While the Washington Football Team was fighting for the NFC East crown and a playoff spot on Sunday night versus the Philadelphia Eagles, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were looking ahead to the AFC Divisional Round in two weeks.
However, it was hard for anyone — Mahomes included — to ignore the Eagles’ curious and controversial decision to bench starting quarterback Jalen Hurts while down only three points with 12:35 to go in the fourth quarter.
While Washington had everything on the line, the 4-10-1 Eagles had nothing left to play for but pride and 2021 draft positioning, leading many to believe that head coach Doug Pederson made a not-so-subtle decision to tank the game.
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Patrick Mahomes: ‘I Would’ve Wanted to Play’
During his weekly radio segment with 610 Sports Radio’s The Drive on Monday afternoon, the Chiefs’ star quarterback shared his perspective on what went down in Philadelphia the night before.
“I mean, you never know what’s going on inside the team or the organization, but just watching how he’s played the past few weeks, it did kind of confuse me at the team,” Mahomes said, via KCSP 610 Sports Radio. “But you never know. For me, I would’ve wanted to play and finish out the season no matter what our record was, but whatever the coach thought was best for the team, he did, and you have to back that as a guy on the team.”
The MVP candidate, who has led K.C. to a 38-8 mark and three division titles in as many seasons as a starter, hasn’t been put in a similar spot during his young pro career, but it’s hard to argue with the logic of a competitor on the highest level.
Hurts knew the fix was in. Clearly dejected. Obviously says “it’s not right” and shakes his head. pic.twitter.com/rSZibS4HZn
— rone’s gamblin corner (@_rone) January 4, 2021
Doug Pederson Defends Hurts’ Benching
Pederson’s call seemingly violated the most basic principles of ethics in sports, resulting in a social media uproar and one ESPN reporter calling on the league to investigate the incident.
After the game, the Eagles head coach, who was already on the hot seat after this season’s Carson Wentz debacle, called it a “pretty simple” decision to play backup Nate Sudfeld to close out the game.
“We struggled miserably there in the third quarter to score and we had opportunities to score,” Pederson told the 94WIP Morning Show on Monday. “I’ve got to do what I feel is in the best interest of the Philadelphia Eagles and the team to help us win the football game. Don’t sit here and pin this on Nate Sudfeld or the decision to put him in the football game. Nate’s an NFL quarterback and he’s a good quarterback and he’s done some great things for us. He was our backup in the Super Bowl for goodness sake. Perception, I don’t get into perception a whole lot.”
Besides Hurts and the state of sportsmanship, the New York Giants took the biggest hit from Pederson’s call.
Tied with Washington at 6-9 entering the day, a loss by the Football Team would’ve sent Joe Judge’s squad to the postseason for a home matchup against old friend Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Instead, the Giants were sent home packing, but not before the first-year head coach went scorched Earth on the “disrespect” showed by the Eagles during his press conference on Monday.
#Giants HC Joe Judge blasts the #Eagles: “To disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win, we will never do that as long as I’m the HC of the Giants."
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) January 4, 2021
With the loss, Philadelphia secured the No. 6 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. While the decision and loss on Sunday night won’t affect the Chiefs (unless Washington and Alex Smith find their way to an improbable Super Bowl matchup with Kansas City), Andy Reid’s former club certainly has the NFL in yet another optics dilemma.
No action has been taken against the Eagles at this point, and that’s likely to remain the case with the Wild Card round set to kick off on Saturday.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!