The Eagles’ organizational plan to prepare their final game for a better draft pick was obvious from the moment they published their inactive list and exposed some of the veterans who could have helped them win their last game of the season.
It was a little more apparent when they took out Jalen Hurts in a quarter and four against one of the best defenders in football to try to score, rather than kicking a game-tying field goal with two minutes left in the third quarter. (yes, we know that the mathematics favored the attempt, although one could make a sober and lucid argument to take the points sensibly.)
But the moment Doug Pederson pulled a seemingly healthy and effective Jalen Hurts out of the football game after watching him successfully navigate one of the most aggressive defensive lines in the league (he had a poor passer rating but had two touchdowns per land to crown long scoring runs), only to insert the usual third feature film Nate Surfed, the openly cheeky maneuver quickly changed the tenor from cheeky to macabre. In a minute, it went from something the NFL could laugh at and explain through its sympathetic media henchmen lacking the ability to leak critical information to something they should investigate and sanction.
The Philadelphia-Washington game of week 17 flexed in Sunday night football, a mark of distinction that the NFL reserves annually for a game with significant playoff ramifications. While the Eagles had already secured last place in the NFC East at the start, Washington knew that a win would give Ron Rivera & Co. a division title. A loss would hand that division Over to the Giants, by virtue of their victory. Over Dallas previously. The day. But while we’ve seen knocked-out teams like the 49ers and Falcons fight hard to play the spoiler in recent weeks, the Eagles did not keep their end of the bargain.
The Eagles staff certainly appeared to intentionally attempt to lose a football game on Sunday, to improve their first-round pick in the 2021 draft from No. 9 to No. 6 and any explanation to the contrary that does not include an admission from the Zero integrity must be attacked with brute force. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the growing popularity of teams selling their assets and shredding their rosters as a relatively quick way to rack up salary cap space and valuable draft capital. It’s a sensible and enjoyable version of “tanking” if you could call it that, mainly because the teams involved often start to improve, and they rarely reach the top pick (see: the Dolphins and Jets in recent years). But what we saw on Sunday was something so clearly against the spirit of the NFL and competitive sports in general; a coach who deliberately fails to put the best lineup available to him on the field during a winnable game for a clear and obvious win. It was cold and transactional. It was an insult to a prime-time audience tuning in for a glimpse of a game that had serious playoff implications for Philadelphia’s opponent, another division rival, and a third team waiting for the winner next week.
As the last moments of the game wore on, it was difficult to decide what was the least digestible part of the entire operation. Were all the Giants players live-tweeting the matter, watching their playoff chances cruelly cut to the limb? Was it the way the Eagles carelessly put the rest of their players at risk amid this seemingly shadowy plan of clearly underperforming? What if this shell from a list hurts someone? Was it the comedic attempt to legitimize the idea that Pederson, a coach with more headaches at the quarterback position than any other coach in the NFL, wanted to evaluate Surfed when he barely had a chance to evaluate Hurts?
What message does this sends to players who were kicked out for expired contracts for the simple purpose of acting as gravel to get run Over? Or former Super Bowl champions as Zach Ertz and Vinny CurryWho could have dressed up as the Eagles for the last time? How should that make you feel?
The Eagles bosses deserve every ounce of disappointment they will feel inside their locker room at the end of this year and at the beginning of the next. Every little resentment Over the draft pick that was important enough to put their bodies on the line. Best of luck to them pacifying a hive of pissed off veterans and their costly former starting quarterback, who is reportedly trying to make his way out of town as well. Whoever orchestrated this ridiculous display (and it’s fair to wonder, given the job security of Doug Pederson, who signed this plan above him on the network) should have to personally explain it to Jason Hence afterward, just two weeks later, he emphasized the importance to defeat everything regardless of the circumstances.
If the NFL doesn’t drop the hammer on the Eagles, could we suggest they remove some of the draft capital they seem so desperate to achieve? The league deserves the myriad of conspiracy theories that will be invented in the wake of this game, with the door now wide open for wacky fans who already want to believe that some games are rigged. He deserves the inflated apathy of others who can’t even be bothered to get nervous. You will deserve the middle finger of the people who legitimately devoted their three hours of free time to a real farce.
Worse, it will deserve the grim precedent this sets for the near future.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.