What message did the tank-minded Philadelphia Eagles send by their performance on Sunday Night Football against the Washington Football Team?
That "it's okay to quit,'' says three-time Super Bowl champion Emmitt Smith.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Smith suggests that the non-contending Eagles "took a dive'' in order to secure a better draft pick in a way that helped them lose to WFT, allowing Washington to take the NFC East title and a playoff berth.
Said the Pro Football Hall-of-Famer: "The message that you're sending ... is not the message I grew up with: 'Never quit, always fight to the end and give your best performance every time you step foot on the football field."
The former Dallas Cowboys running back says the Eagles were obliged to "play with honor. You have to play with respect to the game, and you have to do it for yourself."
As for Smith, in part, is what coach Doug Pederson's moves (alleged to help Philly lose) do to a team.
"Because,'' he says, "you don't want your players to take on a mentality of, 'Oh, are we out of it? The game is over? We may as well just lay down.'"
The controversy that won't die stems from head coach Doug Pederson's decision to remove Jalen Hurts after three quarters for third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who had been inactive all season.
On Wednesday night, former Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Holmgren told CBS Sports Radio's Zach Gelb, You play to win every game. You made a switch to Hurts during the season, which already had proved to be a little problematic for you as a coach. So don’t compound the problem. That’s what I felt. He said he had reasons (for doing it) and I trust him. Doug’s a good guy and a good coach. But I wish he hadn’t done that.”
Holmgren added, "I said, ‘Ah, gee, Doug. Don’t do that,' That was my first thought.
“I’ve been in some seasons where things weren’t going well, but you’re battling like crazy. You’re not thinking about draft choices. You’re not thinking about any of that stuff.
“Unless the owner would say, ‘This is what I would like you to do.’ In which case, I would quit. That’s not how it’s done.”
Pederson played for Holmgren for four years in Green Bay from 1995 through 1998.
Center Jason Kelce clarified things on Wednesday as far as the so-called "confrontation" went when it was reported, but not confirmed, that two unnamed defensive players approached Pederson on the sideline about his decision.
On his Instagram account, Kelce wrote: “At the end of the third quarter I was told on the bench that Sudfeld was going into the game. I went up to Doug and asked him if he was taking Hurts out, he said 'yes, I think Nate’s earned the right to play,' I said 'everyone else is staying in?' he said 'absolutely.'
“I then went to find Suddy. Started taking snaps on the sideline with him, called the other linemen over and had them listen to his snap count to make sure everyone was on the rhythm of his cadence, and then went out for the next drive.”
Kelce further explained none of this was confrontational between him and Pederson.
“At no point was anything from me or anyone else confrontational,” he wrote. “We all knew leading into the game that Sudfeld was told to be ready to play and that Doug wanted to see what he could do in a game situation.”
Sudfeld, a five-year veteran, has been portrayed poorly by others outside the organization and Kelce also made sure to endorse the long-time backup.
“All of us during the week leading up were excited for Nate, a guy that has been with us for 4 years to get an opportunity in a real game to show the world what he can do,” noted Kelce. “We all have complete confidence in Nate as a player, there’s a reason he’s been here this long, and a reason the team brought him back. And that’s because we feel like Nate is a guy we can win with.”
The Eagles ended up losing 20–14, a loss that clinched the NFC East title for Washington.