Everyone lost in Eagles, Washington season-finale stinker

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles fans can defiantly thumb their noses at those who claim their team threw Sunday night’s regular-season finale.

Washington Football Team fans can accuse NFL viewers of being petulant in the belief that a team whose season is over owes a divisional rival, the New York Giants, anything.

The fact of the matter is what happened on Sunday night was bad for football, no other way around it; even if it was exacerbated by the stage of the primetime viewing slot.

The Washington Football Team clinched the NFC East division crown at 7-9 following a snoozefest of a 20-14 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles — a 4-11-1 football team that had no interest in actually competing on the biggest platform of the week in Sunday Night Football.

Actually, that’s an unfair assessment. It wasn’t a team that had no interest in actually competing, it was a head coach and leadership group that wanted no part in giving Washington a legitimate challenge.

In the process, the Giants — who needed a Washington loss to win the division after beating the Dallas Cowboys just hours earlier to finish their campaign at 6-10 — were eliminated.

Of course, you rarely deserve to make the playoffs if you have to back in or rely on the help of other teams, so this entire debacle doesn’t have as much to do about the Giants as it does about Philadelphia fans, Washington, and the NFL itself. Yes, even if a bad taste has been left in the mouths of Giants fans and players alike.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson made a bevy of questionable calls that included punting from the Washington 35-yard-line in a one-possession game, going for it on fourth down in the Football Team’s territory when a field goal could have tied the game, and inexplicably pulling rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts down the stretch for Nate Sudfeld.

After the game, Pederson said the plan was to always get Sudfeld in there to see what the third-stringer can do. But the entire decision reeked of tanking considering an Eagles loss would give them the sixth pick in the 2021 draft as compared to the ninth with a win.

There’s also the tiny caveat that playing Sudfeld at any point on Sunday night made zero sense.

Pederson and the Eagles are already entrenched in a major quarterback controversy. After once-believed franchise quarterback Carson Wentz had the worst start to a season in his NFL career, he was benched for rookie Jalen Hurts, whose selection in the second round of the 2020 draft had plenty of people scratching their heads.

Hurts showed plenty of promise in his four starts but in the process, Wentz grew discontent with the organization to the point where ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday that his relationship with Pederson was “all but fractured” beyond repair. A trade request is likely in the cards unless the Eagles pivot from the notion that Hurts is their new man under center.

So benching him at any point on Sunday night is a puzzling decision, even if he struggled by completing just 7-of-20 passes through three quarters. Franchise quarterbacks find ways to shake off bad starts and lead their team to victories in crunch time.

Why wouldn’t the Eagles want to see if Hurts was capable of doing that in a divisional game when the stakes were as low as possibly could be for such a situation?

Instead, Sudfeld was called upon for just the fourth time in his four-year career with the Eagles as though there was anything else he could’ve shown the organization — as Pederson alluded to in his postgame comments.

He lofted up an easy pick before fumbling it away on the first snap following a momentum-swinging interception by TJ Edwards, all while facing one of the most aggressive defensive lines in the league.

He was set up to fail, just like the Eagles were all night.

What a way for Eagles fans to watch their team finish off a miserable season.

What a way for Washington to win a division title. Normally, you want to beat a team when it’s at full strength, at its best. Not like this.

What a rotten way for the NFL to end its regular season, regardless of how fitting it was for a year that prioritized product over safety.