The Eagles will go as the triumvirate of head coach Nick Sirianni, quarterback Jalen Hurts and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon go this season.
But who will have more pressure on them in 2022?
Here is a look.
3. Nick Sirianni
Sirianni is protected for this year and next, you figure. If somehow the Eagles fall on their collective face this season, he will get another a year to reclaim some of the praise he received last year when he led the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season and an overall 9-9 record.
A strength is his ability to adjust, as shown last year when he reshaped the offense around the Eagles’ formidable offensive line and gave up the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. He seems like he has a great rapport with his players, so far, and it appears in a very short time grizzled veterans like Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Fletcher Cox have bought into his message. The Eagles were headed for disaster in his first year, starting 2-5, and he knew enough to switch midstream. Many NFL coaches get stuck in their ways, and consequently, get stuck on the street. Sirianni didn’t do that.
So far, however, in Sirianni’s short stint as head coach the Eagles have only beaten one winning team, the New Orleans Saints, who were guided by a terror of every NFL defense, third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian. Sirianni may still be under some influence from the Eagles’ meddling front office as to how run certain things, like truncated training camp practices. But right now, of the trio responsible for the Eagles’ success in 2022, Sirianni seems likely to have the least pressure on him, though of the trio, he’s most likely to be applying the most on himself.
2. Jalen Hurts
Sirianni ceded play calling to Steichen in the middle of last year, but it didn’t mean Hurts was off the hook. He checks off all the intangibles: Leadership, character, unflappable patience in the eye of the storm and the unbending backing of his teammates. The fact that he does not have a John Elway cannon of an arm is immaterial. What is lacking, so far, is his accuracy. In the Eagles’ final eight games last season, Hurts threw a mere four touchdown passes in the red zone. The Eagles also did not show much confidence in Hurts last season, when they simplified the offense and threw less than any team in the NFL (494 times, one fewer attempt than Seattle).
In the offseason, they continued showing their last of faith when they tried to acquire Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. The reality is the Eagles drafted Hurts in the second round of the 2020 draft to back up Carson Wentz. Apparently the only one who thought otherwise was Wentz himself, crumbling under the pressure of feeling Hurts was some of kind of threat to take his job, after the team lavished Wentz with a $128 million contract. Wentz was so imperiled by Hurts that he blew him off as if he wasn’t there in the QB room and on the practice field.
Well, Hurts is still an Eagle and Wentz is perhaps the first quarterback in NFL history with a $128 million contract to be on three different teams in three years. Hurts has much to prove this season. He is immune to pressure, unlike his predecessor. But he does not have the raw talent that No. 11 has. A will to win doesn’t translate well to winning when you’re inaccurate. Hurts will remain an Eagle in a back-up role if the Eagles fall flat this season, which most likely will fall on Hurts.
1. Jonathan Gannon
It’s this simple: If the Eagles do well this season, as expected, which means the defense has done well, which means Gannon has done well, which means he’s out of here as the next head coach of someone next season (he interviewed with three teams this offseason). If the Eagles sink, Gannon is out and he’s probably going to have to go in the back of the coaching carousel line. The Eagles beefed up the defense with the acquisitions of Hasson Reddick, Kyzir White and James Bradbury, drafting Georgia stalwarts Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, and great depth on the interior front with Davis, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and burgeoning Milton Williams. Gannon has the weapons now to have an attacking offense, as opposed to a cautious approach with his safeties positioned back in the Linc parking lot. The Eagles could and will probably use multiple fronts, a 4-3, 3-4 and some have mentioned a 5-2, which is really a 3-4 with two standing defensive rush ends, who could either drop back or rush the quarterback. It could cause confusions for some quarterbacks, and regrettably, it could also cause confusion to players who are learning the system on the go since there are limited practices. It’s why most of the pressure for this season falls on Gannon, who’s truly in a make-or-break year. The pieces are there. What will he do with them?
Who has more pressure on them this season: Nick Sirianni, Jalen Hurts or Jonathan Gannon?
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.