanna bug the starters. So, kind of did my own private meetings when the day was done with Alex Tanney.”
A self-proclaimed early riser and morning enthusiast, Book is among the first of his teammates to clock in at the NovaCare Complex on a given day. The early arrival gave Book a firsthand peer into Hurts’ work ethic and dedication.
“Oh, he’s got his schedule, for sure,” Book said. “He’s one of the first people in there and last people out. I like to stay late, too, and I always see his car there, so I know he’s in there. I don’t know exactly what he’s doing, but he takes care of his body a lot, he’s studying a lot with the coaches.
“He meets with all of our coaches. Everybody’s got their own unique process. I know [Jalen] likes to get there early in the morning and do stuff. So, whatever fits you best.”
Sharing a common thread with Book and Hurts, Minshew, the elder statesman of the group, also shows up early when the trio report on Wednesdays and Thursdays, usually about 90 minutes ahead of schedule to watch film.
Minshew views their conversations in the meeting rooms as a collaborative effort aimed toward a common objective.
“I think it’s really a group thing,” Minshew said. “Me, him, Ian, Brian [Johnson], Shane [Steichen], Nick [Sirianni], Alex Tanney, all in that room, all kinda throwin’ stuff on a wall and seein’ what sticks. It’s great to work with all those guys.
“I mean everybody brings a different perspective and knowledge of the game, and we’re all workin’ towards the same goals.”
Throughout what’s been a remarkable season for Hurts, who made the quantum leap few expected he’d make in his second season as a full-time starter, the third-year quarterback’s impact and preparation most resonated with Book.
“I try to emulate a lot of his plays he makes on the move,” Book acknowledged. “That’s kind of how my game has been since I’ve been playing. The way he sees the field and reads the field, I like to watch his footwork and take a lot of footwork stuff away from him, too.”
As someone who has closely worked alongside Hurts throughout the season, Book wasn’t surprised to see his teammate propel the Eagles to within one game of achieving their ultimate goal.
But as Book will tell you, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to Hurts’ unique talents.
“Just his determination,” Book said. “He wants to be the best, get one percent better every single day. He’s extremely mature for his age, handles himself great, and I think he really just wants to be the best ever. He’s an extremely focused person.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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