PHILADELPHIA - Football is an emotional game, something perhaps best reflected by J.J. Watt's stirring post-game Zoom media availability after another Houston Texans embarrassing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year put his heart on his sleeve when asked about his defense during the 37-31 setback and how the group can move forward into a meaningless (for them) Week 17 matchup against Tennessee.
"We're professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money," Watt said. "If you can't come in and put work in in the building, go out to the practice field and work hard, do your lifts and do what you're supposed to do, you should not be here. This is a job. We are getting paid a whole lot of money."
Watt then steered toward the passion of the fans who often invest far more than revenue into their favorite teams.
"There are a lot of people that watch us and invest their time and their money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of (stuff), and they care about it," he said. "They care every single week. We're in Week 16 and we're 4-11, and there are fans that watch this game, that show up to the stadium that put in time and energy and effort and care about this.
"So if you can't go out there and you can't work out, you can't show up on time, you can't practice, you can't want to go out there and win, you shouldn't be here. Because this is a privilege. It's the greatest job in the world. You get to go out and play a game. And if you can't care enough, even in Week 17, even when you're trash, when you're 4-11. If you can't care enough to go out there and give everything you've got and try your hardest, that's (nonsense)."
The Eagles, of course, are in a similar situation to the Texans from a win-loss standpoint at 4-10-1 and eliminated from the postseason for the first time since 2016, Doug Pederson's first season as the head coach.
The only goal is playing spoiler against the Washington Football Team which might be down to its fourth quarterback of the season in Taylor Heinicke.
To date, it isn't about players not caring here. That kind of poison has not seemed to manifest itself just yet with the Eagles.
It's at least conceivable that kind of thing might show up in Week 17 with players eyeing their exits out of COVID-19 hell and into the comfort of the offseason, though safety Jalen Mills seemed to squash that notion in his postgame comments.
"We still have one more opportunity left to go out there and play football," said Mills. "I think that’s the biggest blessing at the end of the day is we still have an opportunity to play football."
The fact that so many players keep performing and have advocated for Pederson in a miserable environment - names like Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, and most recently Brandon Graham - speaks volumes and is the one reason above all else why Jeffrey Lurie shouldn't even consider moving on from Pederson.
Change is demanded in such a public-facing industry and scapegoats are almost assured. Heck, Mike Groh lost his job after a division title and a playoff performance because Lurie let emotion get the best of him after a bad loss in Miami.
This time it might even be Jim Schwartz or Dave Fipp sacrificed to the altar of social media trends.
As always, though, the 2021 Eagles' story will be built on the foundation of personnel.
Lurie should rest assured that he has a coach who he already knows can take advantage of a favorable hand dealt to him vs. the uncertainty of the latest flavor of the month.
Pederson is the first of many decisions Lurie has to make and the first domino before we can even get to Carson Wentz vs. Jalen Hurts and the coaching staff.
Measured takes are rarely sexy but they're almost always the prudent path forward.
There is a reason teams are given cooling-off periods before meeting the media after games.
A silver ling to the Eagles' early elimination is an extended cooling-off period for Lurie and he needs to use it wisely.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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