Eagles coach Doug Pederson reminds us why losing cultures are dangerous in pro sports

Keep an eye on who bounces back from their embarrassing seasons first, the Philadelphia Eagles or the Red Sox.
What do they have in common? Both, as far as the eye can tell, committed the sin of not trying their hardest to win as many games as possible in 2020, albeit in different ways.
Eagles center Jason Kelce had perhaps the sound bite of the season in early December, when the writing was on the wall that the Eagles not only stunk, but maybe weren’t actually trying to win games.
“Nothing takes precedence over trying to win a football game,” Kelce said a few weeks before the Eagles’ pathetic display against Washington on national television Sunday night. “I don’t care who you’re trying to evaluate. I don’t care if you’ve lost every game, you’re 0-15 and it’s the last one you’ve got — everything is about winning in this league.”
Let Kelce remind us why that’s so important.
“You see a lot of losing teams sustain losses for a number of years when they have bad cultures,” he said. “They have cultures where you don’t try and win every week.”
The scent you’re sniffing is the stink of a losing culture, one the Eagles willingly chose on Sunday, when coach Doug Pederson turned to his third-string quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, late in the fourth quarter when the Eagles, already eliminated from the postseason, had a chance to win their final game.
Pederson appeared to get caught in his own lie when he contradicted himself, first saying it was to evaluate Sudfeld, a perpetual backup who has been with the Eagles for four years, and then claiming Sudfeld gave them a better chance to win.
Never mind that Jalen Hurts was drafted in the second round this year and looks like the quarterback of the future after the meteoric fall of Carson Wentz. Never mind that the Eagles now could have two quarterbacks who don’t feel the faith of their head coach.
Pederson and the Eagles have sent the message to their players that winning isn’t everything in a clear effort to catapult the club from having the No. 9 overall draft pick to the No. 6 overall pick.
It wasn’t just the benching. It was also the Eagles seeming all too easily to leap offsides on a 4th-and-inches with two minutes remaining, jumping so aggressively one player even tackled quarterback Alex Smith after several whistles had blown.
Then the Eagles offensive line displayed no effort or intent to block Chase Young from getting to Sudfeld on the Eagles’ final possession.
The Red Sox didn’t tank nearly as blatantly or aggressively as the Eagles, but they’re equally in danger of creating a losing culture thanks to a season in which they traded one of the best players in franchise history to save money, then showed no desire to add any talented pitchers to a roster that was in desperate need of some.
They started 16 different pitchers in a 60-game season in a futile effort to compete.
They ended one August game with their backup catcher on the mound, their starting catcher at second base and their utility infielder behind the plate after allowing 17 runs to score.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts admitted two weeks into the season it was getting difficult to take the field every day knowing they had to put up crooked numbers just to have a shot at winning a game. He wasn’t wrong: the Sox had a losing record (5-7) when scoring six, seven or eight runs.
They left prospect Tanner Houck in Pawtucket most of the year only to finally call him up in September and watch him dominate the competition in three starts spanning 17 innings, holding opposing batters to just six hits.
Other prospects who looked poised to help in Pawtucket were never called up.
This isn’t to ignore the financial implications of calling up prospects too early, but rather to wonder how beneficial it is to save one year of a player’s salary for a team that’s worth more than $3 billion.
Yes, rebuilding with a clear direction and plan that’s communicated from the owners down to the players is more than acceptable in professional sports. It happens frequently, sometimes with great success. But pretending to win, faking an all-in approach that wouldn’t pass the smell test from a mile away, has a cost to it, a cost explained by Kelce and others across the NFL who called out the Eagles for their pathetic display on Sunday.
There’s a cost to tanking in baseball, too.
Former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen said it best when explaining why he never went into full rebuild-mode when he took over the Diamondbacks front office a few years ago: “I think that’s important long-term for the future of the organization is that the culture of winning is something you can’t just say. You have to be able to go out there and try to do it.”
There were times during this Red Sox season that they looked as non-competitive as the Eagles on Sunday night.
The only question is how long they’ll pay the price for it.

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