Eagles coaches Nick Sirianni and Doug Pederson and how their philosophies differ

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Reuben Frank
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The biggest philosophical difference between Sirianni and Pederson originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

You’re almost certainly going to see the Eagles run the ball more than they have since 2017.

Now, it’s no great revelation that the Eagles aren’t going to throw as much now that Pederson is gone. That would have been true no matter who their new head coach was (unless it was Andy Reid).

But the difference in philosophy between the Frank Reich / Sirianni School of Football and the Pederson School is massive.

Let's go back to 2017.

The Eagles had the 9th-most rushing attempts in the NFL in 2017 on their way to the Super Bowl championship. Their offensive coordinator, of course, was Reich.

LeGarrette Blount had 173 carries, Jay Ajayi 70 in seven games and Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles added another 152.

They still threw a lot - 37 1/2 times per game. But they were balanced, they were unpredictable and they were effective.

When Reich left, a few things happened. First, he hired Nick Sirianni as his offensive coordinator. Then the Colts began running the ball a ton and the Eagles began running the ball a lot less. 

Sirianni didn’t call plays in Indy, Reich did. And Reich didn’t call plays here, Doug did.

But a detailed look at the Colts and Eagles over the last three years gives us a good idea what to expect from Sirianni when it comes to offensive philosophy. He’s a Reich disciple, and that’s one of the biggest reasons he’s in Philly today.

I broke down the run-pass ratio for every NFL team over the last three years, including only rushing attempts by running backs and counting pass attempts and sacks as pass plays.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Colts from 2018-2020: 59.7 percent pass, 40.3 percent rush

Eagles from 2018-2020: 65.8 percent pass, 34.2 percent rush

The Colts had the 6th-highest percentage of rushing plays in the NFL, and the Eagles had the 8th-lowest.

The Colts under Reich and Sirianni averaged 35.6 pass plays and 24 running back runs, and the Eagles under Pederson averaged 40.7 pass plays and 21.1 running plays.

So the Colts threw the ball an average of 11 times more per game than they ran it, and the Eagles threw it an average of nearly 20 times more per game than they ran it.

Along with that, the Colts averaged more than three more points per game than the Eagles (25.9 to 22.6). The Colts were 8th in the NFL in scoring the last three years, the Eagles were 19th.

Now, the way the NFL is these days, everybody throws the ball a ton. But the Eagles threw it too much. They became predictable under Pederson, Miles Sanders was underutilized, the quarterback became a sitting duck against the pass rush and the offense was just unable to operate at a consistently high level.

Turns out there is such a thing as throwing too much, even today.

Here are the 10 teams that ran the ball the most the last three years, along with their W-L records:

29-19 … Titans

35-13 … Ravens

33-15 … Seahawks

23-25 … 49ers

25-22-1 … Vikings

28-20 … Colts

24-23-1 … Browns

19-29 … Raiders

30-18 … Patriots

38-10 … Saints

That’s a combined 284-194-2, or a .594 winning percentage, and only two losing teams (one of which went to a Super Bowl during that period). 

Of the 10 teams that threw the most over the past three years, only three had winning records, including of course the Chiefs. 

Part of this is teams that lose a lot are forced to throw more because they’re always trailing.

But over three years, the numbers are pretty revealing. Yes, it’s a throwing league. Offenses are becoming more and more pass-centric with each passing year, as officiating and rule changes continue to favor quarterbacks and offensive football.

But we’re not at the point yet where the running attack is obsolete. It’s still possible to win a lot of football games with the running game playing a significant role in your attack.

And you can bet Sirianni will be trying to do exactly that.