It wasn’t just Joe Judge and the Giants who took issue with the decisions the Eagles made in the second half of their game against Washington on Sunday night.
Even internally the motives of pulling quarterback Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld in a three-point game in the fourth quarter were met with dismay.
"Man if I'm being honest, nobody liked the decision, nobody," Eagles running back Miles Sanders, who was inactive for the contest, said during an appearance on 94WIP on Tuesday. "That's all I can say really. I don't know who was the main person behind that decision. All I know is that a lot of people on the team was confused."
And not just in retrospect. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, two Eagles defensive players had to be held back from approaching Doug Pederson after he made the quarterback switch. Center Jason Kelce and another offensive starter went to the coach to ask him why he had pulled the starting quarterback.
Pederson said he had always planned to play Sudfeld, but the Inquirer reported that many Eagles players and assistants had no inclination that the third-string quarterback was part of the offensive game plan. Those who did know figured that plan had been abandoned because of the tight score, the paper reported.
Many high-profile players, including Kelce, have yet to speak publicly about the game.
The Eagles wound up losing to Washington, which prevented the Giants from claiming the NFC East title. On Monday, Judge was visibly angered by the way Pederson handled the end of the game, not because it cost the Giants a postseason ticket — an outcome that Judge said was a result of his team winning just six games — but because it was anathema to the culture he is trying to build.
"To disrespect the effort that everyone putforward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and not doing everything you can to help those players win, we will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants," Judge vowed.
Though he never named Pederson or the Eagles, it was clear they were the targets of his disgust. He even noted his reasoning for taking such a public stand, saying it was because some players had asked him about it during their exit interviews with him on Monday.
"I want to make sure everybody understands our philosophy and what we’re going to do here," he said.
Judge’s diatribe evoked a mixed reaction throughout the sports world, and within the Giants’ locker room as well. Some, like many fans in the region, came away ready to run through walls for Judge.
"I think it was an awesome message by Coach Judge," linebacker Blake Martinez said. "It’s something he has kind of instilled in us since Day One. Always competing, always being ready to play, always putting us in the right position to win games. I think it was just an awesome way to go about it."
Cornerback James Bradberry, though, seemed less riled up by Judge’s words.
"I mean, he’s entitled to his own opinion," Bradberry shrugged. "That’s how he felt, that’s what he wanted to say, I’m gonna stand behind him."
Bradberry said he had no issue with the Eagles, and even praised their effort.
"Watching the whole game I wasn’t really questioning the coaches’ decisions and stuff, I was just impressed by how well the Eagles' defense was playing," he said. "The game was real close, they weren’t playing for anything, and I’ve been in that situation before so I know how things can be as a player. So I was glad they were playing hard."
And rookie safety Xavier McKinney? He said he didn’t have the stomach to even watch the game on Sunday night with the Giants’ playoff hopes hanging in the balance, nor was he even aware of Judge’s memorable news conference that will forever become part of Giants-Eagles lore.
"We had opportunities to get the job done, and I’ve always been told, for as long as I can remember, don’t ever put your destiny in someone else’s hands to determine," he said. "So for us, we know what we could’ve done better. We know we had opportunities to win games that we didn’t win, and at the end of it, that’s the reason why we didn’t get to where we wanted to get to."