For much of the last decade, what had been a classic NFC East rivalry between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles became completely one-sided, with Philly acting as the schoolyard bully beating up on a Giants franchise that had fallen low. In 2020, the Giants finally picked themselves up and punched the bully back, snapping an eight-game losing streak against the Eagles with a 27-17 Week 10 victory.
But more than that, what has truly rekindled the rivalry entering 2021 was the way last season ended for both teams: After the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, their hopes of winning the NFC East -- despite a 6-10 record -- were contingent on the Eagles beating the Washington Football Team. However, the Eagles took specific actions in that matchup, namely benching starting quarterback Jalen Hurts for third-string backup Nate Sudfeld, which ensured their loss and led to widespread accusations of malfeasance and of deliberately throwing the game for a better draft pick.
Needless to say, that hasn't sat well with the Giants faithful or their players -- Xavier McKinney among them. A second-round pick out of Alabama, McKinney battled back from a foot injury that cost him much of the season to make the deciding play of Week 17 with a late end zone interception. And during an appearance on the All Things Covered podcast, McKinney admitted that he was left with hard feelings when asked if he holds a grudge against the Eagles over last year's finale.
"I would be lying to you if I said I didn't, man. I'm not gonna lie," McKinney said. "That was my first pick, and knowing the year that I had just being injured pretty much the whole year and then coming back and being able to help my team get to where we were supposed to be. And then going home, we all celebrate in the locker room, everybody happy, we're like, 'Hey, hopefully the Eagles take care of business, which I'm sure they will.'
"It was a winnable game for them. And actually when I came home, I ain't even watch the game because I had a feeling something like that was gonna happen -- it was gonna be something weird going on. Because they had stuff going on the whole year with the whole quarterback situation."
While he didn't sit down and watch the game, McKinney had kept score while also keeping tabs on a private chat between the Giants' defensive backs. As the game progressed, the chat turned to one word responses, prompting McKinney to check on what was going on.
"I'm like, 'Damn, what the hell? What's going on?' So I go look, I turn on the game and I start watching, and I'm like, 'Damn, they just about to give it up.' ... They gave it up, man," McKinney said. "It was rough, it was rough to see it happen like that. But everything happens for a reason."
While the Eagles did not face discipline from the NFL in spite of the optics of the situation, head coach Doug Pederson was fired shortly afterwards, and one of the strongest rebukes of what transpired came from Giants head coach Joe Judge. But in the same breath, Judge made a strong point: "We don't ever want to leave our fate in the hands of anybody else," adding that the team had opportunities to win it did not capitalize on -- a point McKinney echoed.
"A lot of the games that we lost, it was all on us. It wasn't nothing that the other teams did. That was kind of just what we got at the end of it," McKinney said. "So we've just got to be better as far as the little things and how we handle our business."
While his injury kept him from making a greater impact as a rookie, McKinney is sure to have already won some favor among Giants fans. In addition to his comments on the Eagles, McKinney also admitted he holds a grudge against the Cowboys for passing on him in the draft and also went to bat advocating for quarterback Daniel Jones.
McKinney has not been shy about his feelings toward Philadelphia, as he previously wrote that the Eagles were "on strike 65" after they lurched in front of the Giants in the NFL Draft in order to draft Giants target and Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, McKinney's teammate at Alabama.