Throughout the past few days, new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has been busy putting his staff together in Philly.
A lot of the names he’s brought on are young and somewhat inexperienced, but they’re clearly Sirianni guys, which is a good sign. We’ve criticized Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie’s meddling into the coaching staff hires for the past few years, but they’ve had a hands off approach with Sirianni so far. They obviously have faith in Sirianni’s evaluation of these coaches.
The two biggest pieces of Sirianni’s staff, his offensive and defensive coordinator, will play the biggest hand in the new head coach’s early success here. Jonathan Gannon, the former Colts defensive backs coach, has been named as the defensive coordinator. And Shane Steichen, the former offensive coordinator with the Chargers, is now the OC here in Philly.
Let’s take a look at each and see what kind of ideas they’ll be bringing to the table this season.
According to reports, Gannon was a highly coveted assistant heading into this offseason. He doesn’t have any experience running a defense, so it’s hard to say whether he’ll stick with a 4-3 base front or what his blitzing philosophy will be, but his track record as a defensive backs coach is solid.
He was the assistant defensive backs coach during his time in Minnesota (2014-’17), where he helped develop cornerback Xavier Rhodes into a three-time pro bowler. After Gannon’s departure, Rhodes struggled in Minnesota, and he was subsequently released following the 2019 season. He then reunited with Gannon in Indianapolis this past offseason and had a bounce back year.
Colts GM Chris Ballard credit Gannon with Rhodes’ resurgence, stating, “Xavier had a heck of a year (and) really bought into what we are doing. I give Jonathan Gannon a lot of credit for that. He had a relationship with Xavier from Minnesota. Xavier worked and bought into everything we’re doing.”
The Eagles haven’t had a strong cornerback group in nearly a decade, so bringing in a guy who’s known for developing corners should bring some optimism to the fan base.
During Gannon’s time with the Colts, the team didn’t draft a single defensive back in the first round, and the only marquee signing they made was Rhodes. Yet, Gannon was able to get the most out of his group. He developed second round pick Rock-Ya Sin into a legitimate outside corner, and he turned Kenny Moore into one of the best nickel corners in football.
Last season, the Colts ranked 12th in passing touchdowns allowed (24), tied for 3rd in interceptions (15), 12th in opposing QB rating (90.5), and they were tied for 3rd in passes over 40 yards allowed (6). For reference, the Eagles were tied for last in passes over 40 yards allowed (12), and they were 29th in interceptions (8) last season.
If Jalen Mills returns next season, Gannon would more than likely move him back to corner, as he fits more in-line with Gannon’s prototypical cornerback stature. Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox seem like the only other starting quality corners on the roster, and if Mills is slotted back on the outside, Maddox would be able to play his natural nickel position.
It’s hard to know what Gannon’s defense will look like exactly, but given his track record with corners, Eagles fans should be excited about what he’ll be able to do in the next few seasons.
Like Gannon, Shane Steichen also worked with Sirianni. They coached together during their time with the Chargers.
Fans may be excited with this hire due to Steichen’s work with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert last season, but most Chargers fans give their now former quarterbacks coach, Pep Hamilton, the majority of that credit.
But, that doesn’t mean Steichen had no role in Herbert’s success, he was the one calling plays for him after all. Steichen did a nice job formulating game plans to fit Herbert’s strengths — throwing the ball down the field. And despite having an ineffective running game at times last year, Steichen still had success utilizing the play action game and getting Herbert outside of the pocket.
Throwing the ball down the field and getting outside of the pocket are also the strengths of Carson Wentz, which should put Eagles fans at ease a bit. The willingness to call plays that put your players in a position to succeed is always pivotal in the NFL, and it’s great to know Steichen isn’t stubborn in that aspect.
He did tend to lean on the ground game more than he should have, but a lot of that was due to his head coach Anthony Lynn prioritizing the running game. Sirianni will also likely put a heavy emphasis on the running game, but he and Steichen realize the value of having a balanced attack and calling certain plays to setup the next one.
Steichen may not have been the most coveted coordinator, but his relationship with Sirianni and their similar offensive ideologies should bode well for them in Philly.