The Eagles’ coaching staff is beginning to take form.
The team officially announced the hiring of Nick Sirianni as the next head coach on Sunday and quickly plucked two Colts assistants and a veteran defensive line coach for his new staff while retaining an important holdover.
Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon will be the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, a league source confirmed, and Colts passing game specialist Kevin Patullo is reportedly joining the staff as a passing-game coordinator.
Also, longtime NFL and Southeastern Conference assistant Tracy Rocker is expected to become the team’s new defensive line coach.
The Eagles will retain offensive line coach and run-game coordinator Jeff Stoutland, a league source confirmed.
Stoutland reportedly had the chance to rejoin Nick Saban’s coaching staff at Alabama two weeks ago. The veteran coach spent two years there before joining the Eagles in 2013, but he’s now staying with the Eagles.
Stoutland is considered one of the best line coaches in the league. He’s coming off a year in which he kept the team’s offensive line viable even after injuries forced the team to start 14 different line combinations in 16 games. According to ESPN’s pass-block win rate, which measures how often a line keeps a clean pocket for 2.5 seconds, the Eagles’ front was the 11th best at protecting the quarterback in 2020.
Stoutland, who came to the Eagles when Chip Kelly was hired in 2013, will be serving under his third Eagles head coach. He is the first holdover to join Sirianni’s staff.
Considering Sirianni’s offensive focus, Gannon will likely have a good amount of leeway to run the Birds’ defense. He’s spent the last three years as the defensive backs coach for the Colts and was the Minnesota Vikings’ assistant defensive backs coach for four years before that.
Based on the scheme in which Gannon has most recently coached, it’s safe to assume the Eagles’ defensive front won’t undergo too many wholesale changes. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus runs a 4-3, although the Colts’ defense puts more value in the linebacker position than the Eagles have in recent years. Indy’s defense is anchored by All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
On the back end, the Colts have been known to make drastic swings in coverages, employing a man-coverage heavy scheme one week and a zone-heavy approach the next. Last season, the Colts’ passing defense ranked seventh in defense-adjusted value over average, Football Outsider’s efficiency metric that takes into account the quality of opponent and game situation.
Gannon and Sirianni’s search for defensive assistants began in earnest Sunday, with Rocker, the former South Carolina d-line coach, expected to join the staff. Rocker, who played defensive tackle in the NFL with Washington, accepted a d-line job 10 days ago with Auburn, his alma mater, but will seemingly leave for the Eagles’ job. The news was first reported by Yahoo. Rocker last coached in the NFL in 2013, when he was a d-line coach for the Tennessee Titans. He’s also had the same role at Georgia and Tennessee.
With Stoutland as the run-game coordinator and Patullo coming in to help with the passing game, Sirianni’s offensive staff is coming together. Patullo was the Colts’ pass game specialist last season after two years as the team’s wideouts coach under Sirianni. He has experience coaching both wideouts and quarterbacks and spent one season with Texas A&M as a senior offensive assistant in 2017.
The Eagles are also interviewing Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen Sunday for the same title with Philadelphia, according to NFL Network. Steichen would have to be released from his job with Los Angeles to join the Eagles staff, but it’s possible new Chargers head coach Brandon Staley has someone else in mind for the position.
Steichen has been in the Chargers organization since 2011 and worked with Sirianni there for five years. He has a background coaching quarterbacks and became the team’s interim offensive coordinator in 2019 before getting the job full-time last season. In 2020, the team ranked seventh in passing DVOA and developed rookie quarterback Justin Herbert into a promising starter.