Eagles coach defends decision to bench Hurts, denies team was tanking, but Giants cry foul

The Associated Press
Philadelphia Eagles' Doug Pederson walks the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles chose to give a third-string quarterback playing time in a game with playoff implications for other teams.

Coach Doug Pederson benched Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter of a 20-14 loss to Washington on Sunday night. The victory gave Washington (7-9) the NFC East title. The New York Giants (6-10) would’ve won the division crown if Philadelphia (4-11-1) had won.

The decision didn’t go over well with Giants players posting their reaction on Twitter. Many accused the Eagles of tanking the game in order to get a better draft pick.

“Why on gods (sic) green earth is Jalen Hurts not in the game,” Giants receiver Darius Slayton tweeted as he watched from home.

“I think the eagles just hate us more than (they hate) washington. That’s only thing that could make sense right?” Giants wideout Golden Tate added.

The Giants (6-10) had remained alive until the final game of the 2020 NFL regular season by beating the Dallas Cowboys, 23-19, on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

“Can someone make it make sense to me what’s going on,” injured running back Saquon Barkley tweeted.

During the broadcast, NBC Sports analyst Cris Collinsworth also questioned the move to bench Hurts: “I personally could not have done what Philadelphia did.”

Sudfeld hadn’t thrown a pass since 2018 and was picked on his second attempt. He also lost a fumble.

“Yes, I was coaching to win,” Pederson said. “Yes, that was my decision solely. Nate has been here four years and I felt he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.”

The loss gave the Eagles the sixth pick in the NFL draft. A victory would’ve dropped them to the ninth spot.

“Nobody who stepped on that field wanted to lose,” said running back Boston Scott, who had 65 yards rushing. “Nobody lacked energy.”

Hurts had a pair of 6-yard touchdown runs to help the Eagles overcome a 10-0 deficit but he misfired on his last pass, a 4-yard toss into the end zone that would’ve given them a lead late in the third quarter.

Hurts, who took over for Carson Wentz last month, finished 7 of 20 for 72 yards with one interception. His passer rating of 25.4 was the lowest by an Eagles starting quarterback since Nick Foles posted a 9.3 rating in the final regular season game in 2017. Foles finished that season as Super Bowl MVP.

“As a competitor, I play to win,” Hurts said about getting pulled. “Just trust Coach with that.”

Hurts said he knew Pederson had planned to give Sudfeld some snaps.

“I know Coach had a plan to go about it the way he did and stuck to his plan,” Hurts said.

The Eagles missed the playoffs for the first time since Pederson’s first season in 2016. They face several important decisions in the offseason, starting with their quarterback dilemma. Wentz’s $128 million, four-year contract extension kicks in next season. The team would have to absorb a significant cap hit by trading him.

“I was granted the opportunity to lead the team,” Hurts said. “I had every intention of making it to the postseason. … That will sit on my chest all offseason.”