You have to admire the NFL’s ability to make hay. What else can you do but begrudgingly respect the fact that here, at the end of the dumbest, most farcical football season in memory, the football guys have still found a way to be self-righteously angry about supposed attacks on the sanctity of the game? The fact that all this anger is coming out of the slapdick NFC East, which just crowned a seven-win division champ, is all the more fitting.
We’re talking about the fact that the Eagles lost to the Washington Football Team on Sunday night, sending their opponents to the playoffs and denying the 6-10 Giants a playoff berth of their own. No Week 17 game between a 4-10-1 team and a 6-9 team, not even one with playoff implications, should be thought about for more than a minute after its conclusion, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has somehow managed to turn that game into A Whole Thing. He did this by yanking starting quarterback Jalen Hurts out of the game in the fourth quarter while the Eagles were down by three, and replacing him with third-stringer Nate Sudfeld. After the game, Pederson was adamant that he made the switch because he was trying to win the game, but then also seemed to contradict himself by saying that Sudfeld was put in the game because he deserved to get some snaps after hanging out on the bench for four seasons.
And now everyone is mad about this! Nobody appears to be madder than Giants head coach Joe Judge, who yesterday did his best impression of an angry NYPD police commissioner while ranting about the harm Pederson had done to the game:
This video is a lot more fun to watch if you do so while shouting, “The Giants went 6-10!” the whole time. Who is Judge really talking about when he brings up the players whose effort was disrespected by Pederson’s decision to pull Hurts? He’s talking, nonsensically, about his own players, the guys who went 6-10.
Judge may not be the only one who is just totally cheesed off by what happened on Sunday night, though. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pederson also angered a good number of people closer to home. The Inquirer reports that nobody on the Eagles expected Sudfeld to be put into the game, and that his appearance was seen as a waving of the white flag.
When Doug Pederson pulled Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld early in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s season finale against Washington, many Eagles players and coaches were shocked and outraged, team sources told The Inquirer.Philadelphia Inquirer
Some were angry. Two defensive players had to be held back from approaching Pederson. Center Jason Kelce and another offensive starter went to the coach to ask him why he had pulled the starting quarterback with the Eagles trailing only by three.
It’s more than a little silly to run into all this kvetching about respecting the game and the effort of the players on the field in regards to a game that took place in Week 17, a day on the NFL calendar that has a long, rich tradition of out-of-contention teams mailing it in while just trying to get the season over and done with. Pederson’s error is not that he didn’t show much interest in winning the game, or that he put a third-string quarterback on the field, but that he didn’t message his decisions properly. If he’d just started the game with all the scrubs out there, or told his players from the beginning that Sudfeld was going to get snaps no matter what, nobody would be mad at him. The NFL has no problem tolerating intentionally half-assed football, but what it apparently cannot tolerate is indecisiveness. You can try to win or you can try to lose on purpose, but you can’t look like you’re trying to do both in the same game without driving people nuts.
I’d like to tell everyone to calm down about this, but I know that would be useless. The football dudes will never, ever be calm.