Nick Sirianni wasn’t very familiar with RPOs a few years ago. He didn’t have experience coaching the run-pass option concept, and in the modern NFL that was a hole in his game.
RPOs have become a staple of many pro offenses, especially with the growing number of dual-threat quarterbacks who can make plays with their arm or their legs.
Like Jalen Hurts.
Sirianni worked with classic drop-back passers like Matt Cassel, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck before coming to Philadelphia, so he never really had a reason to incorporate RPOs into his scheme.
“It's definitely [something] I didn't have a ton of experience with,” he said.
Simply put, RPOs can apply a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense because the quarterback doesn’t decide if a play is going to be a run or a pass until the last possible moment — as he’s in the process of handing the ball off.
If he reads that a safety or linebacker is crowding the box, he pulls the ball back and throws. If he sees defenders dropping back, he’s finishing the handoff.
When run correctly and with a quarterback who’s able to read the defense and make a split-second decision on what he sees, it can be a very effective way to keep defenses off balance and give the offense an edge.
Chip Kelly had his issues, but the Eagles’ offense was third best in the NFL during his three years here, and a big reason for that was RPOs, which he brought with him from Oregon.
The Eagles used RPOs to great success in 2017 with Nick Foles, whose offensive coordinator was Frank Reich, who Sirianni coached under the last three years in Indianapolis.
“RPOs are a part of the offense and part of the puzzle to our offense,” Sirianni said. “It benefits your offense because you’re able to read a player instead of block a player.
“That's a great thing to be able to do. Like, ‘Hey, I don't have to block him. What did he do? Did he take a drop? All right, good, I'm handing it off. Did he knife it (play the run)? Good, I'm pulling it and taking it and throwing the ball.’ It's a piece of the puzzle of what we do, and we're just continuing to grow in it.”
Sirianni said one of his biggest resources when it comes to RPOs is passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo, who was with him the last two years in Indy.
“Kevin Patullo was around a lot of the RPO stuff,” he said. “To be honest with you, one of the reasons we hired Kevin in Indianapolis was because of his experience. Frank had just come off … having a lot of experience (with the Eagles), having a lot of success with RPOs, and Kevin was in college the year before at Texas A&M, and he came and talked to us, and we were like, ‘Yes, we like this stuff.’ So, we brought him to Indianapolis. That's one reason why we did that.”
Sirianni said he also learned a lot about RPOs from Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning, who spent the 2018 season with Reich and the Colts.
“[He] really helped me grow in that world,” Sirianni said. “He was the offensive coordinator at Iowa State, he came and worked with us for a year and then he went back to Iowa State as the coordinator. He must have had a hard time working for me. I must have been too hard on him.”
This is a big change from the past few years.
The Eagles didn’t run RPOs under their former quarterback, who’s now with the Colts, but Miles Sanders allowed a few days ago that they will be a big part of what the Eagles do on offense this fall.
“It’s very similar to college,” he said. “Switching from pro style into an RPO offense, getting back to that feeling. I love it. It’s getting our athletes into space and getting 1-on-1 matchups with certain players and just allowing us to be who we are. That’s what I love about this offense.”
Sirianni said tight ends coach Jason Michael and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson also brought run-pass concepts to Philadelphia when Sirianni hired them.
“I'm so lucky on this staff that we have Jason, who's called plays in the NFL for Marcus Mariota, and we know how Marcus ran with the football, Brian, who's been an offensive coordinator, [and] Shane [Steichen]," he said.
"Kevin's got a lot of experience helping call games and everything like that. So [we] have a lot of experience with the run-pass options.”
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