NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should levy a hefty fine against the Philadelphia Eagles for their disgraceful performance in the season finale Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
What was done at Lincoln Financial Field before a nationally televised audience was deplorable and embarrassing. And after losing 20-14, the excuse given by Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was as strong as wet tissue paper.
With 12:53 showing and the Eagles playing without 10 starters for various reasons, trailing 17-14, Pederson decided to replace rookie starter Jalen Hurts with seldom used veteran backup Nate Sudfeld. The results were disastrous.
Hurts had completed seven-of-20 passes for 72 yards with one interception. The interception led to a field goal. He also rushed for 34 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Sudfeld, who has been a loyal clipboard holder for the Eagles since 2017 and yes he does have a Super Bowl championship ring, completed five-of-12 passes for 32 yards. He was sacked twice and committed a fumble that led to a Washington field goal.
The slow-footed Sudfeld was an easy target for Washington’s young defensive line that features four first-round draft choices.
If the Eagles had beaten Washington, the New York Giants, who had beaten the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day, would’ve been crowned NFC East champions and earned the division’s lone playoff berth.
Also at stake was positioning in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. An Eagles victory would’ve given the Birds the ninth spot. A loss moved the Eagles to sixth.
That may have explained why before pulling Hurts, Pederson passed on an opportunity to attempt a chip-shot field goal that would’ve tied the game. Instead, he elected to attempt to score on a fourth-and-goal from the the Washington 4. Hurts rolled to his left and threw an incomplete pass to a diving Quez Watkins.
Afterwards, Pederson was asked if the decision to play Sudfeld came from a higher team authority.
“Yes I was coaching to win, yes that was my decision solely,” Pederson said. “Nate has obviously been here for four years and I felt that deserved an opportunity to get some snaps. And listen, if there is anyone out there that thinks I was not trying to win the game, I mean, (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 going to win the game.”
Pederson had demoted quarterback Carson Wentz inactive for the game. Wentz started the first 12 games before losing his spot in the third quarter of Game 12 to Hurts. Wentz was a backup for Games 13-15. Its been reported that he will demand a trade. Obviously it wouldn’t have benefitted the Eagles or Wentz if had been injured against Washington.
Goodell, if he wasn’t watching the game, surely heard about what happened. There’s no reason why the Eagles, a team that won a Super Bowl title four seasons ago and was considered among the league’s elite franchises as late as last season, tanked a winnable game.
What was disappointing was not that the Eagles tanked but way it was done. The effort left even the most ardent Eagles fan ashamed to wear the green and white. And it definitely tarnished the fabled NFL shield.
The 2020 season was something that the NFL had never dealt with before. Perhaps it was fitting that a bizarre season ended in such a bizarre way.