On Monday, Pederson and G.M. Howie Roseman met with reporters in a joint video conference. Pederson was asked again about Sunday night’s tactics. The question and the answer (non-answer) appear below.
“Now that you’ve had a night to sleep on it, I know you’re a guy that respects the game very much, and last night when you took out Jalen Hurts in a close game, I think you’re aware that it sent a message kind of across the league,” said Jamie Apody of WPVI-TV. “Eagles fans were upset but I think football fans were upset about what it said. Can you speak on it now that you’ve slept on it a little bit about the message that maybe that that sent and the perception that people had about the way that the game panned out?”
“I’ve thought about that quite a bit, and quite frankly, I look at the entire body of work,” Pederson said. “I look at the entire season and it’s definitely not the season we all had anticipated. Our offensive struggles have not been about one position group or one guy or whatever. It’s been a multitude of issues that we’ve had, and again, last night in that game, we were in a situation where we failed to score as an offense. We failed to score there at the end of the third quarter. We were struggling just a little bit to move the ball. Defensively, they kept us in the game with a couple of takeaways late. And my plan was to get Nate [Sudfeld] in the game. Nate’s a guy that’s very capable of running our system and executing, and an opportunity to pull that game out last night.
“It’s just something that — it’s not where any of us want to be. It’s not where our fans wanted us or expected us to be and it’s definitely not where me or Howie or where Mr. Lurie wanted us to be at this time sitting here today. We wanted to be playing in the postseason. That’s our goal every season. So, this year, this game, this season, didn’t come down to last night. We were playing for our lives in a playoff game four, five, six weeks ago where every game mattered, and we failed even then. I’ve got to look at the whole thing, do what’s in the best interest and try to win a game any way possible.”
Pederson, as his answer demonstrates, didn’t respond to question. At all. He meandered through obvious points and observations without acknowledging the perception, or the reality, that he deliberately removed Hurts and inserted Sudfeld to ensure that the team will have the sixth overall pick in the draft instead of the ninth.
The other possible explanation is that the Eagles didn’t want Hurts to elevate his standing entering an offseason that could still result in a decision that Carson Wentz, not Hurts, should be the 2021 starter. That would have been very difficult to accomplish if Hurts had managed, in the regular-season finale, to prevail in a game that meant everything to Washington and nothing to Philadelphia.
Regardless, the Eagles have been accused of committing an affront to the integrity of the game. If the allegations are false, they should be spitting fire against those who are wrongly suggesting foul play, not spewing implausible word salads that likely came off far better when they were rehearsed in the mirror of the hotel room.
They won’t because they can’t. They can’t because they know what they did. And, frankly, the NFL (and the rest of us) should have seen it coming.
That’s the lesson for the league when selecting the final game of the regular season in the future. Even if there’s one game with playoff relevance that survives the outcomes of the other 15, it’s important to know that both teams have an incentive to win. At a minimum, the league should seek an advance assurance from the team with nothing to play for that, if picked for the regular-season finale, it won’t take a dive.