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  • Paul Domowitch

SIRIANNI CAN'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES IN 2024...IF HE WANTS SUCCESS


Paul Domowitch

Asked last week about the decision to fire offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, the best explanation Eagles coach Nick Sirianni could muster was to suggest it was “about coming up with fresh ideas and different thoughts and doing some things different.”


It's too bad Sirianni didn’t think of that 10 months ago. Because that’s when he really needed to come up with fresh ideas.


That’s when he needed to do some ‘’things different.’’ If he had done that, maybe the Eagles’ season would’ve turned out differently. 


And maybe Sirianni wouldn’t have had to make Brian Johnson a scapegoat for his own mistakes.


The Eagles’ offense was a thing of beauty during their 2022 Super Bowl run. Third in the league in scoring. Third in the league in total offense. Fifth in rushing. An NFL-best plus-121 first-half point differential.


It was a diverse 28-points-per-game machine that could beat you with the run or the pass. Their RPO game was unstoppable.




Nick Sirianni can't coach the way he did in 2023 and expect better results in 2024. Photo by Andy Lewis.

Jalen Hurts was the runner up in the league MVP voting, finishing fourth in passing, third in yards-per-attempt and seventh in touchdowns-to-interceptions differential. 


He rushed for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns and finished second in rushing first downs.


Sirianni surely knew opposing defensive coordinators were going to spend a good chunk of the offseason watching film and devising ways to neutralize the Eagles’ offense.


Which meant he had to make some adjustments and tweaks to counter what defenses were going to do. But he didn’t. 


In an unforgivable display of arrogance, Sirianni seemed to think he didn’t need to change much of anything. And the Eagles paid the price for that.


Defenses focused on shutting down the Eagles’ RPO game, which averaged just 4.8 yards per play this season compared to 8.1 last year. They minimized Hurts’ running ability. 


While he continued to be successful with the Tush Push sneaks, his rush average dropped from 4.6 yards per carry to 3.9. He had just 18 runs of 10 yards or more, eight fewer than the season before.




Paul Domowitch believes the task of rebuilding the defense will lie squarely on the shoulders of GM Howie Roseman. Photo by Andy Lewis

Teams blitzed Hurts more. They played more zone coverage and disguised their pre-snap looks. They took away the deep ball from him – he completed just 3 of 19 passes of 20 yards or more in the last six regular-season games (five losses) and his deep-ball completion percentage for the year dropped from 40.3 the year before to 36.5.


When teams blitzed, the offense seemed to have no sight adjustments or a “hot’’ receiver to dump the ball off to. Sirianni seemed to be counting on Hurts making the extra rusher(s) miss.


Hurts’ passer rating against the blitz dropped from 90.2 last year to 80.5 this year. In the Eagles’ last eight regular-season games, he had a miserable 66.3 passer rating v. the blitz.


The Eagles offense became so predictable that opposing defensive players claimed they often knew what they were going to do before the snap.


The Eagles’ late-season collapse ended with an embarrassing 32-9 wildcard loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs, after which Dean Lurie put Sirianni on double secret probation (Animal House joke, boys and girls). 


He was “advised’’ to hire a new offensive coordinator and turn over all aspects of the offense to him. Sirianni will essentially be a CEO coach this season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Eagles or Sirianni.


The Eagles struggled to stop any offense and saw it's offense struggle down the stretch. Photo by Andy Lewis.

“Does that mean I’ll be sitting more in defensive meetings at times? Maybe,’’ Sirianni said. “My job is to be the head coach of the team, not the head coach of the offense or the defense or the special teams.


“That’s building the culture (of the team). That’s making sure the culture is working with our five core values and having a relationship with the guys on the team. Because I know when I have that connection with the guys on the team, that’s when the culture is working, and working at a high level."


He found an excellent replacement for Johnson in 35-year-old Kellen Moore, who is regarded as one of the more brilliant offensive minds in the league. He spent last year as the Chargers’ OC after four years in that role with the Cowboys.


It remains to be seen if Kellen Moore can get Jalen Hurts back to the form he had in 2022, a year he was a legitimate MVP candidate, Photo by Andy Lewis.

The offense will be different next year. With any luck, it also will be better. Unlike Sirianni, Moore likes to use pre-snap motion and often puts his quarterbacks under center. He will use a lot of play-action. He’s adept at designing passing concepts, putting together game plans and calling plays.


This season, the Chargers were eighth in pre-snap motion (25.9%) with Moore as their OC. The Eagles? Thirty-second (10.9 percent).


The Cowboys were in the top 10 in pre-snap motion in each of Moore’s four seasons as their offensive coordinator.


Teams use pre-snap motion as an information-gathering tool. 


It helps them determine whether a defense is going to be playing man or zone on a particular play. Many teams also use motion as an offensive weapon. 


In the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs last February, three of KC’s touchdowns came on plays with motion that screwed up the Eagles’ defensive leverage.


"You can get answers without movement,’’ Sirianni said defensively last September when asked why he doesn’t use more motion. “There are other ways to gather information besides motion.


“We motion for a very distinct reason. We’re going to motion if we can create an advantage, if we can figure out what defense they’re in. Also, if we can get a guy in position to do his job better.


New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will give the Eagles' offense a much different look in 2024. Photo from nfl.com

“I’m not going to motion just to motion because then you’re spending a little more time on the motion and a little less time on everything else. I just like to get up, get ready, get set, and motion when we need to.’’


Brian Johnson had spent the 2021-22 seasons as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator last year. He’s known Hurts since Jalen was four years old.


But the relationship between a quarterback and his position coach is very different from that of a quarterback and offensive coordinator, and Hurts and Johnson often didn’t seem to be on the same page.


Moore’s most important job – and perhaps his biggest challenge – will be to get Hurts back to the player he was in 2022 when he was one of the top quarterbacks in the league. 


Three top priorities will be getting him to cut down on the turnovers – Hurts had 20 of them this season, the fourth most in the league -- improving his play against the blitz, and convincing him of the benefit of spreading the ball around and using his running backs in the passing game.


D’Andre Swift, who probably won’t be re-signed, and Kenneth Gainwell combined for 69 catches this season, but averaged a puny 5.7 yards per catch. Swift had 39 catches, but just eight for first downs. Gainwell had only slightly more (11).


Sirianni also hired a new defensive coordinator, bringing in Vic Fangio. Fangio is one of the best in the business. 


But the responsibility for getting the defense to rebound from its disastrous 2023 performance won’t rest solely with Fangio. That unit needs to be rebuilt, which will be the job of general manager Howie Roseman. *

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