Brian Johnson

Nick Sirianni's passionate defense of Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson

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Wanting coordinators fired is nothing new around here. It wasn’t that long ago that “FIRE STEICHEN” and “FIRE GANNON” were trending on social media as the Eagles were on a Super Bowl run. And “FIRE REICH” and “FIRE SCHWARTZ” were certainly popular topics in 2016, a year before they helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl.

Heck, if social media was around in 1999, you know there would have been an angry group of Eagles fans who would have wanted new defensive coordinator Jim Johnson fired when the Eagles had the NFL’s 22nd-ranked defense with Trott, Dawk, Bobby, Troy and Willie T.

Now it’s Brian Johnson’s turn, and Nick Sirianni gave his rookie offensive coordinator a ringing vote of confidence Wednesday, defending a coach who really shouldn’t need to be defended.

“I think Brian has done a phenomenal job of calling the game,” Sirianni said. “Obviously, Shane (Steichen) did an unbelievable job all last year, but I don't feel like we've missed a beat on offense. 

“We've been in a good groove, and Brian has just done, to me, a great job of leading this group. Has done a great job calling the game, adjusting in the game. I just think he's done a top-notch job.”

The Eagles are 9-1, the best record in the NFL. They’re 6th at 27.3 points per game, 1st in 3rd-down percentage and 5th in first downs. They’re even up to 9th in the red zone after being near the bottom a month ago.

They just scored 21 points in a win over the Chiefs, who have the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense. They scored 28 vs. the Cowboys, who are 3rd. They scored 25 in Tampa, who is 9th.

So why the complaints about Johnson? The Eagles ran some sideways pass plays Monday night that didn’t work, nearly inciting riots across the Delaware Valley.

There was a reason for those play calls. The Eagles were having trouble dealing with the Chiefs’ intense pass pressure, and Johnson likely hoped some short passes could lead to big yards after the catch without putting Jalen Hurts at risk. 

But you don’t evaluate an offensive coordinator on one or two or five or 10 plays. You evaluate him on the sum total of his work, and the sum total of Johnson’s work through 10 games is impressive.

Those sideways passes didn’t go anywhere. But the Eagles eventually became the first team this year to register multiple 2nd-half touchdown drives of more than 30 yards against the Chiefs this year.

The Eagles have the MVP favorite at quarterback, an all-pro candidate at wide receiver, a running back on pace for over 1,500 scrimmage yards and multiple Pro Bowl locks on the offensive line.

This is one of the NFL’s best offenses any way you measure it. Does every play work? Nah. But that’s the case everywhere.

“I think he has a good feel,” Sirianni said. “Brian is not going to just do something to do it. He has a good feel and good flow for what's going on in the game and being able to adjust in the game. He's really smart situationally.

“When I talk about situational football, these things pop up everywhere. Third down, red zone, two minute, backed up, third down and backed up, four minute, four minute backed up, four minute third down. They're endless.

“He's done an unbelievable job in those scenarios of the preparation that we put in for it, and we do all that preparation in that together, but then there is going to be an art to it of, ‘OK, this is what we planned on doing, but this is what the play requires right now because of the way the defense is.’ 

“So I think he does a great job adjusting, does a great job in-game having a feel for the situations and is going to do what we feel is best to do to win that game.”

The Eagles’ offense is averaging half a point less this year under Johnson than it averaged last year under Steichen, now the Colts’ head coach.

“I think he's done a really good job and (it) probably hasn't been talked enough about (how) good of a job he's done,” Sirianni said.

“I think there was an expectation coming in, ‘Oh, we lost our coordinator, we're going to take a step back,’ and that's really not been the case. 

“Same record we had last year. To me, Brian deserves a lot of credit for that and should be being talked about more in that light of, ‘Man, this guy is doing a really good job.’”

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