Who ordered the Code Red? Owner Jeffrey Lurie claims it wasn’t him.
During Monday’s video conference with reporters regarding the firing of coach Doug Pederson, Lurie was asked whether he had a role in the decision to remove quarterback Jalen Hurts from the second half of the Week 17 loss to Washington for Nate Sudfeld.
“No, nothing to do with it whatsoever,” Lurie said. “I heard that Doug wanted to give Nate some time. And I understand the circumstances, but Nate, I think he holds the record for his debut in the NFL against Dallas for the best completion percentage. He was awesome. What is it, 19 out of 22? You know, unstoppable. He was our backup in the Super Bowl because we had so much confidence in Nate. We talked about [how] we are going to advance far here, we hope, and who is going to be there if Nick [Foles] gets injured, and we had a lot of confidence in Nate.
“I’m at practice a lot. Our coaches know much more than I do. [Sudfeld] throws the best long ball on the roster. I think what happened was he, if you remember, broke his wrist in the preseason a year ago. Our plan was to give Nate a lot of playing time in that preseason. The whole idea was to establish is Nate our long-term backup? Is he a potential starter in the league? And how good is Nate, because he’s awfully good in practice? And then we tendered him a second-round exclusive rights designation worth millions of dollars and therefore, it just showed where we thought he was both as a quarterback and as a teammate. What happened this year, the preseason got wiped out, so there was no chance to use him this year either.
“Doug had said we were going to use as many young players as we could. Jalen [Hurts] had the injury in the Dallas game in the second quarter. He, of course, wants to play, but you know, significant hamstring. I think Doug just wanted to give Nate a chance. He deserved it. He’s been part of our Super Bowl-winning team. He contributed to the scout team. He contributed so much. I think it was just with good intentions. The circumstances weren’t the best, maybe the communication wasn’t the best, but we would have loved to have eliminated Washington.”
The communication definitely wasn’t the best, not with now-former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz saying in the days before the game that the goal would be to keep Washnington from winning the division. The sudden move to evaluate Sudfeld felt like cover for either trying to enhance draft status or attempting to keep Hurts from pulling off the kind of season-finale win that would create a strong presumption among fans and media that he’d been the no-brainer Week One starter in 2021, or both.
If it wasn’t Pederson’s call to make the switch, don’t assume that Pederson will blab now that he’s a former employee. He has a two-year buyout; even if he gets another job, he’ll want (and be entitled to) the difference between what the Eagles owe and what he receives elsewhere. If he airs out dirty laundry, the Eagles could try to shut off the financial faucet.
While the Hurts-Sudfeld switcheroo likely didn’t trigger the firing of Pederson, the reality is that clearing out Pederson goes a long way toward clearing out any lingering odor from the apparent tank job. The next coach will have far bigger smelly fish to deal with, however — starting with who will the quarterback be?