Doug Pederson’s early fourth-quarter decision Sunday night to replace Jalen Hurts with Nate Sudfeld paved the way for the Eagles’ 11th loss of the season, but enabled them to gain the sixth pick in the draft.
The not-so-subtle tank job has drawn the wrath of a lot of people around the league. Even many of the Eagles’ own players are angry with Pederson.
Mike Holmgren said he “kind of squinted” when he saw his longtime friend Pederson abruptly take Hurts out of a three-point game and replace him with a quarterback who hadn’t thrown a regular-season pass in two years.
“I said, ‘Ah, gee, Doug. Don’t do that,’ ” Holmgren told CBS Sports Radio’s Zach Gelb on Wednesday night. “That was my first thought.
“You play to win every game. You made a switch to Hurts during the season, which already had proved to be a little problematic for you as a coach. So don’t compound the problem. That’s what I felt. He said he had reasons [for doing it] and I trust him. Doug’s a good guy and a good coach. But I wish he hadn’t done that.”
Pederson played for Holmgren for four years in Green Bay from 1995 through 1998.
The Eagles coach has denied that he was purposely trying to lose the game to ensure the Eagles a better draft pick. He said he always had planned to give loyal soldier Sudfeld some snaps. But the timing stunk to high heaven.
One thing seems pretty obvious. Pederson wasn’t acting alone. The decision to tank a game is above his pay grade. His bosses – general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie – would’ve had to sign off on it.
“I’ve been in some seasons where things weren’t going well, but you’re battling like crazy,” Holmgren told Gelb. “You’re not thinking about draft choices. You’re not thinking about any of that stuff.
“Unless the owner would say, ‘This is what I would like you to do.’ In which case, I would quit. That’s not how it’s done.”
Sunday night’s 20-14 loss helped give the Eagles a better pick in the April draft. But the unanswered question is whether it was worth the damage it has done to Pederson’s relationship with his players. And there is damage.
“I think if anyone can fix it, he can,” Holmgren said. “I think he has a good relationship with his players. But they’re mad. I get that.
“I would say moving ahead, what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to get your players committee or your group of solid guys who make up the nucleus of your football team, and meet with them before talking to the whole team. Then let them talk. Then you explain yourself. Doug can do that. He’ll get them back on his side, I believe. But I wish he hadn’t done it.”
During his 5-minute interview with Gelb, Holmgren also talked about the Eagles’ quarterback situation. He said that if the Eagles decide to have an open competition for the starting job between Hurts and Wentz, both players have to be on board with the idea.
“Both guys have to be willing to compete,” he said. “If not, it can get kind of ugly. And that’s not a good thing for you team. It can be very disruptive.”
Holmgren said he likes Wentz and still thinks he can be a very good quarterback.
“There are some things he has to work on,” he said. “You just have to be firm about it. You talk about my time with Brett Favre or Matt Hasselbeck or Steve Young or any of those guys I’ve had the pleasure of coaching, there was a lot of tough love going on. But at the end, they knew I loved them and was trying to help them.”
What does he think Wentz’s biggest problems are right now?
“It’s mainly decision-making and holding on to the ball,” he said. “That’s what struck me watching him. He’s been there five years, but he’s missed a lot of time. Skill-wise, I think he’s got what it takes.
“But is he willing to trust the play-caller, the head coach? What kind of a relationship do you have with him? If all of a sudden you don’t think he’s listening anymore, then that’s not good. That doesn’t work.”