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Matt Patricia talks about taking over the Eagles’ defense

Matt Patricia is now in charge of the Eagles defense, and he spoke to reporters about his role, Sean Desai, reconciling with Darius Slay, and a whole lot more.

The Eagles handed the defense to Matt Patricia last week and he spoke to reporters for the first time on Thursday about that transition, what it’s been like collaborating with Sean Desai, and how he’s handled the personal aspect of role swap. He also talked about his reconciliation with Darius Slay, and admitted he’d want most of the calls back on the final drive of the Seahawks game.

Patricia was very appreciative of the opportunity given to him to join the Eagles back in the spring, saying that head coach Nick Sirianni has been “tremendously amazing” to be around and that CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman have built a great organization.

Here’s what Patricia had to say:

On taking over an already installed defense

“Coming in the building and being in a role where I kind of was in a lot of different areas, at the time, being able to help a little bit with offense from some of my experiences there, and special teams, which I love that part of it.

And then defensively, being around those great coaches and around Sean [Desai], who’s phenomenal, and kind of putting the installation of the defense in and learning. You know, for me it was a great learning opportunity at that point. So, just kind of being involved with it. I think with coaches, it’s always collaborative.”

He went on to explain that as coaches, you’re always coming together to talk about different ideas, so early on he was able to see what Desai was building, but ultimately it’s really the Eagles defense rather than just Desai’s defense.

“It’s the 2023 Eagles, and that’s what we were trying to develop. I think every year in football, things change a little bit and schemes change based on the people and personnel that you have, and certainly that’s what we’ve been trying to do through the course of the year.”

Patricia later talked about how to know what, and how much, to change after a shift in roles, but he noted that defenses kind of change and evolve every week based on matchups and opponents. Still, while you want to maximize the skills of the players you have based on who you’re playing, you want to keep the foundation the same.

He also explained how in all his years in coaching, he never really considered a defense (or offense) his own, but noted it’s the players’ defense, because what they do is based off the things the players do well and how they can maximize that.

On the shifting roles from Sean Desai

“Sean’s a tremendous, tremendous football coach. He’s super intelligent with scheme and teaching, and I’ve learned a lot from him from that aspect of it and tried to offer some insight into different things that I’ve seen through the years. So, we’re all still kind of trying to just work together in that aspect of it, and make it a group effort.”

Patricia wouldn’t discuss how the change was made, or what his conversation was with Sirianni — pointing to the head coach if he cares to divulge that —, but said ultimately, he’s honored that they let him coach on this team, and that Desai has been so great.

“[Desai] is a huge part of everything still, now. So, there may have been a little bit of a switch in some of the responsibilities, but I feel like it’s still just a group effort.”

He was later asked what he might be able to do now that he couldn’t before given his new role, but Patricia said that the team is filled with a lot of great people, so he never felt like he wasn’t able to offer up an idea or suggestion at any point. So, in that regard, nothing really has changed.

Patricia was asked about how he handled the switch of responsibilities from a personal standpoint, and he explained that the relationships with people is what he values most because when they’re no longer able to coach, the relationships with people are what will remain.

“This has been great for me, coming here, coming to this organization, Nick [Sirianni], the culture he has here, to be able to get back to that.”

He noted that the NFL is a business focused on production, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in that, and in winning, but for him, it’s about making sure that your friend is okay.

“I’ve been really blessed with Sean [Desai] to have a relationship and build a friendship. We’ve had mutual friends that we’ve either worked with and had that connection to each other, and it’s been great.

Really helped me transition in here, in a situation where my family’s not here, I’m kind of here by myself, and he’s looked out for me in that aspect it.”

On the in-game communication with Sean Desai

“[Desai] was great!”

Patricia explained that there’s so much information to process during a game, and so much of it comes from upstairs in the box. Those are the eyes in the sky, and that information needs to come in real-time, and those suggestions are always free-flowing, which is why they’re all wearing headsets.

“When I was upstairs, I was trying to do the same thing with Sean [Desai] downstairs. And, he did a great job of really helping me through the game with some of the stuff that he was seeing.”

He also noted that there are other coaches up in the box doing the same thing, and said that the communication between upstairs and downstairs is critical to everything they’re doing.

On his playcalling vs. Seahawks

Patricia was quick to admit that there’s a lot of calls he’d like back in the final drive in Seattle.

“Obviously, I would take it all back. That drive starts with me, and I gotta do a better job to get them in position to get us off the field and obviously help us win.

I think our guys played really, really hard. I was really proud of the way they went out, and give praise to them for what they did. I thought they tried to play aggressive, tried to play physical upfront, covered really well, and then obviously in the two minute drive wasn’t good enough, and that’s me.”

He went on to explain that last play call that led to the game-winning touchdown, and Patricia admitted he doesn’t really like anything about it in hindsight, but at the time they were mixing some play calls and coverages. On the play prior, which probably would have been better on that last play, he saw something that made him nervous about calling it again, so he did something different to give help to other places.

On his relationship with Darius Slay

Patricia smiled when asked about how he was able to reconcile his relationship with Darius Slay after their tumultuous past in Detroit, noting that he just gave the CB a hug before taking the stage for this press conference.

“It’s really been awesome for me to be back around Slay, and really have an unbelievable relationship.

He’s a great guy. He’s super kind, super funny. He’s very determined. He’s everything that he is, and obviously so appreciative of him, and our conversation that we had in the spring, and just helping me. Honestly, he’s helped me a lot.”

He went on to say that Slay was one of the people he know in the building when he first got to Philly, so he leaned on the CB as he got acclimated. Patricia said Slay was out there with arms open, and helped him fit in and feel comfortable, something he is very grateful for.

“As you go through life, and you grow and you learn, and hopefully improve and get better as a person. From me personally, where I was, whenever that was, I’m just trying to be a better person every day and I’m just really thankful to him for that.”

After that, they got into the football stuff, and Patricia really enjoyed talking through things and working with him on the field. He also noted that Slay knew that Week 1 might be a little tough for the former Lions’ head coach, so the CB checked on Patricia to make sure he was okay, which was really awesome.

“It’s good for me to be able to come back and build some of those relationships the way you really want them.”

Other notables

  • Patricia talked about helping players’ talent shine, and noted his excitement to get to coach guys like Fletcher Cox, someone who he has the utmost respect for and has been impressed by going back to when he was drafted.
  • He talked about he’s morphed as a playcaller throughout his career, and sometimes it’s instinct based in-game, things that come from experience — often having learned from something that didn’t work. But, Patricia tries to draw from all that experience, and then put guys in the best position possible.
  • The defensive coach said that he’s really enjoyed being involved in different facets of the Eagles team, from offense to special teams, and obviously defense. He also talked about offering to be a sounding board for Nick Sirianni, and draw from some of his head coaching experience over the years, but also noting that he’s learned a lot from Sirianni and other young coaches he’s been around.

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