If Doug Pederson was ‘coaching to win’, why did he bench Jalen Hurts?

NFL: JAN 03 Washington Football Team at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 03: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) chats with Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson during the game between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles on January 3, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (z)

The Eagles are coming off of an ugly loss to end the season – one that’s very much on-brand with the way the rest of the year has gone. With nothing to play for in terms of playoff berths, the team eventually surrendered their divisional crown to Washington. It was a game they were projected to lose from the off, but did Doug Pederson inject an extra catalyst to make sure it happens?

At the very start of the fourth quarter, Pederson pulled Jalen Hurts from the game in favor of Nate Sudfeld. Hurts ended his day with 72 yards of passing, completing 7/20 attempts including an interception, and adding two rushing touchdowns. He wasn’t exactly good..but what was the point in pulling him?

“Yes, I was coaching to win.” Doug Pederson when asked about the decision to drop Nate Sudfeld into the game. “Yes, that was my decision, solely. Nate has obviously been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps. Listen, if there’s anyone out there that thinks that I’m not trying to win the game – [TE Zach] Ertz is out there, [DE] Brandon Graham is out there, [CB] 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.”

That’s all well and good, but Doug Pederson made a pretty drastic move in benching Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts against the Packers. Since then, this has been very much an audition for the second-round pick to win the starting role and this was the last chance he’d get to prove he’s ready for the full-time jump.

Only adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Carson Wentz is reportedly willing to work on a trade and wants out of Philadelphia. But if the Eagles are going to risk exiling a quarterback with a ceiling as high as the former second-overall pick, they have to be sure that Hurts is the right guy to replace him. Pulling him with an entire quarter go to, ripping him of a chance to go on and win the game, made little sense…and he was understandably frustrated.

“Nate [Sudfeld] has worked really hard all year and I think he’s a great player.” Hurts calmly told reporters after the game. [Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson] wanted to give him an opportunity at some point in the game and he was given an opportunity. Obviously, like I said, me being a competitor, I talk about winning all the time and going out there and trying to win all the time. That’s what I’m all about. But like I said, I trust [Pederson] with that. That’s all I can do.”

The move can obviously be connected with the idea of ‘tanking’ for a higher draft pick. It’s easy to understand why Pederson, who has reportedly been reassured of his future, would put an extra hole in the side of the Ship so it sinks just enough to snag the sixth overall pick. But has doing so created more problems?

It’s not like the Eagles needed to see anything from Sudfeld. He was tendered to a new contract this past offseason and has been the same QB for quite some time, very much hitting a glass ceiling the last time we saw him in preseason action. How is getting a quarter’s wort of tape on Sudfeld more important than allowing your second-round rookie an opportunity to win the last game of the season against the divisional leaders?

The Eagles now have around 5 games of tape on Jalen Hurts. Not all of it is great and as a passer, it’s sporadic at best. Pederson has now also benched the replacement for Carson Wentz with over a full quarter left of play, sending a very confusing message to Hurts and the rest of the offense.

If the locker room wasn’t fractured before, there’s a strong chance that the veteran leaders on this team who have battled through the most enduring of wards over and over again during this era, will begin to sway. At what point is enough, enough?

Players won’t say anything to reporters on-record for very obvious reasons, but it would be almost shocking if there weren’t a few comments made about the Eagles Head Coach after Sunday night. Not for the pulling of Jalen Hurts, but for the lack of reason surrounding it.

If it was to get a look at Sudfeld, that could’ve been done after 2-3 more drives, depending on the outcome. If it was for the draft pick, that should’ve been communicated long beforehand, to a point where Sudfeld either started the game or played a half. Randomly deciding to punt from within enemy territory and benching your prized rookie is not the way to go and could carry some big ramifications.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire