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dan shaughnessy

NFL should come down on the Eagles for Sunday night’s performance

With the game on the line in the second half, the Eagles inserted backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who threw an interception and lost a fumble.
With the game on the line in the second half, the Eagles inserted backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who threw an interception and lost a fumble.Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles are a disgrace and should be punished by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Eagles intentionally lost a “Sunday Night Football” game that had massive playoff implications for two other franchises. Philadelphia’s tank job served to improve its draft position from ninth to sixth, so the league should take away that first-round pick. Then fine the owner, suspend coach Doug Pederson, and apologize to all of us for insulting our intelligence and allowing Philly to throw a game.

Remember Deflategate? The Patriots lost their first-round pick, a fourth-rounder, got fined a million bucks, and saw Tom Brady suspended four games just for taking a little air out of the footballs. The Patriots were punished for breaching the integrity of the game. Tampering with the footballs was deemed a competition violation.

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This was much worse.

Here’s the situation: Washington vs. Philadelphia — the final game of the NFL’s 256-game regular season — was flexed into prime time because of its playoff implications. The 4-10-1 Eagles had been eliminated from playoff contention, but the finale with the Washington Football Team would dictate who’d win the sorry NFC East. A Washington win meant Washington would represent the division in the playoffs. A Philly win would have sent the Giants (winners over the Cowboys earlier in the day) to the playoffs.

Ignore the fact that none of these teams is any good or deserves to play in the tournament. The rules state that each division winner gets to go to the playoffs.

In this spirit, the Eagles were division kingmakers.

But the Eagles organization decided that its draft position was more important than the integrity of the league. Or maybe the Eagles just wanted to stick it to their rivals from the Meadowlands.

Philly’s pregame inactives and healthy scratches were the first signs that the Eagles weren’t trying to win. Trailing, 17-14, late in the third quarter, Pederson dialed up the tanking when he opted to go for a touchdown instead of kicking a game-tying field goal on fourth and goal from the 4. Rookie Jalen Hurts’s pass was incomplete, and Philly came away with the desired zero points.

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On Philly’s next possession, Pederson removed his electric young QB in favor of Nate Sudfeld, a third-stringer with 25 career pass attempts over four seasons. It was blatant. Hurts was not having a stellar game, but he’d capped two long scoring drives with rushing TDs and clearly gave the Eagles a chance to win the game.

But winning was not acceptable to Pederson. So he “got a look” at Sudfeld to make sure Philly lost.

Mission accomplished. Sudfeld was intercepted. Then fumbled. He was sacked twice, threw seven incompletions, and totaled 32 yards passing over four futile possessions. Washington won, 20-14.

“I was coaching to win,” Pederson said after the game.

Baloney. Everyone knew what he was doing. Broadcasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth made no attempt to hide the obvious fact that the fix was in, but were restrained from calling it the disgrace it was because of NBC’s partnership with the NFL.

Doug Pederson walks the field before Sunday's loss.
Doug Pederson walks the field before Sunday's loss.Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

There was nothing funny or clever about it. This was not a playoff-bound team resting and protecting stars to get ready for the playoffs. This was a team trying to lose to improve its draft position. Maybe it would be justifiable if this meant going from the second overall pick to No. 1 and bagging Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It might also be grudgingly acceptable if the outcome didn’t matter to any other team.

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But the outcome affected Washington and New York in a big way. And Pederson and the Eagles were obligated to try to play spoiler.

I hope there’s an insurrection in the Eagle locker room. In the old days, reporters could comb the room and find the disgruntled vets. Now the teams have COVID cover from uncomfortable truths leaking out.

Nobody around here feels sorry for the Giants. But what if it had happened to your team? What if the Patriots missed the playoffs because the moribund Jets didn’t try against the Dolphins?

Hop into the Wayback Machine to October of 1967, the final day of the Red Sox Impossible Dream season. The Sox beat the Twins in their season finale, then gathered in the Fenway clubhouse and turned on a radio to listen to the Tigers’ finale in Detroit.

Boston had clinched at least a tie for the American League pennant and needed an Angels win over the Tigers to win the flag outright and advance to the World Series. The sixth-place Angels had zero to play for. But they battled the Tigers. Angels manager Bill Rigney used his best relievers in the late innings and had three pitchers warming in the bullpen to protect a two-run lead.

The Red Sox clubhouse erupted when the Angels prevailed. In Detroit, Tigers owner John Fetzer went out for drinks with Rigney and toasted him for upholding the integrity of the game.

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Philadelphia backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld looks downfield in the second half of Sunday's game.
Philadelphia backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld looks downfield in the second half of Sunday's game.Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

We saw none of this Sunday night in Philadelphia. We saw a sports disgrace.

Just last week, J.J. Watt of the eliminated Texans said, “There are a lot of people that watch us and invest their time and their money in buying our jerseys. They care about us. They care every single week. We’re in Week 16 and we’re 4-11 and there are fans that show up and they care about this.

“You can’t care enough to go out there and try your hardest? You shouldn’t be here.”

Nor should you be owner or head coach of an NFL team.

Goodell needs to punish the Eagles or forever shut up about the integrity of his game.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.