When Brian Johnson was quarterbacks coach at Mississippi State, he recruited Jalen Hurts out of Channelview High in Texas. Didn’t get him.
When Johnson was quarterbacks coach at Florida, he recruited Hurts when he was looking for a school to transfer to. Didn’t get him.
When Nick Sirianni hired Johnson as his quarterbacks coach last year, Hurts finally got to work with his long-time family friend, and now that fruitful relationship will take another big step forward with Johnson expected to replace Shane Steichen as Eagles offensive coordinator.
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Johnson has been considered the heir apparent to Steichen all year in the event that Steichen got a head coaching job. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday morning what we all expected – Johnson will replace Steichen, who was introduced Tuesday as the Colts’ new head coach.
“It’s a very special relationship that dates back to my younger days being a 5-year-old kid, a 4-year-old kid, running around at Baytown (Robert E.) Lee High School, where my dad used to coach and my dad coached my coach, he coached Brian Johnson,” Hurts said in Arizona last week.
“I remember watching Brian go beat Alabama when he played at Utah and watching him as a kid even when my dad coached him. It’s been a great relationship. …
“I’ve always wanted to play for him, always wanted to be coached by him and kind of was delayed not going to Mississippi State and not going to Florida, but everything worked itself out. Definitely looking forward to what the future holds.
“I’ve known him for a very long time. He’s like family.”
A lot of people contributed to Hurts’ unprecedented success this year, but his relationship with Johnson has always been special.
“He’s a great communicator,” Hurts said. “He’s definitely been able to simplify some things. It holds a lot of weight that he’s played the position. His experience with the game, what he’s learned through his years … has a lot to do with the success we’ve had this year."
The improvement Hurts showed from his rookie year – when Press Taylor was his position coach – to last year with Johnson to this year is unprecedented in NFL history.
Johnson will be a head coach one day soon, but for now, the Eagles get an offensive coordinator – and quite possibly play caller - who gives Nick Sirianni continuity on the offensive side of the ball and gives Hurts a trusted and valued mentor in an expanded role.
“What you always want for coaches is to make this game that is complex, simple, because they’re making split-second decisions,” Sirianni said in Arizona. “You have to make it simple so you play fast.
“And Brian does a great job of that, just putting himself in the shoes of a quarterback because he’s been there, just simplifying the reads for them, simplifying the checks for them, simplifying the defense and chunking information together.”
The Eagles will certainly miss Steichen, who Hurts also had a great relationship with. They had the No. 3 offense in the league during the regular season, then scored 38, 31 and 35 points in their three postseason games.
But Johnson is one of the NFL’s sharpest young offensive minds, and the Eagles are lucky they’ll be able to replace Steichen with another highly regarded future head coach.
“It’s definitely just the beginning for both of us,” Hurts said. “I can’t say enough about the type of person he is and how hard he works at his craft every single day. …
"He’s going to be a star one day. He’s going to be a big-time coach one day. I have no doubt in my mind. … It’s definitely just the beginning for the both of us.”