Eagles head coach Doug Pederson made the controversial call to remove Jalen Hurts from Sunday night’s game against the Washington Football Team, replacing him with backup Nate Sudfeld despite Philadelphia being down just three at the start of the fourth quarter.
The decision raised questions among Philadelphia media as to whether Pederson was still trying to win the game. Having already been eliminated from the playoffs, the Eagles were ensured the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft if they lost Sunday. Pederson told reporters that he felt Sudfeld still gave them a chance to beat Washington.
“Yes I was coaching to win, yes that was my decision solely,” Pederson said in a Zoom press conference. “Nate has been here for four years, I thought he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps. If there's anything out there that thinks I was not trying to win the game, [Zach] Ertz is out there, Brandon Graham's out there, Darius Slay's out there, all our top guys are still on the field at the end.”
However, former Washington linebacker Lorenzo Alexander wasn’t buying it. The two-time Pro Bowler appeared on NBC Sports Washington’s Washington Football Postgame Live after the game and explained why he didn’t believe Pederson was actually trying to win when he made the quarterback switch.
“No, not at all,” Alexander said. “It's not Senior Night. He's been there in the league that long. Nobody cares. [Sudfeld] is not the best option for that team. You could even see some of the players around him once they came into the game they were like, ‘What are we doing?’ They keep showing the O-line, they were dejected, out of it, stopped blocking. So they knew they weren't trying to win the game with that move.”
Hurts did struggle through the air in the contest, completing seven of 20 passes for 72 yards and an interception. However, he did rush eight times for 34 yards and two touchdowns, the only two scores Philadelphia managed on the evening. Yet Sudfeld hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since Dec. 30, 2018 and had just 25 career passes to his name.
Alexander went on to say Pederson should’ve just been straight up about his decision.
“He can try to sell it all he wants, but he's just lying to us because he really knows in his heart of hearts that's not the case,” Alexander said. “Jalen gave him the best option to win, better athlete, better quarterback at this point of the year. And again, it's not Senior Night. You have too many guys — as he mentioned — that are on that field, all his star players trying to win the game, so you put your best quarterback out there at that time if you're really trying to win it.
“Now if you're not, just say it. ‘Nah I actually like Nate and I wanted to get him out there.’ Just say that. Don't try to lie about it when everybody knows the truth.”
But Pederson didn’t waiver from his stance in his postgame presser. He wanted to see Sudfeld out on the field, even if it was only for one quarter in the final game of the season.
“Pretty simple,” Pederson said. “I wanted to get Nate some time and I felt it was the time to get him in the game.”