The offense in Indianapolis seemed to suggest otherwise.
Very few RPO’s, play-action, pre-snap motions, and shifts appeared in the Colts‘ 2020 offense. The staple plays that have become a part of every NFL offense seemed to be not of importance. But does that tell the whole story? Is a Sirianni-led offense too archaic for the Eagles to compete in the future?
Not so fast.
His offense is exactly what this team needs for the future.
A Player’s (Strengths) Coach
“It’s all about who the player is and what they do well.”Nick Sirianni on adapting to players and their strengths
In order to be successful on either side of the ball in the NFL, a coach must be able to scheme a successful system for his personnel.
That is one of Sirianni’s many positive attributes.
There were several instances throughout the 2020 Eagles’ season where it seemed like former head coach Doug Pederson did not know how to tap into his personnel’s strengths and use them for sustained success.
That was a different story in Indianapolis.
Take for instance Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal. Pascal is hardly a household name among NFL fans, but he has surely won the hearts of Colts fans. How? Sirianni’s development and adaptation to his skills. When Pascal first came into the league back in 2018— Sirianni’s first year as coordinator— he was not seen as an elite pass-catcher.
But he was good at blocking for run plays.
What does Sirianni do? He created screens for Pascal that were designed as run blocks to allow Pascal to develop his catching ability.
How has Pascal blossomed since 2018?
Pascal is now a regular part of the Colts offense, starting in 31 games. He also has 112 receptions for 1,504 yards and 12 touchdowns.
How’s that for some development?
The Eagles are in desperate need of wide receivers reaching their full, untapped potential. Lucky for Sirianni and his offensive staff, he has plenty. It seems like a daunting task to undertake, but that’s one of the many jobs of a head coach— developing players and allowing them to grow.
In his first press conference as head coach, Sirianni discussed making the system simple enough for his players that they don’t necessarily have to think too much and rely on their talent.
That caused some individuals to scratch their heads.
However, his track record with player development shows he may be onto something.
Allowing Pascal to grow in his pass catching abilities with fake blocks proved that coaches do not need to scheme complicated routes and plays in order to get players adjusted to the NFL.
In fact, doing such can actually stunt a player’s growth.
For example, Travis Fulgham skyrocketed onto highlight reels and into fans’ hearts with his ability to create separation and make tough catches downfield. Slowly but surely, Pederson shied away from the hot hand. The Travis Fulgham fans saw in week 4 against the 49ers was not the same Fulgham we saw later that season. Sirianni can tap into Fulgham’s strengths and allow him to develop as a receiver.
“He’s going to put you in a position to succeed. Let’s say this guy is fast, he’ll put him on the fast route. This guy has a good break at the top of the route, he’ll give him a curl route. He uses guys’ great strengths.”Zach Pascal on Sirianni’s ability to tap into his player’s strengths
As far as other positions, Sirianni has done plenty to adjust to his personnel. Sirianni has had four different quarterbacks play in his system: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, and Phillip Rivers. All different style quarterbacks.
All found success under Sirianni.
For an offense to have a revolving door at one of the most important positions on the field and still be a top offense in the league lends to how well a team is coached. Sure, each year, the Colts have gone down in amount of RPO’s used and DVOA each year. But the system each year is catered to the strengths of the quarterback. Rivers is a pocket passer, so designed quarterback runs and rollouts will not work with him. However, they may work with Brissett or Luck.
That’s the appeal.
The Eagles had a hard time last year adjusting and scheming to their player’s strengths. At times, it looked like the coaches on the team did not know what their players were good at.
Expect that to change under Sirianni.
Stick To What You Know
“Nick and I talk a lot about these fourth-down calls,” Reich said. “We will push each other and I will say, ‘Are we really going to be comfortable with this with the game on the line? I mean is this really what we want to call when the game is on the line?’ Vice versa, he will ask me those same kinds of questions and we will just go back and forth.”
In the NFL, a team will experience situational downs. What separates teams is how they handle those crucial calls early or late in a game.
Sirianni does that well, too.
Just before the 2020 NFL playoffs, the Colts were in a must-win game against Houston. With under three minutes in regulation, now retired quarterback Phillip Rivers threw a 41-yard pass up the middle to wide receiver T.Y Hilton. The pass set up the go-ahead score and win.
But who came up with the play? Nick Sirianni.
Sirianni and the offensive staff in Indianapolis noticed a particular coverage the Houston defense tends to use in a 2nd and long situation. So, he [Sirianni] put a play call on the sheet for Reich to use.
The constant rehearsal of plays is a staple of Sirianni’s offensive philosophy. In his interview with Eagles Insider, Siranni stated that the weekly preparation of games allows the players to feel confident in the system because they have practiced what they are going to do on game day. The methodology works. Throughout the season, there were few times where Rivers didn’t go to his first read. Rivers always knew how the routes were going to run and what route would be his hot route. The skill players also knew and understood their responsibilities in a play. If a receiver wasn’t the intended receiver, they ran their route or executed their block to assist their team and move the chains. The routes in a play call were never disjunctive or caused confusion on the field.
Everything moved in perfect harmony.
The old adage, “practice makes perfect,” reigns true for Sirianni’s offense. Of course, each game presents different challenges and adjustments, which Sirianni pointed out. However, an offense led by Sirianni is hardly going to look confused and not understand their exact role in a play. Sirianni’s attention to detail and focus on repetition creates the path to a successful game day.
Can This Offense Work for Philadelphia?
A Sirianni offense may not have all the bells and whistles a modern day NFL offense typically has.
The Eagles don’t need the bells and whistles.
The Eagles need to get back to the basics and start anew. That starts with a new offense philosophy that focuses on the development of the players and allowing their talent to be showcased.
Sirianni is the offensive mind the Eagles need for the future.