I had a totally different rant planned for today; then, Sunday Night Football happened. Resetting the stage, the WTFs make the playoffs with a win; the Giants make the playoffs if the Eagles win. It is the final game of the year and it means nothing to the Eagles so giving some of their starters the day off and playing some “prospects” is to be expected. And then, Sunday Night Football happened.
Let me make two things clear:
- I have no inside information here – – and I have no intention to do any investigative work to uncover any.
- I cannot read minds.
Having said all that, I am not certain that the Eagles played that game to win the game. Moreover, given the commentary from Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, I suspect that they too wonder why various decisions/ploys took place in that game. I am not suggesting that the Eagles “took a dive” in the game but I would not like to have to defend what happened in that game from the point of view of logic and reason.
The Giants’ fans are understandably disappointed in the results from last night; many of them have Twitter accounts; the fallout from those two premises is pretty easy to imagine. So, let me say that some of the gall and ire expressed on Twitter might be directed at the Giants’ themselves because all they would have had to do to get into the playoffs in 2020 is to win more than 6 regular season games. Fans can and should be disappointed in the season’s outcome.
There were 3 “strategic” decisions by the Eagles that still have me shaking my head this morning:
- Leading 14-10 with 1:52 left to play in the first half, the Eagles got the ball at their own 26 yardline. The Eagles run offense had been solid – if not eye-popping – and the WTFs had all 3 timeouts left. Logic calls for a running play on first down; that would require the WTFs to spend a timeout if they anticipate getting the ball back in a reasonable field position. The Eagles threw the ball 3 times; they gained 0 yards and punted the ball back to the WTFs having consumed 15 seconds off the clock and causing the WTFs to spend none of their timeouts.
- With about 2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Eagles trailed 17-14 and had the ball at the WTFs’ 4-yardline; it was 4th and goal. Eschewing a field goal to tie the game, the Eagles tried a pass play that failed, and they turned the ball over on downs.
- Starting with the Eagles’ first possession in the 4th quarter – it is still a one-score game – the Eagles insert Nate Sudfeld into the game at QB. Granted the Eagles braintrust could never have foreseen that he would throw an INT and lose a fumble on his first two possessions, but what was he doing in that game under those circumstances in the first place.
[Aside: Nate Sudfeld’s stats were 5 of 12 for 32 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT plus a lost fumble. Oh, by the way, he took two sacks too. He has been a clipboard holder since being drafted in 2016, but last night in the 4th quarter of a meaningful game, it was imperative that he get some “evaluation time”?]
After the game, Pedersen asserted that he had been coaching to win and that Sudfeld deserved to play that 4th quarter of the game because he had “been here 4 years”. Excuse me, but the fact that he has been with the Eagles for 4 years and had seen the field in all of 3 games and had thrown 2 passes in his career tells me that when you were coaching to win in those previous years, you felt it was best for him to be somewhere other than on the field.
The folks at NBC were mystified too. Michaels and Collinsworth almost asked aloud what the Hell was Doug Pedersen thinking/doing in the second half of that game. The NBC stat mavens came up with – – and displayed on screen – – the Eagles’ outcome with a win or a loss in the game. If the Eagles had won, they would have the 9th overall draft pick next April; now that they have lost, they will have the 6th overall pick in that draft. I do not ever recall that sort of information being presented to the audience in a game unless it involved the overall #1 pick. To me, it seems as if the people doing the game were sufficiently gobsmacked by what they saw unfolding that they felt the need to come up with some sort of explanation.
Cris Collinsworth is noted for his candor on the air. His candor is probably the reason why almost every NFL fanbase thinks that he absolutely hates their team. Without ever using the word “tanking”, he said several times that he did not understand what the Eagles were doing and/or why they were doing it until finally he said – – this is probably a paraphrase because I do not have the game recorded and cannot go back and listen to get his exact wording:
“I could not do what the Eagles did tonight.”
From a logical standpoint, I have no answers for what happened in last night’s game. Doug Pedersen says he was “coaching to win”; I cannot refute that with facts just as I cannot find a lot of facts that support that assertion. My impression is that the Eagles played out the string which would have been understandable and unremarkable had the WTFs been leading the game by 2 TDs in the second half. But once it became a winnable game late in the third quarter, the Eagles owed it to their fans – – and to NFL football fans of every stripe – – to make strategic decisions that more obviously align with trying to win the game.
Cue Herm Edwards here…
Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment on the New Year celebration in NYC and how it related to the NFL:
“Thanks to COVID-19, this Dec. 31 in Times Square will mark the first time in 113 years that there won’t be any New Yorkers on hand to witness a ball getting dropped.
“In other words, no different than a Jets home game in 2020.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………