A lot of questions followed the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff the minute they were hired. Those questions continued throughout the season, albeit in different forms of anger.
A poor introductory press conference, different practice methods and a mid-season shake-up, threw one of the youngest coaching staff’s in the NFL into the fire early and often. On many occasions, most rose to the challenge, some faltered, and others are still being debated even now.
Let’s take a look at just how good this coaching staff looked in their first full year together.
Head Coach – Nick Sirianni
What a roller-coaster ride for Sirianni in his first full year on the job. He was hired, had an extremely bad introductory press conference, had to toe the line for a disgruntled QB, got blasted for not running the ball, changed an offense mid-season to better fit the personnel, and ended up in the postseason as the only rookie coach to do so, only to get blasted in the playoff game and have fans still upset.
Jokes aside, the growth Sirianni displayed from when he was introduced to coaching in the playoffs was very impressive. He’s clearly a coach who loves talking football, and gives lengthy answers to reporters when necessary.
He wasn’t as aggressive as his predecessor was on 4th down, yet understood when his offense needed a whole restructure (something his predecessor refused to do). He made quirky remarks about flowers which ended up being the slogan for the 2021 Eagles, but also clearly seemed to win over the locker room fairly quickly.
For a roster that went 4-11-1 without much cap room, Sirianni did an extremely impressive job in his first year with the Eagles.
Offensive Coordinator: Shane Steichen
Admittedly, it’s tough to really grade an OC when he isn’t the one who is calling plays.
However, the ability of the Eagles to shift from a pass-heavy offense, to a run-heavy offense is passed along throughout the entire offensive coaching staff. They clearly understood what worked with the current roster, and adapted to the talent they had.
Having Steichen around for another season is going to help with the development of younger players as well. No more rotating promotions.
Defensive Coordinator: Jonathan Gannon
Hoooooo boy. Where to begin with Gannon.
Positives: Statistically, the Eagles defense was a top ten unit. Ninth against the run, ninth overall, and 11th against the pass. The secondary looked as good as it has in years with Darius Slay looking like a true lockdown corner when given the opportunity. Some of the issues on the defense this year were also more about the players they had than the actual scheme. Still, the Eagles defense destroyed some really bad offenses.
Negatives: Apart from the fact the defensive line had little to no consistent pressure on the QB, the team gave up an abhorrent completion percentage to opposing QB’s. Oh, and they couldn’t stop any mildly competent offense. There’s a lot to go back and forth with on Gannon. He wasn’t as aggressive as Eagle fans want their DC to be, the coverages were very lax most of the time and whenever they played a half-decent QB they got shredded.
Special Teams Coordinator: Michael Clay
Here’s another one we have to go back and forth with. On one hand, Jake Elliott had a career year kicking wise and had one of the highest field goal percentages in NFL history. He had a great year.
On the other, Jalen Reagor was a disaster as a returner, accounting more for lost yardage on punts than positive yards. Don’t forget the muffs he had as well. And punter, Arryn Siposs, completely lost his head when the weather got cold.
Clay gets bonus points for fixing Elliott, but the disaster that was the return game is on him not turning to Gainwell or Huntley earlier.
QB Coach: Brian Johnson
If you are happy with the development Hurts had shown over the course of 2021, you’ll grade Johnson pretty high.
If you’re upset with the lack of development in reading defenses and anticipation not improving, then Johnson is going to be graded low.
In the end, grading Johnson along with Hurts is somewhere in the middle. He made some pretty impressive strides as a passer late in they year, and willed his team to a playoff appearance with a win in Washington. He isn’t the most gifted passer, but the people thinking he’s a career backup have clearly never seen Tommy Maddox or Charlie Batch play.
There’s a very god starter in Hurts somewhere. Johnson just needs to get the most out of him.
RB Coach: Jemal Singleton
It’s not Singleton’s fault the Eagles didn’t run the ball more in the early parts of the season. When they did, the Eagles became a very good football team.
Balancing a RB by committee approach is never easy, but Singleton used Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott about as well as you could. When Sanders and Howard went down, the rushing attack didn’t miss a beat and that’s a credit to Singleton having them ready.
WR Coach: Aaron Moorhead
Does Moorhead get credit for DeVonta Smith being a #1 wide receiver? Does he get blame for the mess that is Jalen Reagor?
Once again, it’s somewhere in the middle. Smith is clearly the #1 receiver the city has been searching for, for years now. But he was that when he was drafted. Moorhead really didn’t have to do much there.
Jalen Reagor was a mess before Moorehead took the job and seemed to get even worse with him. His inability to get off press, use his speed for anything (remember when we thought he was fast) or do anything after the catch is just mind-boggling. At one point during the season, Reagor had lost more yards after the catch than yards he actually gained. Ew.
The tipping point is Quez Watkins. The Eagles deep threat averaged over 15 yards a catch and got open time and time again. His development as a sixth round pick has been great to see and definitely gives Moorehead more props.
TE Coach: Jason Michael
Jack Stoll showed he can be an excellent blocking TE.
Tyrese Jackson showed promise in training camp in the preseason but unfortunately got hurt often. We may never know what he ends up being like, but the potential is there for Jackson.
OL Coach: Jeff Stoutland
The GOAT. The best assistant coach the Eagles have had since Jim Johnson. Love of my life.
Any other way to describe the impact Jeff Stoutland has made on the Eagles?
The development of Mialata and Dickerson, the dominance of Kelce and Lane. The surprise of Driscoll, Herbig and Seumalo. He’s done it all.
We all know what grade this stud is getting.
Grade: A+ with a gold star
DL Coach: Tracy Rocker
This is part of the grades where it gets tricky. Rocker was given some interesting players and tried to do the best he could with what he had.
He gets bonus points for Javon Hargrave’s Pro Bowl season, and the emergence of Josh Sweat. Even Milton Williams showed tremendous promise.
But Ryan Kerrigan and Derek Barnett were disasters. Fletcher Cox doesn’t look like the same player, and unless the Eagles get another edge rusher in the draft, this position group that was one of the worst in the league in sacks, is only going to get worse.
LB Coach: Nick Rallis
Here’s another intriguing one. On one hand, it’s not Rallis’ fault the Eagles front office doesn’t value the position and he’s trying to work with TJ Edwards and Alex Singleton.
On the other the LB on the team are by far the weakest unit for the franchise. Rallis got the most out of Edwards and Singleton. It even looks like the Birds had a solid player in Davion Taylor…but he got hurt.
Tough to grade Rallis, and I’ll be a little forgiving to him because this position group isn’t his fault.
DB Coach: Dennard Wilson
Scheme wise, the Eagles passing defense was torched against some of the better QB’s in football. But again, that’s not really on Wilson.
Getting Slay back to being a Pro-Bowl corner and lock down machine was excellent. Steven Nelson was a serviceable #2 and the safeties were not the disaster they had been under Jim Schwartz.
The real praise goes to the development of Avonte Maddox. Maddox was allowed to play the slot exclusively this year and turned in some truly exceptional performances. The Eagles have a number of good players in the secondary and that’s in large part because Wilson let them play to their strengths.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire