In his first one-on-one interview, Sean Desai joined Fran Duffy on the Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast for a half-hour discussion that ranged from the new Eagles Defensive Coordinator's time working with Duffy together at Temple to his coaching philosophy to what he learned from the various defensive minds he's worked with along the way. This provides a unique glimpse of the coach that you won't find anywhere else.
Subscribe to the podcast here, as the entire episode is worth a listen, but here are five key moments that stand out from the interview.
1. Desai explains his vision for the identity of the Eagles' defense.
"We want to be able to run, hit, impose our will, play smart, and play a winning brand of football. I think that's the essence of how we want to play defensive football here," Desai said.
"The scheme is the scheme and there's a lot of ways to play our scheme and do some things differently and we have some flexibility and the ability to adapt to some different situations. But at the end of the day, if we don't do those things, the scheme doesn't really matter because you better be able to run, hit, impose your will on your opponent, and play smart football so you can win."
2. The Eagles acquired yet another Bulldog.
Over the last two years, the Eagles have acquired several former Georgia Bulldogs from Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in the 2022 NFL Draft to Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Kelee Ringo in the 2023 NFL Draft as well as former Georgia running back and Philly native D'Andre Swift in a draft weekend trade.
Turns out Desai is a bulldog as well. At least, that's the nickname that was bestowed upon him by the late George DeLeone when the two coached together at Temple. DeLeone never worked for the Philadelphia Eagles, but was instrumental in mentoring Jeff Stoutland early in the offensive line coach's esteemed career and helped mold Donovan McNabb into the No. 2 overall pick at Syracuse.
"Stout still calls me that," Desai said, in part to honor DeLeone who passed away in 2022. "Just a tremendous, tremendous football coach, football mind, innovator during his time. Remarkable career. Coach coordinated all sides of the ball."
3. Coaching offense enhanced Desai's prowess calling defenses.
In 2012, Desai's last college job was overseeing the running backs and special teams at Boston College. Understanding the offense's perspective attacking defenses helped enlighten Desai's thinking when it comes to gameplanning.
"To be able to coach on the offensive side of the ball, I think as a defensive coach, is invaluable because the reality is, as defensive coaches, oftentimes we speculate on what we think the offense is doing," Desai said. "But now I have a perspective of, 'Well, this is what the offense actually did.' I would really recommend it to any young coach."
4. Desai served under a litany of outstanding coaches in the NFL ranging from Mel Tucker and Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano in Chicago to Pete Carroll with the Seahawks last season. Here's what he learned from Fangio.
"I would say first, in terms of NFL football experience, how to be a coach in the NFL is the biggest thing that he's taught me. That was the biggest influence and then going down the list a little bit would be how to prepare for an NFL game week in and week out and how to make sure that you're adaptable and flexible enough to suit the needs of your players while responding to offensive trends and needs," Desai said.
"You can never go into a game without having an answer. And you got to make sure that you get to your answer fast. You've played enough football and coached enough games, you have ups and downs. You stay poised with what you got and you trust your process and you rely on putting your players in the best position that they can handle and be in to execute at a high level. And it's about that process, right? It wasn't about the outcome. It was about the process and focusing on that detail to make sure that we're playing good fundamental, sound, tough, physical football and that we've got the answers to put them in different spots and then create havoc and create confusion and create different things for an offense to prepare for."
5. Desai shares a common theme among all of the great coaches he worked with in the past. It sounds like something straight out of the Nick Sirianni playbook.
"They all have a way to enact this differently, and Coach (Pete) Carroll has crystallized this thought the most and he's probably the most experienced of all those guys in terms of years of service. You have to always think about your scheme in relationship to the players you have and getting in the players' minds," Desai said.
"And you got to be able to develop the players and meet them where they're at and get them to grow and be better than what they think that they could have become. And the only way to do that is if you understand them, you empathize with them, and then you push them. And you challenge them to think a little bit outside their comfort zone, to develop a new, fresher advancing identity for themselves."