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Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson benched quarterback Jalen Hurts in a winnable game. Read all about the decision's backlash here.

What was that quarterback swap out during the Eagles game about?

In a debilitating loss, the Eagles fell to the Washington Football Team, losing 20-14 to cap off a crappy season.  Thanks to some equally terrible quarterback play the Eagles had a terrible season going 4-11-1 and had been eliminated from playoff contention the previous week. But to many in and around the NFL, New York Jets coach Herm Edwards’ exclaimed in a 2002 press conference, “You play to win the game! You don’t play to just to play it!” 

In a surprising move, Head Coach Doug Pederson pulled rookie starter Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld. Despite contributing to the running game, Hurts was not as helpful in the passing game, which is a problem as a quarterback. However, many thought the Eagles were not playing to win, as Coach Edwards put it back in 2002. 

Not surprisingly, the most vocal critics of Pederson’s decisions were those in the New York Giants Organization after Washington’s victory meant they were no longer in the playoffs. However, considering no team in the NFC East finished with a winning record, the division should feel lucky they were allowed in. Oh, wait, it’s because of the dumb rule that states each division winner gets a spot regardless of their record. 

Reactions 

The reaction to Pederson’s decision is overwhelmingly negative, not just from Giants fans. “Absolutely awful,” New York Jets Head Coach, turned ESPN analyst, Rex Ryan explained on Get Up. Fellow analysts across the league called it disgraceful. 

“I questioned going into the game the commitment of the Philadelphia Eagles of being a true pro – lining it up and play,” Ryan added. 

Ryan was referring to Pederson saying their best talent, including Darius Slay and Zach Ertz, were out there playing. However, other starters like Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery were healthy scratches. Compare the Eagles line up to the Houston Texans, who also sit at 4-12 yet chose to play their star quarterback Deshaun Watson the full game. 

Fans and analysts were clearly upset by the decision, but even players were confused. Not only did Miles Sanders comment on the decision for Philly Sports Talk Radio, but according to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, two defensive players had to be held back from approaching Pederson, and multiple players questioned the decision on the sideline.

Doug Pederson’s reasoning

“Pretty simple the plan this week was to give Nate [Sudfeld] some time, and I felt like it was the time to get him in the game,” Pederson said during his press conference the following game.

The thing was the Eagles were only down three heading into the fourth quarter. Many people believe instead of playing for a win, like he said to open his press conference, Pederson played for the draft picks. If the Eagles won the game, they would have received the ninth overall pick. Since they lost, they received the sixth overall pick

No reason excuses what happened

With the game on the line, even with the game plan the way Pederson drew up, it doesn’t excuse the fact the Eagles clearly tanked the game. There is no way to justify Pederson’s decision to pull Hurts. We could give our thoughts, but we would be just throwing more fuel on the fire. 

However, it was a disgraceful decision, and there are a million and one reasons as to why. The biggest is for some of the veterans who’ve been with the organization since they’ve been drafted, like Zach Ertz and Jason Kelce, their final memories with the team before a possible trade or retirement will be of this game and how their coach let them down. 

The rebuild is coming

It’s not uncommon to see players rest in week 17, but most of the time, it’s because they’ve clinched a playoff spot. After winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl four years ago, the Eagles have definitely declined significantly. 

It doesn’t help their 2020 first-round draft pick – wide receiver Jalen Reagor – didn’t pan out like any other receivers in the first round. Especially considering following picks like Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson and San Francisco’s Brandon Aiyuk led their respective teams in equally disappointing seasons. Jefferson’s also fourth in the league in receiving yards with 1,400 yards. 

The biggest problem was injuries, especially to a historically good offensive line of aging veterans. It’s hard to say what the Eagles will get out of this year’s draft because multiple positions need replacements. This is the second year in a row injuries have plagued the team, but the play calling wasn’t this bad the previous year. 

The worst part is good players like Zach Ertz will be traded away for draft picks. However, Wentz will stay if reports of a fractured relationship with Pederson and his trade request is proved false. The fans hope Pederson and Howie Roseman get fired this offseason. But despite surviving the NFL’s Black Monday it’s unlikely but not impossible.

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