How Sirianni counted more runs than you on Monday night


The Eagles officially had just three rushing attempts from their running backs on Monday night.

Nick Sirianni counted more.

On Wednesday, Sirianni continued to explain the lopsided ratio of runs to passes from the 41-21 loss to the Cowboys and brought up how run-pass option plays helped lead to the giant disparity.

“There were some times there are going to be RPOs where we're reading somebody,” Sirianni said. “So one time we're expecting to hand it off, but the guy does something a little different than what we thought, and we pull the ball. That's going to happen. I get that.”

For what it’s worth, Sirianni finally accepted some blame for the lack of a rushing attack in the loss. He said the Eagles need to be more balanced.

But sometimes RPOs do play out that way, and what we do is we count RPOs – if they're going to take a guy and replace – get him out of position for the pass, we actually count those as runs,” Sirianni said. “But we've got to run the ball more.”

It sounds silly. Sirianni is counting plays where Jalen Hurts passed the ball as runs. And maybe it is. But it seems like his point was that those RPOs -- it’s important to remember that RPOs are different than zone-reads, which actually are running plays — would have been runs if the defense presented differently. An effective play is an effective play, right?

On those RPOs, Hurts basically has one read to make on either an edge rusher or a linebacker. Depending on how that player player presents, he’ll either hand the ball off, pull it and run himself or pull it and throw to a receiver. It’s a play with multiple options, as Miles Sanders pointed out on Wednesday afternoon.


The problem, of course, is that if Sirianni is counting these RPOs as running plays whether or not it results in a run, it means there might be some games where the ratio gets a little out of whack. We saw that taken to an extreme on Monday night.

“I’m OK with living with that as far as the ratio, because, like I said, we're reading a guy, right?” Sirianni said. “We're not blocking a guy, it creates better angles for the entire offensive line when you do that, because you're just reading, ‘What did you do? Oh, you did that? I hand it off. Oh, you did this? I pull it.’ I'm comfortable with that. We count those as runs.”

Sirianni is OK with this philosophy — and it’s not completely crazy — but if Hurts is making the correct reads and is passing on all those plays, it means that Sanders (or another back) won’t get as many handoffs. The way to avoid that is to simply call running plays. But Sirianni has clearly identified the RPO as a tool to use in his offense, especially with Hurts as the QB.

Because, as Sanders pointed out, these plays with Hurts really have three options. The extra one for the Eagles that isn’t completely available for every NFL team is the prospect of Hurts’ keeping the ball and running it himself.

Sanders was very diplomatic when asked about his usage against the Cowboys. And he said he agrees with using the RPO in this offense, even if that comes at his expense.

“I like the way we handle it,” Sanders said. “We have the type of quarterback that can do that so that’s why we run RPOs. I trust his reads just as much as everybody trusts my reads with the ball in my hands. If he has to pull it to do what he has to do to get a first down or get the yardage, I’m all for it. I’m all for it.”