Alabama in the Pros

Doug Pederson throws Jalen Hurts under the bus after benching him in loss to Washington Football League

Jalen Hurts celebrates a touchdown for Eagles versus Washington
Bill Streicher - USA TODAY Sports

The city of Philadelphia (Pa.) is not feeling very brotherly right now.

Whether it’s Eagle fans, players, commentators or NFL media personalities, no one appreciated what Doug Pederson did on Sunday Night Football in Philadelphia’s loss to the Washington Football Team. He comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, but the Super Bowl champion lives and dies on playing his best guys. Since he was awarded the starting job at quarterback over Carson Wentz on Dec. 13 of 2020, Jalen Hurts brought an energy, leadership and better play to the team. He paced the Eagles to a 24-21 victory over the Saints and despite a loss, the former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback had a massive showing against the Arizona Cardinals.

Regardless of some struggles in a meeting with the Dallas Cowboys, Pederson kept Hurts on the field.

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In a matchup against Washington, Hurts recorded two rushing touchdowns and could have given the Eagles an opportunity to win its fifth game — until Pederson took it from him.

As Washington carried a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter, Pederson benched Hurts for Nate Sudfeld. The decision was horrendous as both offenses struggled to move the ball and score points.

Even with Sudfield being a five-year pro, four years with the Eagles, the offense was worse with him under center.

He completed only five passes (12 attempts) for 32 yards with an interception. Sudfeld also lost a fumble and for those who consume the NFL, people were turned off by Pederson’s decision.

A moment occurred in the game where Hurts mouthed the words “That ain’t right” from the bench. After dropping its 11th game of the season by a score of 20-14, Pederson was addressed by reporters on whether the decision to bench Hurts was his move or was he forced to do it by the Eagles’ front office personnel.

“I was coaching to win,” Pederson said after the game. “Yes, that was my decision. Nate has obviously been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.”

To quote a line from Herman Edwards: “You play to win the game.”

For a situation where one is trying to get better and keep a division rival from making the NFL playoffs, a coach must have his marquee players in position to have success. When he benched Hurts, Pederson took every shot away from the Eagles to be at its best while also taking enjoyment from the fans who love the game.

At the University of Alabama, Hurts proved he could handle all forms of adversity. In fact, he filled in for an injured Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 SEC Championship Game versus Georgia and propelled the Tide to a 35-28 comeback win.

As a sophomore in 2017, Hurts connected with DeVonta Smith for a 26-yard, game-winning strike against Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium. Oklahoma did not have the greatest offensive line for him in 2019; nevertheless, Hurts put that team on his shoulders and carried it to a Big 12 Championship and the College Football Playoff.

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Not giving Hurts a chance to pull the game out is not playing to win.

According to Peter Schrager, a senior writer for Fox Sports and a host on Good Morning Football, he was absolutely disgusted by Pederson’s move.

“I have a terrible taste in my mouth,” Schrager said. “It was an amazing season, we played every game in the regular season, it came down to the final moment and that’s not how football should be played. I think a lot of Giants fans are upset, but I think just fans of football … I stayed up after 12 hours of watching football to see how this season unfolds and the Eagles gave us that, which to me was not fair to the fans, it was not fair to the other teams, it was not fair to the Giants, and obviously, I don’t feel great for the Eagles players themselves.”

Per Schrager, he said he would have like to have seen Jalen Hurts in a big game.

“I would have like to have seen how he responded down three,” he said of Hurts. “They benched Jalen Hurts and put in Nate Sudfeld. The explanation made no sense. Sudfeld look subpar. This is not fair for the rest of the league.”

Philadelphia has a huge decision to make this offseason on Carson Wentz.

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If it finds a suitor to take his contract, will the Eagles finally be willing to hand Hurts the team?

Also, what could become of Pederson as a coach? His move was not in the best interest of Hurts or the team.

We shall see what happens, but Pederson was not coaching to win the game with benching Hurts.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith

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