Doug Pederson insisted he was playing to win. No matter what it may have looked like.
With nothing other than draft position to play for, the Eagles lost, 20-14, to Washington in the 2020 season finale at the Linc Sunday night.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 4-11-1 but it means they select sixth instead of ninth in the first round of the draft in April.
The Eagles were already without a number of injured starters and key players and some others who were healthy scratches, but when Pederson pulled starting quarterback Jalen Hurts for rarely-used third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld with the Eagles within three points at 17-14 to start the fourth quarter, it sure didn’t look like Pederson was trying to win the game.
Sudfeld had thrown only two passes in the last three seasons.
“Yes, I was coaching to win,” Pederson said. “Nate has obviously been here for four years, and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps and, listen, if there’s anyone out there that thinks that I was not trying to win the game … [Zach] Ertz is out there, Brandon Graham is out there, Darius Slay is out there, all our top guys are still on the field at the end. So we were [trying] to win the game.”
Hurts wasn’t sharp Sunday, but he did rush for the Eagles' only two touchdowns of the game. Sudfeld completed 5 for 12 for 32 yards, was sacked twice, intercepted once and lost a fumble.
The Eagles averaged 24.6 yards on Hurts' nine drives and 8.2 yards on Sudfeld's four drives.
Sudfeld's 14.6 passer rating is fourth worst by an Eagles quarterback throwing 10 or more passes in the last 20 years.
It was the first time Sudfeld threw more than one pass in a game since the last day of the 2017 season.
Why play Sudfeld?
“Pretty simple,” Pederson said. “The plan this week was to get Nate some time and I felt like it was the time to get him into the game.”
A few weeks ago, Jason Kelce spoke passionately about why it’s so crucial for a franchise’s culture to try to win every game, no matter what it means for the draft or anything else.
“At all times in the NFL the focus should be on winning the football game," he said. "Nothing else takes precedence. No player evaluation. No amount of curiosity from anybody within the organization. Everything is focused — in my opinion — in this league upon winning games.”
Pederson was asked about Kelce’s comments and said he doesn’t think his decision to yank Hurts in favor of Sudfeld will have a damaging effect on the team’s culture.
“No I don’t think so,” he said. “I just think we were in a situation to get some guys into the football game and play and try to help us win this game. Kelce is obviously such a great competitor, just like all the guys who want to win and do everything in their power who are out there playing. He’s obviously a great leader. But I don’t think there’ll be any issue with our culture moving forward.”
Linebacker T.J. Edwards said the players and coaches spoke all week after getting eliminated by the Cowboys last weekend about trying to go out with a win.
“I thought 100 percent we went out there and competed and every single guy who was out there gave their best effort,” Edwards said. “We were playing that game to win, no matter what. That was the talk all week, that was the talk all year. We just fell short tonight.”
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