Sirianni explains why he’s retaining special teams coordinator for ’23


The Eagles are bringing back special teams coordinator Michael Clay for the 2023 season, head coach Nick Sirianni announced on Thursday.

While the Eagles finished in the top five in offense and defense this season, their special teams units were the weak link for much of the year.

Even after improving throughout the season, the Eagles still finished 31st in the NFL in Rick Gosselin’s annual rankings and were ranked tied for 29th by ProFootballFocus.

“Yes he will (return),” Sirianni said. “I thought we did a nice job as far as just improving. We had some rocky beginnings in special teams and I thought we did a nice job improving those special teams as the year went along. A lot of credit to Coach Clay, obviously a lot of credit to the players that stepped up and made plays to do so.

“Again, we talked about the punt and the punt return by Kansas City. Hat’s off to them. We didn’t do a good enough job on that play and nothing is ever decided on one play.”

The punt in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl was a disaster. Back from IR, Arryn Siposs hit a 38-yarder that was scooped by Kadarius Toney and returned 65 yards all the way down to the Eagles’ 5-yard line. The Chiefs punched in a touchdown a few plays later in their 38-35 win.

Aside from that play, Sirianni is right that special teams improved a ton down the stretch. The bar was set low but the special teams units had some good moments in the second half of the year and Sirianni gave Clay credit during the season.


Back on Jan. 24, Clay was asked what changed?

“I wouldn't say that me personally changing,” Clay said. “I try to come in every day, because like I've said before, these guys, you spend so much time around them, if you change one bit or try to be someone that you're not, they're going to sniff it out. I think it's just the more reps these guys have gotten, a lot of young guys out there, but the more reps they got, the more familiarity they have to what special teams in the NFL is. Being able to dissect plays, being able to come together, speak a couple things.

“There may be some stuff where I had to do a better job of explaining to them in their own terms where they get it and then it clicks for them, where I've had to grow as a coach, as a coordinator for these guys to get going.”

As far as the core specialists, the Eagles are in a good position with kicker Jake Elliott and long snapper Rick Lovato. While Siposs improved in 2022, there’s a chance they could look to upgrade that spot next season.

Their top punt returner was Britain Covey, who rebounded from a bad start and ended up averaging 9.3 yards per punt return; he had a career-long 27-yard punt return in the Super Bowl. After Covey began the season as the team’s kick returner, that job eventually went to Boston Scott, who averaged 27.1 yards per return. Scott is a free agent this offseason.

In addition to those specialists, the Eagles also got solid contributions from young special teamers like Zech McPhearson, Christian Elliss, Josh Jobe, K’Von Wallace and Nakobe Dean.

The Eagles this offseason are already searching for replacements for offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who both left this week to take head coaching gigs elsewhere.

At least one of their coordinators will return for 2023.

“I have a great deal of confidence in Coach Clay and the job he did these last two years and how we’ve improved, how he’s improved,” Sirianni said. “He’s improved greatly, our special teams has improved greatly and, yeah, he’ll be back.”

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