The other day, Nick Sirianni and his staff were working to prepare for end-of-game situations and they were thorough. Very thorough.
They watched about 500 different plays and scenarios.
“So, we're really prepared, really, really prepared,” Sirianni said, “but there will be things that pop up. And I look forward to the trial run on Thursday.”
As Sirianni knows, no matter how prepared a head coach is, there will always be some curveballs thrown their way. And tonight’s preseason game against the Steelers will be his first chance to lead the Eagles into game action.
That means game management. That means clock management. That means calling the plays.
It’s a lot. And this is the first time Sirianni is in charge of all that.
The thing that Sirianni thinks might help is his long-standing relationship with several key members of his staff. He was with Kevin Patullo and Jason Michael in Indianapolis, he’s worked with Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon before. So he’s hoping that rapport will pay dividends.
And it’s also beneficial that there even is a preseason this year. If Sirianni had been hired last season, his first game at the helm would have been the regular season opener.
Sirianni, 40, confirmed that he will be the Eagles’ primary play caller this season, beginning with this first preseason game. Sirianni will pick the plays, but offensive coordinator Shane Steichen will actually be the person in communication with Hurts and the other QBs.
It might seem like an extra unnecessary step, but Sirianni said he wants it this way so that the process remains the same as it is in practice and he can keep his lines of communication open with other key members of the operation. Remember, this is a trial run. So if the Eagles run into a problem over these next three games, they’ll have opportunities to change their process.
Sirianni has never been a team’s primary play-caller but he has briefly had those responsibilities before. In Indianapolis, Frank Reich would allow him to call some preseason games. Mike McCoy would similarly let Sirianni calls some preseason games with the Chargers.
And way back in 2011, after Todd Haley was fired by the Chiefs, Sirianni called the passing plays in a game against the Packers. In that game, Chiefs starter Kyle Orton completed 23 of 31 attempts for 299 yards and a passer rating of 104.1 in a 19-14 Chiefs win.
Sirianni said that the process of play-calling is still a group effort. He’ll talk things over on the sideline with his trusted colleagues to get their input.
The only difference — and it’s a big difference — is that Sirianni is now the guy “pulling the trigger.” He might listen to his assistants but the success or failure, praise or criticism, will now fall on him.
“It’s just a different guy,” Sirianni said. “We are still going to talk through it as a staff, ‘Here is what we want to run, and just we're calling this at this time.’”
Since the rest of the NFL hasn’t seen exactly what Sirianni’s offense will look like, don’t expect him to completely open the playbook in these three preseason games. His offense will probably look pretty vanilla.
But at least we’ll get a sense of how he’ll call games. And he’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.
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