The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Washington Football Team 20-14 on Sunday night. As a result of that outing, the latter squad clinched an NFC East title and playoff berth, while the New York Giants saw their season come to an abrupt end.
Because of the massive ramifications of Sunday’s game, the general expectation was that both teams participating would play extremely hard. That did not end up being the case.
Late in the fourth quarter and with a win still very much within reach, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson benched starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and inserted third-stringer Nate Sudfeld.
The move was met with immediate criticism from Hurts – and he wasn’t alone.
According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “many Eagles players and coaches were shocked and outraged” by Pederson’s decision.
It got so bad at one point that “two defensive players had to be held back from approaching Pederson.”
After the game, Pederson insisted that he hadn’t purposely been trying to throw the game.
“Yes, I was coaching to win,” he said.
Paulina Gretzky knows what she’s doing.https://t.co/zfKrfjY8iP
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 3, 2021
“Yes, that was my decision solely. Nate has obviously been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.
“Listen, if there’s anything out there that thinks that I was not trying to win the game, [Zach] Ertz is out there, Brandon Graham is out there, Darius Slay is out there. All our top guys are still on the field at the end. We were going to win the game.”
While Pederson’s has remained steadfast in his version of events, it’s hard to ignore the practical implications of his decision to bench Hurts.
Now we know what Mike Leach was up to while his team was brawling on the field. https://t.co/W6IYAcAdp3
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 1, 2021
By doing what he did, Pederson reduced the amount of punishment that Hurts, the Eagles’ quarterback of the future, was forced to endure in a meaningless game. Beyond that, he also helped Philly secure the No. 6 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Had the Eagles won their Sunday night showdown, they would have walked away with the No. 9 overall selection. That’s a big difference.
Pederson, despite what some may believe, is paid to take the organization’s short and long term interests into account. And losing a meaningless game late in the year to secure better draft positioning was objectively the right call from that standpoint.