Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld entered Sunday’s 24-0 win over the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter and tossed one pass. That one pass was a 22-yard strike to Nelson Agholor that put the nail in the coffin on the Redskins’ season and helped propel the Eagles to the playoffs. It was Sudfeld’s first career touchdown pass.
Sudfeld having to play in Sunday’s regular season finale was interesting considering it was the Redskins who selected him in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. In two preseasons with the Redskins, Sudfeld showed flashes of consistency that would allow him to at the very least be a backup in the NFL for sometime.
In 2016 and 2017 Sudfeld was the odd man out in the quarterback depth chart. He sat behind the highly-paid Kirk Cousins and backup Colt McCoy, who had a better grasp of Jay Gruden’s system. He spent all his rookie year as the third quarterback and was inactive for all 16 games. However, despite showing progression his second season, the Redskins released him as final cuts. At the time it was a number’s game as the Redskins needed depth along their 53-man roster at other positions.
However, there was intention to bring him back for the practice squad. Instead the former Indiana Hoosier chose to sign with the Eagles. In Philadelphia, he developed on the scout team and was promoted to the active roster. When Carson Wentz was placed on IR with a torn ACL, Sudfeld was bumped up to No. 2 quarterback to backup Nick Foles.
With the NFC’s No. 1 seed wrapped up, Sudfeld got to play in the Week 17 finale against the Cowboys in 2017, although a loss, he completed 82.6 percent of his passes for a modest 134 yards. He didn’t play much thereafter but he did win a Super Bowl ring as the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback. It was rather interesting Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and then-offensive coordinator Frank Reich trusted Sudfeld in that spot after he couldn’t crack the top-2 on the Redskins QB depth chart.
His release by the Redskins was puzzling then, considering Cousins and the team were going back-and-forth over his pending contract that caused the team to franchise tag him two seasons in a row. Keeping Sudfeld to groom, even as a backup quarterback seemed wise then.
Fast forward to 2018, Cousins is in Minnesota after the Redskins turned to Alex Smith rather than go through contract negotiations for a third straight off-season with Cousins. However, Smith’s playing career is in jeopardy after suffering a gruesome compound fracture, breaking his fibula and tibia in his leg, on a sack in Week 11 against Houston.
McCoy, who remained the backup with the Redskins, failed to stand out in two starts in Smith’s place before his season ended in Week 13 with a fractured fibula.
The Redskins were forced to turn to a bust in Mark Sanchez, who was nothing more than an utter disaster in his lone start of the season, and journeyman Josh Johnson, who showed flashes but regressed late in his last two starts to close the season.
Washington could very well be back to square one depending on the health of Smith, who battled a post-operation infection that caused multiple additional surgeries. No one is claiming Sudfeld is a savior, but in hindsight keeping him inside Redskins Park in some capacity might have been wise.
Sunday’s touchdown pass was a harsh reminder of not only the misplay on Sudfeld but the Redskins’ constant misplay at the game’s most important position.
Now the Redskins may be forced to find an open market quarterback all while still being on the hook for $71 million in guarantees to Smith, who faces a long recovery to get back on the field. McCoy hasn’t stood out in his limited time of play, and Sudfeld was a cheap option with potentially a higher ceiling long-term.
While Sudfeld has seemed to develop under Pederson’s tutelage in two seasons in Philadelphia, there’s no telling how more developed he might have been being in Washington for what would have been three seasons.