Ahead of the Eagles’ first preseason contest on Thursday evening against the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Nick Sirianni revealed he will be the exclusive offensive play caller in games.
Sirianni will make final decisions on plays, then Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen will relay that information to the quarterback on the headset.
“So I’ll say a number to Shane,” Sirianni said Tuesday. “And Shane will say the number to Jalen Hurts if it’s a wristband play, or I’ll say the number to Shane and he’ll read it to Jalen.
“We’ve been in that situation before. That’s just so I can talk to other people, too, and make some notes here. I just think that’s the communication that he hears every day in practice and that’s why we’ll do it like that in the game.”
While the incorporation of Steichen’s communication adds an extra layer to the play-calling process, this specific execution — featuring the coach as the main play caller — isn’t necessarily new for the franchise.
Sirianni’s predecessor, former Eagles coach Doug Pederson, also called the offensive plays and so did Chip Kelly. The last offensive coordinator tabbed with play-calling responsibilities was Marty Mornhinweg under Andy Reid.
Sirianni has experience calling plays, and he’ll rely on additional insight from his assistants.
Colts coach Frank Reich gave him play-calling responsibilities in the preseason when he was the offensive coordinator at Indianapolis. Sirianni also called plays for Chargers preseason games under Mike McCoy in San Diego. As an offensive quality control coach, Sirianni called passes for the Kansas City Chiefs late in the 2011 season after Todd Haley was fired as head coach.
Throughout training camp, Sirianni has been vocal and taken a hands-on approach while coaching the wide receivers, specifically. The first-year coach’s top priority has been finding consistency and eliminating errors in the fundamentals.
“He coaches us hard,” wide receiver Jalen Reagor said Tuesday. “We want that. Every detail, he’s on us. That’s a good thing [Sirianni is calling plays]. Then you [consider] he’s a coach who is wide receiver savvy and he’s played receiver, that helps us.
“Throughout the whole offseason, he’s texted the wide receivers route stuff everyday. As far as steps, getting in and out of breaks, head movement, whatever you think — he’s been on top of us.”
Thus far, it seems the defense is slightly ahead of the offense in regards to execution and preparation for the regular season. The Eagles ranked 24th in the NFL in total offense last season with 334.6 yards per game.
It’ll likely take several games, and maybe even a full season, for Hurts and the offense to adjust to Sirianni’s system and game day execution. After all, Sirianni’s offense is Hurts’ fifth scheme in six years, including his college career.
During four starts as a rookie, Hurts completed 52% of his throws for 1,061 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. The Eagles plan to increase their run-pass option usage this year, which fits Hurts’ strengths as an agile quarterback. Hurts rushed for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
For whatever reason, Sirianni has yet to officially label Hurts as the team’s starter. But all signs are trending in that direction as Hurts has taken 100% of the first-team snaps.
“All of us want to execute and go out there and do our jobs,” said Hurts, a second-year quarterback. “Every time we touch the field, that’s what we want to do. Nothing really changes.
“I think my [decision making] has gotten better every day. Repetition brings comfort and confidence. These are valuable reps I’m getting right now. It’s been an uphill climb for us.”
Execution will ultimately fall on Hurts and the offense, but Sirianni is tasked with navigating that climb with his play sheet in hand.