National Football League
National Football League

Questionable Call

Published Jan. 4, 2021 3:17 p.m. ET

Doug Pederson said he was coaching to win.

But when the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles pulled starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of backup Nate Sudfeld, in the fourth quarter of a tight game against the Washington Football Team, eyebrows immediately went up.

None were raised higher than those belonging to players ⁠— and fans ⁠— of the New York Giants, who would be headed to the postseason as winners of the NFC East if the Eagles took down WFT.

Hurts wasn't exactly lighting up Washington before heading to the sideline, going 7-for-20 for 72 yards and an interception, but he did have two rushing touchdowns.

On top of that, the Eagles were a field goal away from tying the contest before Pederson opted to have Hurts attempt to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal.

The Sudfeld change didn't (or did, depending on your point of view) do the trick, however.

The 27-year-old went 5-for-12 for 32 yards, an interception and a lost fumble, as Philadelphia fell, 20-14, giving Washington the NFC East crown and eliminating the Giants from the playoffs.


The loss also sealed Philly's No. 6 position in the 2021 NFL Draft order, rather than the No. 9 pick they'd have landed with a win.

The outrage following Pederson's decision predictably spilled into Monday morning, where a cavalcade of pundits questioned the move, including Undisputed's Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe. 

Sharpe couldn't fathom how Pederson could honestly say that he was trying to win that game, and sees a fractured relationship between the coach and his players.

"The players are not going to look at him the same. When you do that, Jalen Hurts is looking at him like, 'Huh? I'm out? For what?' ... They need to go ahead and clean house."  

Bayless also had strong feelings on the matter, suggesting that if he were Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, he'd have given Pederson the pink slip on the spot.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky called the Sunday night incident "an absolute mockery."

Not everyone had their pitchforks out for Pederson, though.

Jason McIntyre wondered why teams such as the New York Jets can be celebrated for tanking to get the No. 1 overall pick, then be admonished for winning and therefore missing out on the top selection.

On First Things FirstNick Wright also pondered the incensed reaction Pederson got with regards to keeping the Giants out of the playoffs. 

"You had a coach play a clearly inferior quarterback, when that game was going to drastically impact whether or not another team got into the postseason. And the team that missed out ... was the 10-6 Miami Dolphins, because that's what Mike Tomlin did and nobody cares! The hell [are] we talking about? Like, this happens all the time in Week 17!"

Philadelphia's offseason was already set to be fraught with questions, but Pederson added another layer to the drama.

Whatever side you might fall on with Pederson's call, it was once again apparent that the NFL does theater unlike any other league.


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