Alex Tanney. Remember that name. You’ll hear it a lot over the next few years.
Tanney, 35, has quietly moved up the ranks on the Eagles’ offensive coaching staff, earning promotions in each of the last two offseasons.
After a long career as an NFL backup quarterback – he threw 15 passes in nine seasons (including his only career TD pass to Dorial Green-Beckham) – Tanney turned to coaching in 2021 and spent that first year on Sirianni’s staff as an offensive quality control coach.
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He was promoted last year to assistant quarterbacks coach and this week, with Brian Johnson getting promoted from QBs coach to offensive coordinator, Tanney moved up again to quarterbacks coach.
Talk about fast track. Tanney is one step away from becoming an NFL offensive coordinator and he’s just starting his third year as a coach on any level.
“He gets it, you know what I mean?” said Colts coach Shane Steichen, who worked with Tanney the last two years.
Tanney is one of those guys who was born to coach.
He was a three-star athlete in Lexington, Ill., and then starred as a quarterback at Monmouth College – not the one in New Jersey but the one in western Illinois, between Peoria and Des Moines - and in 2008 he was NCAA Division 3 Player of the Year.
He threw 157 touchdown passes in his career – more than any quarterback on any level in college football history.
Despite playing in obscurity on the D-3 level, Tanney got into training camp with the Chiefs in 2012. Who was on Romeo Crennel’s coaching staff that year? None other than young Nick Sirianni.
In 2013, he was with the Browns, who had an offensive assistant named Shane Steichen. In 2014, he was with the Titans, and Ken Whisenhunt had both Jason Michael and Kevin Patullo on the staff.
By February of 2021, Sirianni was putting together his initial coaching staff with the Eagles, and Tanney had decided to retire after nine years with eight different.
Tanney already knew most of Sirianni’s offensive coaches, Sirianni needed a young entry-level offensive coach, and just like that Tanney’s coaching career began.
“Really sharp,” Sirianni says now. “What struck us was how smart he was and how hard he worked to stay on the team as a No. 3 and No. 2 quarterback.
“So even when we were in Kansas City, I still remember Brian Daboll was having him do little projects for us. I don't think he got any of the coach's money, but he was getting paid anyway. He would do little projects for us to help us, and so you remember things like that.”
Tanney was already a coach while he was still playing. So when Sirianni brought him in for an interview two years ago, it was a seamless transition.
“Alex, when we interviewed him for the quality control spot, he did everything he could do to be ready for that job,” Sirianni said. “He taught himself, took a computer class to teach himself how to draw on Visio, which we draw our pictures on, so he made sure he knew he could do the part of the job he was going to do.
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“I really admired that. He worked really hard at that. That's a thankless job. A lot of us have had that job and it's thankless, but he excelled at that job.”
Steichen, who was with Tanney in Cleveland in 2013 and with the Eagles the last two years, raved about him at the Combine on Wednesday.
“Tanny, phenomenal,” the new Colts head coach said. “I've got a ton of respect for Tanny. Obviously played in the league for nine years. Sees the game really well.
“Sharp, very, very detailed. Those conversations that I've had with him over the past two years, the way he sees the game, talks about the game? Clear, concise. There's no gray area with him. ... The way he teaches it is second to none.”
With Johnson taking on added responsibilities as offensive coordinator – including playcalling – a lot of the day-to-day work with Jalen Hurts will fall on Tanney.
They’ve already worked together to some extent for the last two years, but Tanney will now be directly responsible for working with the MVP runner-up at practice, in meetings and on game day.
“He crushed that role” as assistant QBs coach, Sirianni said, adding, “I know in his mind, that eventually he wants to call plays and he wants to be a head football coach.
“But I know what he's going to do this year: Exactly what he did the last two years, and he is going to kill his role and do everything he can do to help Jalen play better, to help us put together a plan. He is going to work his butt off to do that.”
The Sirianni head coaching tree is already at two with Steichen and Jonathan Gannon, and everybody around the team will be surprised if Johnson’s name isn’t added to that list in the next couple years.
And down the line somewhere? Tanney is on the fast track as well.
“He is super smart, super intelligent,” Sirianni said. “He connects with the players. Playing for 10 years in the NFL, he has this instant connection there. He's really worked to get everything he has.
“I really admire that in Alex, and I know he's going to be a great quarterback coach and he has done a great job for us for two years now.”