The fallout from Doug Pederson's decision to bench starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of third-stringer Nate Sudfeld in the Eagles' Week 17 loss to Washington has been consistently unfavorable. But while pundits are paid to second-guess coaches, and while Giants coach Joe Judge had a specific reason for likewise ripping the decision, it's much worse when the ire comes from inside the locker room.
According to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Eagles players were "shocked and outraged" that Pederson switched quarterbacks with the Eagles only trailing Washington by three points at the time. Apparently, two defensive players had to be "held back from approaching Pederson" and at least two offensive starters, including team leader Jason Kelce, questioned Pederson directly on the stunning decision. When Pederson pulled Hurts, the rookie was visibly upset on the sideline and was spotted saying "that's not right" by television cameras.
The report also indicates players and coaches had no idea Sudfeld was going to enter the game and those who did assumed that idea was nixed because the Eagles were in a position to win. Even a day later, some staffers didn't know why Pederson made the switch and speculated Pederson lost purposefully for a better draft position, potentially ordered by owner Jeffrey Lurie/GM Howie Roseman.
That is a lot to unpack, but all of it points the finger directly at a man who was already on thin ice within the organization. Despite leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl in 2017, and leading them to the playoffs the following two seasons, Pederson's job status was reportedly in jeopardy this season as the Eagles stumbled to a 4-11-1 record. Highly-paid quarterback Carson Wentz regressed to the point where he was a healthy scratch in Week 17 and drama surrounded Pederson's handling of his demotion in favor of Hurts.
After Pederson made the switch and Hurts led the Eagles to an upset win over the Saints, he didn't praise Hurts and kept both quarterbacks in limbo publicly, not naming a starter until the middle of the week. Then, in a sport where winning is everything and purposeful tanking is seen as the ultimate sign of weakness, Pederson pulled Hurts in favor of a guy who hadn't played all season? Even worse, Pederson defended the decision by saying he was "trying to win" when all of his players know that decision didn't give them the best chance to win? That's going to create a fissure between the players and coach.
A coach's bond with his players is predicated on trust. That trust is built on the idea that they all share the same goal, which is to win every game they play. Asking players to put their health on the line to win a game and then pulling the rug out from underneath them is the ultimate betrayal. That he did it without even giving a heads-up is worse. It's no wonder his players were so upset.
Pederson has a lot of damage control to undertake immediately, but even more so, he must rebuild his trust with players this offseason. It's not an impossible task. But it will take honesty and transparency. He can't handle his quarterback situation the same way this offseason and into next season and he can't ask his players to give their all if he's not willing to do the same. Otherwise, the next mutiny will lead to him walking the plank.