On Sunday, the Eagles featured running back LeGarrette Blount during their 31-3 rout of the Chicago Bears, leaving few opportunities for Jay Ajayi, who ended the day with just five carries for 26 yards and one fumble on the goal line, just as he was about to score.
Despite having averaged 9.7 yards per carry since having been traded from Miami, Ajayi has run the ball only 20 times in the three weeks he has been an Eagle. After the game, Ajayi was asked what he thought about his limited carries.
“My role is to run the plays that the coaches call. That’s what I’ve been doing,” a downbeat Ajayi told reporters. “I’m just running the play that the coaches call. I’m happy with my role.”
It sounded like Ajayi was saying all the right things, but his tone after what otherwise was a jubilant win rubbed the normally calm and level-headed Ray Didinger the wrong way. On NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Eagles Postgame Live, the longtime commentator and Pro Football Hall of Fame writer ripped into the Eagles running back, going so far as to say Ajayi should “shut up and tote the ball.”
“If he’s got an issue with the touches, ‘Hey, Chief, this team was winning before you got here. It’s nice to have you here, we’re glad to have you in the clubhouse … but we were doing pretty good before you got to town,’” Didinger said. “So I would just say, ‘Shut up and tote the ball.’
Didinger added: “Someone needs to tell him, ‘Look at the standings, pal. Where would you rather be – Philadelphia or Miami?’ Reality check!”
Didinger’s comments didn’t go over well with Ajayi, who called the NBC Sports Philadelphia crew “clowns” after the clip was shared on Twitter.
— Jay Ajayi (@JayTrain) November 27, 2017
Calling into the WIP Morning Show on Monday morning, Didinger said he didn’t want to base his opinion of Ajayi on a single video snippet. But he also didn’t walk back his comments, noting that Ajayi’s response after the win reminded him why the Dolphins were willing to trade the player in the first place.
“There was just something that I saw in there that was a red flag to me, and I just expressed it,” Didinger told host Angelo Cataldi. “Seth [Joyner] and I were both sitting next to each other when we saw it, and we both agreed that he looked like he was … in Stage 2 of a five-stage pout, and I just thought that when you’re 10-1 it’s not the time for that.”
During his weekly call to WIP on Monday morning, Eagles coach Doug Pederson defended Ajayi, saying he was understandably upset after fumbling the ball just before scoring a touchdown.
“He’s been a great addition to our running backs room and to the success of what we’ve been doing these past couple of weeks,” Pederson said. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do and will continue with the same role that he’s in.”
The last time the usually unflappable Didinger got this upset was in 2015, when former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly expressed satisfaction about the number of offensive plays the team ran during a disappointing loss at home to the Dolphins.
“You ran 88 plays and you scored 19 stinking points against the Miami Dolphins,” an angry Didinger said after that game. “I don’t care how many damn plays you ran. Don’t tell me how many because I don’t care. At the end of the game, the scoreboard tells me it wasn’t enough.”