This tanking business that has engulfed the Eagles in the early days of their offseason continues to fester, with the latest salvo being fired by none other than second-year running back Miles Sanders during a radio spot on Tuesday.
Sanders, who was supposed to the Eagles’ three-down running back this season but missed four games with a variety of injuries, became the team spokesman when he said on 94WIP Sports Radio that “nobody” was happy with the decision to take Jalen Hurts out of the game in Sunday night’s loss to Washington.
“Man, if I’m being honest, nobody liked the decision, nobody,” said Sanders. “That’s all I can say, really. I don’t know who was the main person behind that decision, all I know is that a lot of people on the team was confused.”
Head coach Doug Pederson is taking the fall, as he always does, for a decision that was, in all likelihood, handed down from on high, either by general manager Howie Roseman or, in all probability, owner Jeffrey Lurie.
The Eagles wanted the sixth overall pick in the draft, not the ninth. Not only is it a premium spot to be sitting in the first round, but it is also a better slot in each round that follows.
Quick recap: Hurts was replaced by third-string QB Nate Sudfeld to start the fourth quarter and the Eagles trailing 17-14 at the time.
Head coach Doug Pederson, not always the greatest communicator, said afterward that the plan during the week was to get Sudfeld into the game at some point.
If it was, it wasn’t communicated to everyone.
Defensive end Brandon Graham heard the plan, though, at least so he said on Monday when players cycled in and out of the NovaCare Complex to clean out their lockers, have exit interviews, and receive their offseason marching orders.
“I knew Nate was going to be playing in this game,” said Graham. “I couldn’t wait to see him because I know it’s been a minute, Normally, we get to see him preseason games, but didn’t have the luxury of doing it. I was happy to see Nate in there.”
Hurts’ final throw was a bad misfire to Quez Watkins, who had broken free from his defender, on fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line.
The decision to pull Hurts made it look like the Eagles were tanking in order to get the sixth pick in the draft rather than drop to No. 9 had they won.
The move angered the fan base of the New York Giants, who would have won the NFC East had the Eagles defeated Washington, rather than losing, 20-14.
Giants coach Joe Judge, an Eagles fan growing up, said the Eagles ruined the integrity of the game with the move.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that two unnamed members of the defense confronted Pederson during the game about the decision. That report has not been confirmed by SI.com’s Eagle Maven, but it is known that center Jason Kelce went up to the coach to ask him why Hurts was taken out.
There is TV footage of Hurts on the bench saying, “It’s not right.”
Hurts didn’t seem very happy about coming out, either.
“Me being a competitor, talking about winning all the time and going out there and trying to win all the time, that’s what I’m all about,” said Hurts. “But I trust coach with that. That’s all I can do.”
Kelce surprisingly wasn’t available to talk to reports on Monday. The gregarious center normally talks on such a day, and always speaks his mind.
Graham, though, contradicted the claims of tanking.
“(We) wanted to win for sure,” he said. “We went out there all week saying how we wanted to go out there and win the game and make sure don’t have them celebrating on our watch, especially as a defense, especially because we knew (defensive coordinator) Jim Schwartz, this was his last game with us. It was tough to not send him off the right way.”
Roseman spoke for about 30 minutes on Monday but was never asked about the situation. He needs to end this piecemeal messaging and speak again or, at the very least, issue a statement.
A pivotal offseason such as this one can ill-afford such controversy to linger.
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