Something very interesting happened during the Eagles’ Week 17 loss against Washington, and it wasn’t just a quarterback change. Immediately following the benching of Jalen Hurts in favor of Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter, broadcasters, media personalities, and everyone on social media had an opinion on the matter.
I was honestly shocked to see the general consensus was that Doug Pederson was deliberately trying to lose the game. That brings us to this week’s discussion topic: Why are the Eagles taking heat for keeping the Giants out of the playoffs, when the Steelers did the exact same thing to the Dolphins and no one batted an eye?
Pre-Game: The plan going into Sunday’s slate of games
Before we start, keep in mind, the Eagles jumped out to a 14-3 lead the week prior against Dallas. In that game, Hurts threw a nice, deep touchdown and put together two nice drives in the first quarter, before accounting for zero touchdowns and three turnovers the rest of the game (with the awful Cowboys defense playing prevent for the majority of the time).
This breakdown likely led to Pederson wanting to see what Nate Sudfeld could do in their meaningless finale.
A few days later, Doug Pederson came out and said his intent going into Sunday was to play Jalen Hurts but get Nate Sudfeld some reps in the game as well. The Eagles were sitting a number of injured players, but everyone else was a full-go.
At the same time last week in Pittsburgh, the Steelers announced a slew of starters, including TJ Watt and Ben Roethlisberger would sit out the season finale against the Browns.
As far as the race for the playoffs goes, the Steelers and Eagles were in slightly different situations. The Steelers were resting some guys to get healthy for the Wildcard weekend, while the Eagles were only resting injured players, as well as stating their intention to get Nate Sudfeld some reps. Their opponents for the week both needed to simply win to get into the playoffs.
In the lead up to the game, nothing was made of the Steelers benching key guys, essentially giving their rival an easier path to the playoffs. For the Eagles, the same was true. No one made a big deal about Pederson’s comments about Sudfeld.
No one also had an opinion about teams like Jacksonville and the Bengals, both starting questionable players all over their rosters, and both playing teams who had to win to get into the playoffs.
So, the stage has been set. We know the plan of the coaches involved. It’s all been laid out. What happened next is bizarre, to say the least.
Just as the fourth quarter began, trailing by three, Doug Pederson benched Jalen Hurts. That’s the part everyone is saying. The part everyone is leaving out is just how bad Hurts played in the third quarter. In the entire third quarter, Hurts threw for 7 yards (2 for 8 passing) and rushed for 7 yards.
No one was making a fuss about how poorly Hurts was playing. After all, this is a guy who has only started a few games. He’s not some experienced quarterback with a proven track record. He was also benched in the National Championship for a Freshman, and underwhelmed (as a passer) on perhaps the most quarterback-friendly offense in the country while at Oklahoma. I say “underwhelmed” because his passing numbers were worse than both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in all four individual seasons prior to Hurts.
As soon as Hurts was benched, the questions were being asked. “Hurts gives this team the best chance to win. Why are they going with Sudfeld down three?” “Are the Eagles trying to lose this game?” “This is shameful.”
I’m sorry, I must have been watching a different game than everyone else. I saw a quarterback who looked uncomfortable and erratic out there in the third quarter. In what scenario, ever, do you recall a guy looking so bad, and yet so many hoped he would finish the game? I can’t think of one time.
The Eagles had nothing on the line. Why would Pederson want to expose his quarterback to an entire half of getting his confidence and body wrecked in the process? There comes a time for every young quarterback where a coach will consider pulling him in rough situations. It may be unpopular, but call me crazy for supporting a coach pulling his quarterback after 14 total yards in one quarter.
From the broadcast team to prominent NFL media, the reaction was swift and full of harsh judgment. After the game, Joe Judge (Giants coach) went out of his way to criticize Pederson for his decision, saying some self-righteous garbage along the lines of the Eagles disrespected the game and his team would never go out there and not compete for sixty minutes.
Wow, bold words coming from a guy who is a first-year head coach talking about a Super Bowl-winning coach. First off, Judge’s team didn’t compete when the 49ers trounced them early in the season, so he’s already lying. Second, Judge has already been applauded by many in the NFL for his “genuine, passionate speech.” I don’t blame Judge for people perceiving him this way. I blame the media.
After all, for a long time now, stuff just gets reported without hearing any of the actual facts or explanations behind them. Instead of maybe calling Pederson and handling this in private (respectfully asking why), Judge took to the media and gave them the click-happy speech they desired.
Sure, the night was no better for Nate Sudfeld, but had it worked, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. In case you haven’t seen them, watch the clips out there of Jason Kelce just letting the linebacker blow right by him while Kelce inexplicably turns his head left. Watch the clip where Ertz and the left tackle just let the defensive end blow by them and crush Sudfeld.
The players failed Nate Sudfeld, not Doug Pederson. The players let their own feelings get in the way, and the broadcast team and media completely neglected to mention that fact. Instead, we have one of the hottest arguments, dividing major NFL media co-hosts and personalities.
We should really take a step back the next time we have a situation like this and ask ourselves, “Do we know the facts here?” It’s not as bad if you’re just some average Joe on social media, but as media, broadcasters, and coaches; they have a duty and responsibility as people who carry influence and have the power to sway the masses, to put out the facts before making judgements on national television or on social media.
Had just one of them said, “You know, Hurts looks like he’s having a rough go out there in the second half “, or “Doug Pederson said, earlier in the week, he wanted to get some snaps in for Nate Sudfeld.” Had either of those been said, all of this could’ve been mitigated. Instead, without regret, they say these things and just let chaos ensue.
Maybe next time, instead of hearing someone shout “fire” and starting a stampede, we should open our eyes and make sure there’s smoke.