The Giants take accountability for missing the playoffs again
JAIME C. HARRIS | 1/7/2021, midnight
Irrespective of the dubious move by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Sunday night, the only finger pointing Giants coaches and players should do is at themselves. They can look back at the four games they lost by an average of 2.5 points, all from Weeks 1 through 8, as the cause for them missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season and eight of the last nine.
The Giants ended this season 6-10 after a 23-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon, one game behind the 7-9 Washington Football Team for the NFC East title. Their postseason hopes perilously hinged on the Eagles winning their game at home versus Washington.
With 12:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and Washington leading by only 17-14, the man who led the Eagles to a gripping 41-33 win over Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII (52) three years ago, shockingly replaced his starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts, with Nate Sudfeld, who entered the game with just 25 passing attempts and 156 passing yards.
Sudfeld, facing the team that initially drafted him in 2016 out of Indiana University, went 5-12 for 32 yards as the Eagles failed to score another point in losing 20-14. Washington, which goes into the playoffs with a below .500 record, rare for a playoff team, will now host the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday in a wild-card matchup.
“Yes, I was coaching to win,” maintained Pederson after the game. “Yes, that was totally my decision. Nate has obviously been here four years, and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.
“Listen, if there’s [anyone] out there that thinks I was not trying to win the game, [Zach] is, Ertz is out there. Brandon Graham is out there. Darius Slay is out there. All our top guys are still on the field at the end. We were going to win the game.”
Pederson’s argument is plausible. Yet inserting a quarterback, the most consequential player in football, with minimal experience into a game with playoff implications at its most decisive juncture, merits the incessant criticism and conspiracy theories that have abounded in the aftermath of the Eagles’ defeat.
Giants head coach Joe Judge placed accountability on his team falling short of the playoffs squarely where it belongs.
“I’ll let Philadelphia speak for themselves on that in terms of how they approached the game,” said Judge on Monday. “There’s been a lot made of that game internal or from the outside. Let me just be very clear on this, we had 16 opportunities this year, that’s it.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of our opportunities and perform better and execute the situations when they’re on our plate. We don’t ever want to leave our fate in the hands of anybody else. We’re not going to make excuses as an organization. Not now, not ever.
“…We need to learn from the lessons we have from this year and carry them forward. That’s the experience you truly gain. That’s really the most important thing right there, our opportunities.”
The 38-year-old Judge showed encouraging promise in his first year as a head coach. The Giants were a demonstrably more disciplined and detail-oriented team than in the previous four seasons under former head coaches Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur. Judge established that players and coaches are answerable to him, and has laid a foundation on which the Giants can solidly build.