At the end of the 2020 NFL regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles had little to play. Preseason QB1 Carson Wentz has been shattered. The team, at 4-10-1, was adrift even in an NFC East that would ultimately be won by 7-9 Washington and its four different starting quarterbacks. Philadelphia envisioned a tough rebuild thanks to a questionable QB situation, a botched salary cap and the impending sacking of Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson.
The Eagles have therefore taken a head start.
Week 17 gave them a chance to derail the football team’s division title hopes and give the Dallas Cowboys a chance to win the crown (or, failing that, create a three-way tie that has allowed the very first player in the league’s 6-10 playoffs to host a Wild Card game). Instead, Philly embarked on a more meaningful achievement; one of the top five draft spots.
The Eagles, perhaps inspired by the 76ers team on the road, did a tank. It wasn’t subtle either. It was a team that didn’t want to win.
Jalen Hurts made the fourth start of his NFL career, completed just seven of 20 assists and didn’t get the call to end the game. Instead, those honors went to third string player Nate Sudfeld, who was able to pitch poorly without any of the added benefits Hurts brings to the table. Together they made up about half of quarterback Alex Smith, limping in his last game with the pros, was:
That’s how Philadelphia took a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, then sat idly by as players like Boston Scott, Jason Huntley and JJ Arcega-Whiteside set career highs in snapshot counts. The football team won the division and then fought to be beaten by eventual Super Bowl champions.
The people were crazy. The Eagles’ decision drove The Guardian to describe the whole of the NFL as “sordid” (big word). New York Giants head coach Joe Judge, enraged that he is now unable to put “torn by Buccaneers in playoff game” on his resume, called Philly’s last game a real act of “disrespect”[ing] the game.“Yahoo! Sports noted it”threatened the integrity of the game.“
Here’s the thing, though. It was totally worth it. For Philadelphia AND New York.
The Eagles also find themselves in awe of the final game of the season in 2021. This time, however, it’s because they’ve already locked down a Wild Card spot.
Hurts built himself from that four-game streak until the end of 2020 and became an electric mobile quarterback behind a first offense (Sudfeld, sadly, is no longer on the squad). That Week 17 loss led Philadelphia to the sixth overall selection in 2021. The Eagles traded that pick to the Dolphins, winning the 12th overall and a 2022 first in the process, then dispatched a third round to Dallas to return. at # 10 and select DeVonta Smith for a pick before the Giants can take him.
Smith leads Philadelphia in receptions and receiving yards. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner was a major factor in keeping the Eagles’ offense on schedule; 75 percent of its catches resulted in first tries or touchdowns.
Philly will still get the top 15 for 2022 as well, but that will come from Miami instead. It could help with a linebacker, a key cornerback, or maybe even a third day in a row. The Eagles also have their own pick and the Colts’ first round after the Carson Wentz trade. In total, the club will have nine picks in the first five rounds in April to help compensate the relatively scarce salary cap space it should have the next offseason.
Last season’s tank didn’t just affect the roster. The fury around Pederson’s decision to insert Sudfeld wasn’t the catalyst for his dismissal three years after winning a Super Bowl, but it certainly didn’t help.
In his place came Nick Sirianni. The jury is out on how good he is, but he took a team that started 2-5 in the playoffs despite a roster crippled by truly absurd $ 61 million salary cap commitments. Sirianni’s ability to create a winning attack around Hurts’ passing pass passive certainly deserves credit in what was meant to be a year of rebuilding.
The Giants, meanwhile, got the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft instead of the 19th due to their absence from the playoffs. This gave general manager Dave Gettleman the advantage of trading with a Bears team keen to select Justin Fields and add a 2022 first – a pick currently screened to land in the top eight – for his problem. That deal won’t happen if New York stumbles in the playoffs and gets washed out by Tom Brady (albeit given Brady’s playoff record against the Giants…).
That should add fuel to New York’s latest rebuild, which likely won’t include Gettleman and might not bring Judge with the ride, either. A pair of top eight picks should provide immediate, low-cost starters for a team in desperate need of talent. It could even create a viable exit strategy if the Giants decide to leave Daniel Jones, although this year’s crop of quarterback prospects is disappointing.
The Eagles gave up late in a meaningless game and the only team in their orbit that ended up worse off as it was the one that beat them. The nfl thought about punishing them, then decided it couldn’t prove anything. Their unofficial tanking led to DeVonta Smith and a first-round pick in 2022, a bit of extra experience for Hurts, and ultimately sort of a new head coach.
The Giants secured eventual Day 1 draft Kadarius Toney and a 2022 top-10 pick among the wreckage of missing the playoffs with a 6-10 record. The Cowboys, content to let their division rivals face off against rookie receivers, sat down and used the draft position gleaned from their Week 17 loss to New York to select defensive rookie of the year Micah Parsons. with a bonus third round pick. Chauncey Golston (acquired from the Eagles as the cost of moving from # 12 to # 10).
Washington, on the other hand, earned a division title and a home playoff loss to the Bucs. It was about seeing what Taylor Heinicke could do against an opponent who had not prepared for him and the 19th draft pick instead of the 10th. Head coach Ron Rivera decided to ride with him and Ryan Fitzpatrick as quarterback for 2021 (it made sense at the time!). Instead of having Parsons, the football team settled for Jamin Davis, a part-time rookie rookie who struggled to cover and was credited with 11 missed tackles in 15 games.
Washington picked up the momentum from this NFC East Championship and quickly returned to the draft position it might have had if only the Eagles had won this Week 17 game for the 2021 kickoff. Lose This Game could push them slightly closer to the top of this year’s draft. . If Rivera learned anything from the Philadelphia team last year, he might take it off the gas a little sooner than expected, just to see how things go.