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Mailbag: The coaching carousel is coming for the Eagles

Asked and answered

NFL: DEC 04 Titans at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You asked questions, we have answers. There were several good questions about the Eagles boatload of impending free agents, we’ll get to that tomorrow.

(Some questions have been lightly edited for length and spelling.)

ScratcherX: Was Nick Sirianni’s comment about Jalen “hurting bad” just coach speak trying to talk up his QB1 as being tough and gritty in a must-win scenario? Or is the shoulder injury worse than expected? Do the Eagles stand a chance if Jalen Hurts has to play at less than 100% with a bum shoulder?

There is definitely coach speak going on, which Sirianni doubled down on yesterday. But it’s not entirely coach speak. The tell was that Sirianni said that Hurts playing didn’t put him at “more risk” of further injury, which is something you say when a guy is playing through it, and something he said before the game because they mentioned it on the broadcast. Sounds to me like his recovery isn’t quite where they want it to be, another reason why the bye was so crucial.

Which of course is concerning. If Josh Allen, or Joe Burrow, or Patrick Mahomes isn’t 100% we would say that it’s going to be tough for them to win. As we saw when Minshew played, Hurts is on that level this season.

Dp03: Were the offensive and defensive calls/gameplans vanilla the past few weeks? Trying to figure out if the coaches shut things down a bit once they saw they could basically coast into the #1 seed.

You have to throw out the game plans when Gardner Minshew started. You simply can’t run the Jalen Hurts offense without Jalen Hurts. No defense is respecting Gardner Minshew’s running, and it turns out they didn’t need to respect his passing either.

Then with Hurts against the Giants, Nick Sirianni kind of led on that that they were playing it rather vanilla, which is totally fine on its own.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t even watched the tape yet. We don’t get very many opportunities in this league to not work the next day.

Sirianni is right, they’ve earned the bye week and with it a chance to have a day off whenever they feel like it and take a mental break. But he can take any day off this week he wants, and it’s not unusual for coaches to get grinding on the tape hours after the game. That he isn’t in a rush to watch the Giants game says to me that nothing in that game was worth much to him.

But even with that, the game plan brings up some concerns. They clearly wanted the ball out quickly to try to keep Hurts protected. How much of that was Hurts not being completely healed? No one ever wants their QB to get hit but they also don’t prioritize it like that. How much of it was because Lane Johnson was out? Anyone would struggle to replace him but Jack Driscoll was not inspiring in his stead.

Right now all we and whoever the Eagles will play can do is speculate to those questions. In a week and a half, we’ll know the answers.

Ziggy2020: Why is Jonathan Gannon so hesitant to play man to man when we have elite CBs?

Two reasons. One is that Gannon has consistently shown that his ability to adapt and add variety is, to put it nicely, lacking. Why in the world anyone wants this guy as their head coach is baffling.

The other is that Bradberry and Slay have played at such a high level that there’s an aspect of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Cowboys game showed that it might be in need of repair, but then we have to circle back to Gannon’s stubbornness. And if he could stop dropping the guy who finished 2nd in the league in sacks into coverage…

Woodbridge Eagles: Who are we most likely to face in the divisional round? Most want to face? Least want to face?

Odds we lose our coordinators? How detrimental will it be next season?

Always be careful what you wish for but the ideal path through the playoffs would be the Seahawks in the divisional round, the Giants in the Conference Championship, and then not the Bills, Bengals, or Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Most likely, they play the Cowboys in the divisional round and then if they win that game, the 49ers. Both of which are the teams they would least like to face.

As for the coordinators, I would be surprised if both were back, but then the same was true for the Cowboys last year and both returned. If I had to bet, Shane Steichen is hired as a head coach but Jonathan Gannon is not. Unfortunately for the Eagles the days of a Super Bowl run keeping assistants out of contention for head coaching jobs are (rightfully) over, Kyle Shanahan, Matt Patricia, Zac Taylor, and Kevin O’Connell all got hired while going to the Super Bowl.

Steichen just checks too many boxes that teams are looking for to not get a job. Teams fall all over each other to hire young offensive coaches, and they also love to hire offensive coordinators after their QB had one good season, and Jalen Hurts just had a great season. Meanwhile when teams hire defensive coordinators, they tend to hire coaches who are about a decade older than Gannon. And Gannon is only wanted by one team, while Steichen is being interviewed by three.

If Steichen leaves, they’ll be fine. Steichen has done a really nice job this season, but at its core this is Nick Sirianni’s offense. To replace Steichen they’d be fools to not bump up QB coach Brian Johnson. Johnson and Jalen Hurts have a well documented history that goes back to Hurts’ high school days. I don’t think you have to worry about it being too buddy-buddy of a relationship, just that we wouldn’t have to worry about one of those situations where a team brings in a new OC and he and the QB clash so neither hits their full potential. Also, Johnson called plays as an offensive coordinator in college at Utah and Houston (and was in line to do so at Florida full time before leaving for the Eagles), so his first game calling plays for the Eagles wouldn’t also be his first time calling plays for anyone. Given the Super Bowl aspirations they will have, even with Nick Sirianni above him I would be a little hesitant to bring in a neophyte play caller. Any experience is better than no experience.

If Gannon leaves, good chance they also promote from within and give the job to DB coach Dennard Wilson, who has no play calling experience. I’d rather they hire Vic Fangio, who has been doing some consulting for the team, but he is rumored to be Sean Payton’s DC if Payton comes out of retirement.

F-Dallas: What excuse will the Dallas Cowboys and their fans and media use this time after their “one-and-done”?

Mike McCarthy’s game management, and they’ll blame Jerry Jones for Ezekiel Elliott getting more touches than Tony Pollard. And in both cases they won’t be wrong.

Fabiocostamesquita: The Eagles just shattered their franchise record for sacks and came damn close of tying the all-time mark, but how worried are you about a regression on the defensive line with the likes of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham rapidly approaching the twilight of their careers, and players like Ndamukong Suh or Linval Joseph probably not coming back?

The thing about records is that they’re not meant to be broken often, so when they are we should automatically expect regression. They’re absolutely going to regress in sacks next year, you don’t have the first team in NFL history to have four guys with double digit sacks and realistically expect it to happen again.

(We’ll ignore for a minute that there’s likely also going to be a regression, even if small, in turnovers and by the offense.)

In a team game you can make up for a drop off in one area with improvement in others. Getting to the QB less often won’t hurt as much if there is better depth in the secondary. It won’t hurt as much if special teams improve and teams have further to go after kickoffs and punts. It won’t hurt as much if they get better play from their linebackers (read: Kyzir White or whoever replaces him). It won’t hurt as much if they can be more consistent in stopping the run. If it works it all adds up to something close to the value of all those sacks they won’t be getting. It’s a big if though.

JustFreddy: From 1 to galaxy brain, how much do we need Sweat and Maddox back for the next 2 games?

Also is Jordan Davis okay? Has he fallen off a cliff metaphorically or literally?

There’s no galaxy brain with these. We’ve seen just how bad things can get without Maddox. The idea of DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett, or Mike Evans, or Justin Jefferson, or CeeDee Lamb (again) being covered by Josiah Scott, or moving CJGJ to slot and letting them feast on Reed Blankenship is terrifying. While you can never have too many pass rushers, if a higher power told me I can have only one of Maddox or Sweat, I’m taking Maddox.

As for Davis, if he literally fell off a cliff he’d be dead. Metaphorically though, the level of concern is low but not non-existent. Fletcher Cox played less than half of snaps in his rookie season, so the low level of playing time isn’t a red flag on its own. That Davis is playing less than he was before he got hurt would indicate he isn’t 100%, but also Suh and Joseph have played well, another if it’s not broken don’t fix it. And then there’s Jonathan Gannon’s stubborn player usage patterns. Teams that are trying to win now try not to rely on rookies, so none of these factors are too concerning.

However he’s the only rookie getting real playing time and he’s trending down as the season progresses. Not cause for alarm, plenty of players struggled in their rookie seasons. But the idea of slotting him in as Fletcher Cox’s replacement in 2023 doesn’t look quite as certain as it did in September.

CyclingGeo: Jonathan Gannon does not have a good track record against good quarterbacks. Although we are not going through murderers row, these QBs are still competent. What is your confidence in the playoffs that we won’t die by a thousand cuts like we have in the past?

Depends on the QB. I’m not worried about Geno Smith or Daniel Jones, and they shut down Kirk Cousins earlier this year. I wouldn’t expect that same level of dominance if they face the Vikings again, but if the Vikings do damage it’ll be because of Justin Jefferson, not Kirk Cousins. Similarly, Brock Purdy should scare no one but Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Christian McCaffrey, and George Kittle will test any defense.

The QBs who scare me are Tom Brady, who will struggle for three quarters then turn it on in the 4th as he has throughout the season; and Dak Prescott eating Gannon’s coverages alive again. There’s a very good chance either one is their next opponent.

JoeDirtsBarber: We’ve slid to 4th in Super Bowl betting odds ... is it time to break out the dog masks?

If they play the 49ers in the NFCCG they will be home dogs, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cowboys be slightly favored if they blow out the Bucs and come to the Linc next weekend. If Lane Johnson wants to pull out the dog mask, who are we to stop him?

Fenton_Hardy: When Giants fans see Boston Scott take a handoff is their strongest feeling one of impending heartbreak or abject terror?

Why can’t it be both? Terror on the way to the end zone, knowing that it will be heartbreak when he gets in. It is so nice to have the guy who always finds a way to score against a specific team be on your team, and for the team he always scores on to be a division rival.

Fun fact: Boston Scott has more TDs against the Giants than LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles combined.

MaskedMan: Is Howie Roseman still a leading candidate for NFL Executive of the Year? Is he THE leading candidate?

While there are other GMs who have had good seasons, I don’t see one who is even a clear runner up. As far as I’m concerned he won the award when the Titans fired Jon Robinson.

Kjb304: Looking back on the trade with the Saints, how much more valuable in the short and long term was that trade turning 3 mid round firsts for AJ Brown, Jordan Davis and the 10th pick this year versus what the Saints did?

The Saints trade was so spectacularly dumb the moment it happened, and looking back it’s up there in Dumbest Moves of the Season along with the entirety of the Broncos and Colts seasons.

As a reminder, the Saints gave up the 18th, 101st, and 237th picks in 2022 along with a 2023 1st and a 2024 2nd to the Eagles for the 16th, 19th, and 194th picks. After that they traded up again for Chris Olave, giving up the 16th, 98th, and 120th picks for the 11th pick, doubling down on their idiocy.

The Eagles added the most overall draft value, even if they hadn’t traded for AJ Brown. Had they sat still they would have had the 15th, 16th, and 19th picks. If they all worked out, and let’s be honest, chances are they wouldn’t, but if they did they would need to give contract extensions to three players on 1st round contracts at the same time. GMs are not enthused about having to do that. The Saints did them a big favor. The Eagles gave up the worst of those picks to not really move back and picked up a future draft pick that had a good chance to be even better and highly unlikely to be significantly worse. If you’ve got four picks over two years in the teens or early 20s you would prefer to have two in each year if only to spread the roster construction out a little, and a pick next year has a whole season of trade value. The Eagles accomplished that and picked up even more draft capital with a 2022 4th and 2024 2nd.

And in the end, even with the Saints second trade, the Eagles got the best pick of any of the deals New Orleans made. Tremendous work.

DJax10: Should we package 10 and the Saints second next year to move up in the draft?

They should not trade up from 10, teams should only do that for a QB, which the Eagles don’t need. But if they wanted to move up a couple of spots, it shouldn’t cost a 2nd. In 2014 the Browns moved up from 9 to 8 and it cost a 5th, in 2016 the Bears moved from 11 to 9 and it cost a 4th.

They should just sit still and take the best player on the board. They made that trade, and the one before that with the Dolphins, hoping to get a pick like this. And now they’ve got it. If they get blown away on a trade offer to move back and get future picks by a team wanting a QB they should consider it (and then look at trading up from their own pick), but if not just make the pick and get a premium prospect.

Eaglefodder: Does Jason Kelce retire if he gets a second Super Bowl ring?

It sure seems like he’s going to retire after this season no matter what considering he thought about it last year and then hand picked his replacement. But yeah, if the Eagles win the Super Bowl he definitely rides off into the sunset. Fletcher Cox should do the same. Brandon Graham can clearly play next year, but who can blame him if he too went out on top? As problems go “we lost some guys because they retired after winning the Super Bowl” is a great one to have.

Roberticus01: What happens if Lane Johnson has to get shut down again? The other teams have it on film now that the way to get to the quarterback is to get Jack Driscoll and to a lesser extent Isaac Seumalo back-pedaling. Could we see Jordan Mailata shift over to RT and insert Dillard in at LT?

Non-Football: How much butter do you put in your grilled cheese? This is very important.

If Lane Johnson goes down the Eagles shot at a Super Bowl might go with it. He’s that important, and they’re going to have to get through some excellent pass rushers to get the Lombardi Trophy. Micah Parsons or Joey Bosa only need one play to change a game.

That they stopped replacing Johnson by switching Mailata to the right and putting in Dillard says everything about how appealing—or rather, unappealing—an option that is now. But with a week of general prep during the bye, they’ve got to get that option some reps. The playoffs aren’t a time to stick with what isn’t working to get young players valuable experience. Everything has to be on the table.

As for grilled cheese… Is this a trick question? Don’t use butter, use mayonnaise. It is what restaurants do. Mayo has a much higher smoke point than butter by about 150 degrees, so you won’t burn through it before you’ve got your cheese melted as desired. If you’re doing a double decker or more, use the oven and finish it on the griddle.

If you’re putting bacon on it, and of course you should put bacon on it, use the leftover bacon fat along with the mayo. It too gives a high smoke point layer of fat and adds delicious bacon flavor. Enjoy.

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