Miles Sanders has publicly denounced Eagles coach Doug Pederson's decision to bench quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of Nate Sudfeld during the fourth quarter of Sunday's Week 17 loss to Washington. The quarterback switch not only contributed to the Eagles' loss (which moved them up to the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 draft), it also gave the Football Team the NFC East division crown while keeping the Giants out of the postseason.
The Eagles' second-year running back (who missed Sunday's game with a knee injury) is the first Philadelphia player to publicly question Pederson's decision to bench Hurts, who rushed for two touchdowns while keeping the Eagles in striking distance of Washington.
"Man if I'm being honest, nobody liked the decision. Nobody," Sanders said Tuesday on 94WIP Sports Radio. "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."
Sanders' comments are consistent with a report by Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Several Eagles players were "shocked and outraged" with Pederson's decision to change quarterbacks, according to McLane's report. Two members of the Eagles' defense had to be held back from approaching their head coach. Two starters on the offense, including center Jason Kelce, asked Pederson why he was making the switch as the Eagles were trailing by just three points at the time. Sudfeld committed two turnovers and was sacked twice during his three possessions.
Hurts was reportedly distraught after being taken out of the game. And while he was aware of the fact that Pederson had planned to play Sudfeld, Hurts did not understand why Pederson was sticking with his decision with the game in the balance. And though Hurts was aware of Pederson's plan, several other players -- along with members of the coaching staff -- reportedly were given no indication that Sudfeld was part of the game plan.
Pederson, who said he was "coaching to win," defended himself by pointing to the fact that several other prominent starters played the entirety of Sunday's game.
"Pretty simple, the plan this week was to get Nate some time and I felt it was the time to get him in the game," said Pederson, who is just 22-25-1 as the Eagles' coach since Philadelphia's win over New England in Super Bowl LII.
While he apparently has some critics on the inside of the organization, Pederson is also fielding outside criticism that includes Giants coach Joe Judge's recent quotes about playing to win, especially in a season that has dealt with extra challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's a number of sacrifices made by players and coaches in this league," Judge said. "There's a number of sacrifices that come along with the family members connected with them. To disrespect the effort that everybody put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and not doing anything to help those players win. We will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants."