Cris Collinsworth Tears into Doug Pederson as Eagles Accused of Tanking

NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth led a barrage of criticism towards Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson for turning to third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter of Sunday's regular season finale against the Washington Football Team.

The Eagles were already out of the playoffs picture going into Week 17, but had a crucial role to play to determine the winner of the NFC East.

Had Philadelphia defeated Washington, the 6-10 New York Giants would have won the division after beating the Dallas Cowboys earlier on Sunday. Instead, the Eagles lost 20-14 on Sunday Night Football, as Washington improved to 7-9 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

With Philadelphia trailing by three points in the fourth quarter, Pederson surprisingly benched Jalen Hurts for Sudfeld, as the Eagles third-string quarterback took his first snap since Week 17 of the 2018 season.

"I couldn't have done what Philadelphia did," Collinsworth said on the game broadcast on NBC.

While Hurts had a very modest night throwing the ball—he completed seven of his 20 passes for a paltry 72 yards and one interception— he scored two rushing touchdowns and his benching deprived the Eagles of any offensive spark.

Philadelphia failed to put any points on the board after Sudfeld entered the game, as the 27-year-old completed five of his 12 passes for just 32 yards and one interception.

"As a competitor, I play to win," Hurts said after the game when asked if he was disappointed to be benched. "You've just got to trust coach with that."

Collinsworth was far from alone in criticizing Pederson's decision to replace Hurts. Several Giants players took to social media to vent their frustration at Philadelphia's perceived lack of effort.

"This is sickening," Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton tweeted, with cornerback Julian Love and linebacker Blake Martinez also expressing their disappointment.

This is sickening

— Darius Slayton (@Young_Slay2) January 4, 2021

"This is why we don't like the Eagles," added former Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning.

Even away from New York, there was little sympathy for the Eagles. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky described Philadelphia's decision to bench Hurts as a "mockery", while his colleague Chris Mortensen indicated senior figures within the NFL felt Pederson's move had undermined the integrity of the game.

That was a mockery

— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) January 4, 2021

This is the most negative barrage of comments I have received about a game’s lack of integrity and that’s not even counting Giants-related bias.
Consensus from those in NFL and who have been associated with it: Disgrace.
That’s not the fault of the Washington Football Team.

— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 4, 2021

Aside from deciding who between Washington and the Giants would make the playoffs, the season finale also carried significant importance for the Eagles. With the loss, Philadelphia ended the season 4-11-1 and secured the sixth overall draft pick.

Had the Eagles won, they would have landed the ninth overall pick.

Pederson, however, insisted the decision to pull Hurts was not dictated by circumstances or plans to improve the franchise's draft position and had instead been planned ahead.

"Yes, that was my decision solely. Nate has obviously been here for four years. And I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps," he said.

Pederson then pointed to the fact the Eagles had a number of veterans out on the field, dismissing the suggestion his team was trying to tank.

"Listen, if there's anything out there that thinks that I was not trying to win the game.

I mean, [Zach] Ertz is out there. Brandon Graham's out there. Darius Slay's out there. You know, all our top guys were still on the field in the end. We were [trying to] win the game."

Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles
Doug Pederson, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, looks on during the first quarter of the game against the Washington Football Team at Lincoln Financial Field on January 3 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles lost 20-14. Mitchell Leff/Getty