There are no answers – not yet – on the Eagles' 2021 roster for Head Coach Nick Sirianni, who met the Philadelphia media on Friday and was asked, repeatedly, about the quarterback position. Digging into the roster is something Sirianni and his coming-together coaching staff will do over the next few weeks. For the last five days, he's been hiring coaches, reaching out to his players, and starting the foundation build for his tenure in Philadelphia.
Sirianni is a genuine article – that much has come through in the nearly 30 minutes we talked on Wednesday and throughout the press conference he held on Friday – and that is one of the many reasons Jeffrey Lurie went through 25 initial considerations for the head coaching job, interviewed 10 men, and ultimately decided on Sirianni, the 39-year-old former offensive coordinator from the Colts who has coached in the NFL for the last dozen seasons.
He is earnest, he is a football lifer, and he impressed Lurie and the Eagles' interviewing contingent in Florida with his football intelligence and his vision, both for the short term and for the future.
But if you were expecting any instant proclamations and revelations, particularly from a roster standpoint and, more specifically, drilling down to the quarterback position, take a step back. It just isn't practical. It isn't reasonable. And Sirianni just isn't going there. He is going to dive into the player evaluation portion of things as the Eagles turn their attention to finishing the hiring of the coaching staff and the critical period of adding players to the roster in free agency (which begins on March 17) and the NFL Draft (Round 1 is April 29).
What we know about Sirianni and his plans for the Eagles boils down to these elements, in a nutshell …
1. He's going to call the plays on offense after working in a collaborative manner with Colts Head Coach Frank Reich in Indianapolis the last three seasons. Said Reich when I spoke to him last week: "On gamedays, he's my right-hand man as far as calling it. A lot of calling plays and setting up the call sheet is how you want the call sheet to flow and you're thinking of ideas. Some of that is done on gameday, but a lot of it is done during the week. In my experience, there is nobody better at that than Nick was. He was a huge help to me and a big part of the success that we had in San Diego offensively and here (Indianapolis), obviously, he was a huge part of the success that we had together."
2. Sirianni plans to be multiple on offense and will adapt to his personnel. "We can attack multiple ways. I'll just use the example here from Indianapolis. We had Andrew Luck as our quarterback. That followed up with Jacoby Brissett as our quarterback then Philip Rivers as our quarterback. Those three teams looked different," Sirianni said. "They were all different in their own ways of how we attacked defenses and how we played the game. I think that's the sign of a good coach, that you're going to change based off of your personnel, right? We have a certain personnel (group) in place. We're going to figure out what they can do well and what their strengths are, and we're going to play to their strengths and we are going to try to keep them out of situations that they don't excel well at. That can change.
"We can look at the tape and think about, 'Hey, well this would look really good. This is how he fits a couple things we've done in the past.' But that can change based off of practice. In practice, say, 'We're going to have to see it in practice.' Then that could change based off of a game. It's an ever-changing offensive philosophy. Sure, we have our core plays in place that we want to do, that we want to be good at, because that's what we do. But a lot of it is going to depend on our personnel and utilizing our personnel to their strengths and their weaknesses."
3. His defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, is a total package. "I think his football IQ is off the charts," Sirianni said of Gannon, who was previously in Indianapolis with Sirianni as the defensive backs coach. "When I want to know something about a defense, for the last three years, if I've wanted to know something about a defense, he's the first one I've went to every single time. 'Hey, tell me how they're doing this.' His football IQ is off the charts. His players play well for him. His players love him. His energy is contagious. He loves football. He loves being around football, loves being on the practice field, loves being in the meeting room. Tireless worker who I truly believe in, his organization skills, to be a very good defensive coordinator in the NFL.
4. The rest of the coaching staff is coming together, and Sirianni mentioned on Friday his offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen, and his quarterbacks coach, Brian Johnson. On Steichen, Sirianni said, "Shane and I were in every meeting together gameplanning (when the two worked with the Chargers). I've known Shane for four years. I know Shane thinks about the game the way I think about the game. Shane is a phenomenal offensive mind that thinks about the game the way I do. It's almost like with Shane and I – and Shane has done a great job, his résumé speaks for itself, he's always gotten the best out of his quarterbacks, did a great job with Philip Rivers, did a great job with Justin Herbert this year.
"Obviously, Shane and I have communicated with each other through this past year of bouncing ideas off each other. Again, the way we think about the game is so similar, that's going to be an easy transition for us. It's like we're starting on Day 15 instead of Day 1. I've seen Shane at work, I've seen Shane grind, I've seen Shane dig for all the little things on the tape to give us the best play possible to put our guys in position to win."
Johnson comes from the collegiate ranks. He most recently ran the University of Florida's offense in 2020 – an offense that ranked ninth in the NCAA with 509.8 yards per game and eighth in yards per play (7.28 yards). Sirianni is high on Johnson, really high.
"He came in here and interviewed with us and just did a phenomenal job," Sirianni said. "He showed why at a young age he was the offensive coordinator for the Florida Gators. Just a really sharp guy who really believed all the things that I spelled out here with the core values. He just really believed in those things. He knew how he was going to intertwine that into coaching.
"I hate to go back to Indianapolis, but again, you pull from different experiences that you've been in. We hired a coach in Indianapolis when we first got there from college. We hired a college offensive coordinator, Tom Manning. The things that he brought to us to open up our offense a little bit more that we still run to this day really helped us become harder to defend. It helped us fit our players. This player fits this scheme from the college game. That was really important to us in our first year and the years moving forward in Indianapolis. Again, Brian, a great human being, great person, great fundamentally, great scheme-wise. Again, he's just super sharp. Then on top of that, he gives us the ability to take some things from the college game to make our offense just become a little bit more difficult to defend. That was another thing that was really attractive about Brian."
5. Sirianni is also adding Michael Clay to become special teams coordinator. Clay worked with the Eagles in the Chip Kelly era and is smart, hard-working, and thorough as a coach. Jeff Stoutland returns as the offensive line coach. His body of work speaks for itself, as we all know. It is huge that Stoutland is returning.
6. Sirianni believes in sound, fundamental football. He wants the Eagles to be smart and he wants them to be physical and tough-minded. He wants the team to be a T-E-A-M. Nothing revolutionary there, but worth mentioning. He wants to keep it simple in scheme for the players and allow them to play freely, and at the same time have enough checks in place to keep the opposition off balance.
He has hit the ground running as he's spent much of the last week lining up his coaching staff and connecting with his players. Next: Poring through the roster and putting together the plan to make the Eagles a better football team. The answers are going to come in due time for Sirianni. Give the man a chance to put it all together and get the Eagles ready for 2021 and beyond. He's made positive strides in his first week accumulating some bright football minds who he thinks are excellent teachers. Step by step, that's how this process works, with the product we see on the field in September the true time for all of us to judge the kind of progress he's made.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at Head Coach Nick Sirianni's introductory press conference.