A lot of coaches wouldn’t give up play calling.
Nick Sirianni did.
While you could certainly find the negative in the situation, that the offensive head coach the Eagles hired last year gave up those responsibilities during his first season at the helm. But the positives stand out even more.
In a profession where ego can derail careers, Sirianni selflessly handed off play calling during the 2021 season to his offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. Earlier this spring, Steichen confirmed he’ll be calling the offensive plays again in 2022.
“I think that's where a lot of problems happen in the NFL is from an ego standpoint,” Sirianni said last week. “It’s what is the best thing to do. If I said I'm going to stand on a table and run these plays that we ran with Philip Rivers, because that's what we do, that's an ego thing to me. So, it's the same thing here. I felt like I needed to make a change in the sense of how to free me up to be a better head coach, and I had a good assistant to call the plays, and so that's what I went with.
“So yeah, no hesitation there at all, no ego thing there at all. Shane has done a great job, and imagining we do what we're supposed to do and win games, do what we were paid to do to come here, Shane will get an opportunity to be a head coach and then we [discuss] it again.”
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Sirianni, 40, made it very clear that it’s not like he’s turning over the entirety of his offense to Steichen. Sirianni, with input from his assistants, still devises the gameplan weekly. He and Steichen go over situational football and they even script the first 15 plays together too.
Sirianni’s point was that a lot more goes into play calling than the actual moment Steichen calls the play through the headset to Jalen Hurts.
But we shouldn’t minimize that role either; it’s important. And there are plenty of head coaches who wouldn’t have been willing to turn over the reins. Heck, Doug Pederson never considered turning over his play sheet, even when things were going poorly. That’s not a knock on Doug; he’s a good play caller who wanted to work his way out of a rut. But it’s a good example of how sure of himself Sirianni is.
He felt like calling plays on game days was taking him away from some of his other responsibilities on Sundays.
“What I noticed was, well, I wasn't communicating enough with (defensive coordinator Jonathan) Gannon about something, or I wasn't communicating enough about the defense about something that they needed to be pumped up or [Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay] or the special teams,” Sirianni said. “I love doing that, to go over into the kickoff return and say, ‘Let's go, let's get a play going.’ There are a lot of things that have to happen on the offense before a drive starts.
“You have to communicate to all the offensive players, ‘Here are the next string of plays.’ You have to put together the next string of plays of what you're talking about.
“I just really trusted Shane. Shane and I spend so much time throughout the week together, again, coming up with a plan amongst the coaches, and Shane and I are doing most of the heavy lifting.
“We shifted to it during one of the games, and I felt comfortable with being able to talk to everybody – there are things that come up with the referees that I need to do. There are things that come up with the guys upstairs that I need to talk through a situation and how we might need to handle it. There are just so many things that came up, and you know what, I wanted to trust the guys on the staff that I had, because I have good coaches. We just talked about it.”
Even during games, there are plenty of conversations between Sirianni and Steichen about the next set of plays.
And Sirianni contends that he and Steichen have such a long history working with one another, dating back to their years together with the Chargers, that they’re always on the same wavelength anyway when it comes to play calling.
“He knows exactly what I want on a 3rd-and-long at the 40-yard line,” Sirianni said. “He knows exactly what I want. What's that game show where you go behind — I don't even remember, but we would write down the exact same play.”
The Newlywed Game?
“Yeah, the Newlywed Game,” Sirianni said chuckling. “Shane and I.”
The Eagles just have to hope this marriage keeps working.