Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson made the decision to pull quarterback Jalen Hurts for the team's third-stringer during a close game on Sunday, enraging his assistants and players with the apparent tanking strategy.
The Eagles fell to 4-11-1 after Hurts' replacement, Nate Sudfeld, threw an interception almost immediately and fumbled later, with the close game rapidly becoming a convincing loss. Though the seemingly intentional sabotage secured a better draft position for the Eagles, the players and coaches under Pederson were reportedly angry about the decision. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, two unnamed defensive players were so heated that they had to be restrained from reaching Pederson on the sidelines.
"Two defensive players had to be held back from approaching Pederson," Jeff McLane writes, adding that center Jason Kelce openly questioned the move to the head coach.
Pederson, for his part, denied that he was tanking, arguing with a straight face that he felt Week 17 was the time to see what Sudfeld could do, after four seasons with the team.
"We were struggling just a little bit to move the ball. Defensively, they kept us in the game with a couple of takeaways late. And my plan was to get Nate in the game," he said on Monday. "Nate’s a guy that’s very capable of running our system and executing, and [had] an opportunity to pull that game out last night.”
Trying or not, the move led to a raft of opinion pieces for and against the idea of NFL tanking. The stats nerds over at FiveThirtyEight questioned whether it was a tank or just the Eagles being traditionally inept. Sports Illustrated asked whether the practice was widespread enough to warrant a draft lottery like the NBA. And Twitter, both Birds-based and otherwise, let Pederson have it with both barrels.
Eagles running back Miles Sanders also didn't mince his words.
"Man if I'm being honest, nobody liked the decision, nobody. That's all I can say really. I don't know who was the main person behind that decision," he said. "All I know is that a lot of people on the team was confused."