Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was replaced by Nate Sudfield in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup with Washington, with the New York Giants needing an Eagles victory in order to advance to the playoffs.
By Cameron Hogwood
Darius Slayton labelled it ‘sickening’ while fellow wide receiver Golden Tate deemed it a lack of ‘integrity’ as the Philadelphia Eagles benched starting quarterback Jalen Hurts late on in their decisive Week 17 matchup with Washington on Sunday night.
Having beaten the Dallas Cowboys earlier that evening, the New York Giants watched on knowing an Eagles victory would send them to the playoffs as NFC East winners.
Trailing by three points with two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-four with Hurts throwing an incompletion in what would prove his final involvement as he was replaced by Nate Sudfeld.
The backup quarterback tossed an interception before fumbling on the next two drives, paving the way for Washington to claim a 20-14 win to secure their spot in the postseason.
Hurts, who took over from Carson Wentz as starter in December, had gone seven of 20 for 72 yards and one interception while rushing for 34 yards and two scores in the game.
“Yes, I was coaching to win,” Pederson told the media postgame. “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. I mean, [Zach] Ertz is out there. Brandon Graham’s out there. Darius Slay’s out there. You know, all our top guys were still on the field in the end. We were [trying to] win the game.”
Sudfeld, a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016, finished the game five of 12 passing for 32 yards, one interception and a lost fumble.
Despite ending the season with a losing streak, Hurts has injected fresh life into an Eagles offense that had regressed dramatically behind Wentz this season. The second-round rookie posted 1,028 passing yards for six touchdowns and four interceptions alongside 301 yards rushing for three touchdowns since the beginning of December.
“A lot of Giants fans are upset, but also so are just fans of football,” said Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager. “I stayed up, after 12 hours of football last night, to watch how the season would unfold and the Eagles gave us that which, to me, was not fair to the fans, the other teams, the Giants and not fair the Eagles players themselves.
“They benched Hurts, put in Nate Sudfeld. The explanation made no sense; Sudfield looked sub-par. It was in Philly, and if the Eagles fans were in the building how would this have been received? I could imagine outrage.
“I don’t think they would have done it, I don’t think Pederson would have had the courage to do it. I don’t know if Pederson was doing it on his own, or taking orders from someone else, but this was not fair to the rest of the league.
“I’m sick to my stomach over it. Integrity is everything. Once we start wondering about ‘tanking’ and all of that stuff, it really makes you question why I devote 12 hours to a Sunday.”
Good Morning Football colleague Kyle Brandt questioned the Eagles’ approach, but also delivered a reality check in regards to how the Giants found themselves relying on a Washington defeat in the first place.
“At the end of a game, at the end of a losing season, I want the No 6 [Draft] pick, and there’s a logic to that, but this is not usually how it’s done,” he said.
“I will say this about the Giants fans who are screaming and crying, you’re a 6-10 team. I have no sympathy for you at all – you should have won seven games. The argument is they owe it to their fans, the company, to the league to play the game to win.”