For National Football League fans, Week 17 has always been hotly anticipated. It’s when playoff seedings are decided, when the scrambling for continued relevance becomes most pronounced, when the run-up comes to a head. And, all things considered, the current season’s iteration didn’t disappoint. Yet, as much as the flurry of activity invariably brought celebration to some quarters and disappointment to others, the spotlight most shone on a development engineered by protagonists whose immediate fate wasn’t affected.
Indeed, the Eagles, already beleaguered throughout their campaign by issue after issue, found themselves courting even more controversy after appearing to lose on purpose against the Washington Football Team over the weekend. They had cause to do so, to be sure; their 4-11 slate ensured that they would get to pick sixth overall in the upcoming draft, three spots higher than their position had they prevailed in the contest. And even as the “victors” rightly focused on the result, they insisted that they went about the contest with the goal of winning. Never mind the absence of otherwise-fit-to-play Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery. Forget their decision to put in third-string Nate Sudfeld under center while down just three early in the fourth quarter.
No doubt, there is ample reason to laud Washington’s extremely unlikely postseason showing with a losing record, and starring quarterback Alex Smith — he of the broken leg, the life-and-death situation, and the complications that required 17 surgeries to overcome. The Wild Card set-to against the favored Buccaneers is just reward for their resiliency under pressure. Nonetheless, they got plenty of help from the Eagles, who wound up needing to answer allegations on the lack of professionalism and respect for the game. Count the Giants, who would have qualified for the playoffs had the outcome been different, among those continuing to seethe.
In any case, the Eagles have more pressing problems to address. Whether or not the Commissioner’s Office steps in as a result of their seemingly wanting effort, they’re definitely in for a long offseason. Wentz is bent on leaving after having been demoted, thus making the $128-million contract he signed in 2019 a decided albatross. Meanwhile, the rest of their roster needs retooling, as do their slate of officials in the sidelines. Suffice to say their decision to go through 2020 without an offensive coordinator was a spectacular fail. At the same time, they’ll be on the lookout for a defensive coordinator, what with Jim Schwartz electing to go on a sabbatical while pondering career options.
That the Eagles are in rebuild mode is painfully obvious. It’s just too bad that they figure to get worse before getting better. They’re way over the salary cap, embroiled in a battle for the sport’s most important position, and struggling to overcome a leadership vacuum. Three years ago, they upset the vaunted Patriots in the Super Bowl. Now, they’re dead last in the hapless National Football Conference East and with no evident route to respectability.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.