This Philadelphia Eagles call will go down in football lore as either a brilliant bit of draft maneuvering or a boneheaded and indefensible call with a game on the line. NBC commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth seem to think the latter.
With nearly a quarter left to play in the Sunday Night Game against the Washington Football Team, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled their starting quarterback for their third-string back-up despite being within reach for the win. Quarterback Jalen Hurts had struggled throughout the game, yet he’d scored two rushing touchdowns when coach Doug Pederson pulled him for Nate Sudfeld.
Collinsworth was incredulous.
“Al, I couldn’t have done it. I couldn’t have done what Philadelphia did,” Collinsworth said of the decision. “I simply just could not have done it. You’ve got men out there that are fighting their guts out trying to win the game. And I’m not saying, I’m not blaming anybody, I, personally, could not have done what they did.”
The Eagles went on to lose 20-14. But football fans — being a conspiratorial bunch — saw hidden machinations in the call. By losing, the 4-11-1 Eagles moved up the 2021 NFL Draft board from the ninth pick to the sixth. They also screwed over division rivals New York Giants, who needed the Eagles to win in order to clinch the division. Washington won the title instead.
“[Hurts’] numbers weren’t that great, but a couple of rushing touchdowns, and clearly a guy who is a big part of the conversation for the future,” Michaels said. “And the Giants have to be beside themselves, and who can blame them?”
Giants players were perplexed by the call.
“I think the Eagles just hate us more than Washington. That’s the only thing that could make sense right?” Giants wide receiver Golden Tate tweeted about the decision.
It’s especially hard considering the Giants had fought back to be on the cusp of making the playoffs. After beating the Cowboys 23-19 earlier in the day, Big Blue only needed Philadelphia to make the postseason despite their 6-10 record.
Philadelphia Eagles Coach Defends Swapping Out QBs
Eagles coach Doug Pederson says there was no hidden intent in his decision to pull Hurts. He wasn’t trying to throw the game. In fact, he said he put in Sudfeld because he wanted to win.
“I was coaching to win,” Pederson told reporters after the game. He added he felt like Sudfeld, a fourth-year back-up, “deserved” some snaps in the final game of the season.
Hurts had gone 7-of-20 for 72 yards and an interception in the game. He was clearly struggling, but the Eagles do not have a back-up quarterback better suited to step in. Pulling Hurts didn’t make sense to hardly anyone watching the game, and that was backed up by the final score. Like Collinsworth and Michaels, analysts all seemed perplexed by the call.
Former player turned ESPN analyst Ryan Clark felt the Eagles dishonored the NFL employees who’d worked so hard to have a season despite the pandemic.