Quarterback Nate Sudfield has been with the Eagles since 2017, and over that period has played only when necessary.
Apparently, it was necessary Sunday night because the Eagles were in danger of winning their game.
It was curious enough when Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson chose to pursue a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Washington Football Team 4-yard line with 2:01 left in the third quarter — with the Eagles just three points away from tying the game.
With that bullet dodged, Pederson could take no chances talented rookie Jalen Hurts might lead another potential scoring drive as the game neared its conclusion. So he sent out Sudfield to throw an interception and seven incompletions and accumulate a mere 32 passing yards in the four possessions that developed before the final whistle.
Washington won 20-14 and will head to the NFC playoffs as East Division champion.
The Eagles will draft No. 6, which appeared to be the goal all along.
NFL DRAFT ORDER: First 18 picks after Week 17
The Giants, who would have entered the playoffs if the Eagles won the game, were angry about what they saw unfolding.
Pederson told reporters afterward, “I was coaching to win,” and that Sudfield deserved to play. Hurts was not extraordinary against WFT, but he led touchdown drives of 75 yards and 65 yards to give the Eagles a second-quarter lead. And they were in position to tie after a brilliant interception deep in Washington territory from Marcus Epps. But Pederson had Hurts pass on fourth down, and it fell short.
Whereas Hurts was a threat to run away from Washington’s pass rush and averaged 4.3 yards on eight rushes, Sudfield was sacked twice in his brief appearance.
“I couldn’t have done what Philadelphia did,” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said on the game broadcast.
He was not the only media member who reacted with disdain.
From Chris Mortensen of ESPN: “Consensus from those in NFL and who have been associated with it: Disgrace.”
From Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Many will applaud the tank and three spots in the draft, but it spoke volumes about the current culture of the organization.”
From Ryan Clark of ESPN: “In a pandemic the NFL found a way to power through 17 weeks. I mean fought like hell to play every single game! Who knew that the last 1 deciding the NFC East would have been the 1 to cancel”
From Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network: “Washington says, ‘Tank you, Eagles.'”
From Dan Orlovsky of ESPN: “What happened to respecting the game and respecting the other teams within the league?”
Sudfield had played in three games since his arrival in 2017 and had accumulated 156 career passing yards. Those numbers were easy enough to understand after what he displayed in this game.
A difference of three draft spots certainly can be advantageous when rebuilding a roster, but the Eagles won the Super Bowl just three years ago and retain some of the essential players from that championship, among them tight end Zach Ertz and center Jason Kelce. They put in an evening of intense physical effort against Washington late Sunday, only to see their best chance at winning the game wrapped for the final quarter in a green sideline cape.
The NFL long has resisted following the lead of the NBA in establishing a draft lottery to avoid situations such as these.
It may be time to reconsider that position.
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