Job 1 for new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni is to fix Carson Wentz. Here’s how he can do it.

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Doug Farrar
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Per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Eagles are expected to hire Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their next head coach, replacing Doug Pederson. The Eagles had interviewed several candidates, including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, but Sirianni is the guy.

The obvious connection here is Sirianni’s connection with Colts head coach Frank Reich, who had a great deal to do with Carson Wentz’s advancement when Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017. Of course, Wentz fell off a cliff from a performance perspective in the 2020 season, setting career lows in completion percentage (57.4%), yards (2,620), yards per attempt (6.0), Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (3.98), and DYAR, where he was the NFL’s worst starting quarterback in 2020. The only career highs Wentz set in 2020 were in sacks (50) and interceptions (15).

The Eagles have made clear their intentions of trying to fix Wentz, which has a lot to do with the four year, $128 million extension Wentz signed in 2019. There’s no real way to get out of the contract until at least 2022, and the combination of Wentz’s cap hits and his recent performance make him virtually untradeable. The blame for Wentz’s decline has been blamed on everything from injuries to every part of the offense to Wentz’s alleged distaste for hard coaching, so there’s a lot for Sirianni to unpack here.

So, with all that in mind, and with Sirianni clearly given the charge to do whatever he can to fix his new franchise quarterback, here’s how Wentz’s new coach can make that happen.

Get Wentz in rhythm early and often with quick passes.

(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season, per Pro Football Focus, Colts quarterback Philip Rivers averaged 2.35 seconds from snap to throw on his 607 dropbacks, third-quickest in the league behind only Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton among quarterbacks who took at least 50% of their teams' offensive snaps. When he had less than 2.5 seconds from snap to throw, Rivers threw 17 touchdown passes to two interceptions. With 2.5 seconds or more from snap to throw, Rivers threw nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. One of the best ways to calm a quarterback who isn't seeing things and might struggle in a new system is to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible within the timing and rhythm of the offense. Not that Rivers has ever had trouble going past his first read, but there's a reason he just announced his retirement -- his brain was writing checks his arm couldn't cash anymore. As fractured as Wentz was as a quarterback, he wasn't helped by a passing game that had him making second-reaction throws far too often. Last season, Wentz averaged 2.71 seconds from snap to throw, the fifth-highest in the league behind Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson. What do those other four quarterbacks have that Wentz doesn't? The demonstrated ability to make throws outside of structure. Whatever ability Wentz had to do that before is pretty much shot. When he had less than 2.5 seconds from snap to throw, Wentz threw six touchdown passes to five interceptions. When he had 2.5 or more seconds, he threw 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Sirianni will have to build Wentz back up from the studs, and getting him in rhythm without worrying too much about signal and noise is key. Sirianni has already done this with Rivers.

Use tempo to give Wentz static defensive looks.

Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles

(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season, per Sports Info Solutions, Wentz had 80 dropbacks in no-huddle, completing 35 passes in 71 attempts for 307 yards, 165 air yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Not great numbers, but none of Wentz's numbers were great in 2020. Without no-huddle, Wentz had 430 dropbacks, completing 216 passes in 316 attempts for 2,313 yards, 1,413 air yards, 15 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. So, yeah. Why should Sirianni use no-huddle more often? Because when you have a quarterback who is obviously having trouble reacting to what he sees in a positive sense, one advantage you can give him is tempo, which forces defenses to play in static coverages more often. Last season, Rivers threw three touchdowns and one interception out of no-huddle, and 21 touchdowns to 10 interceptions without no-huddle. It's easy enough to bring that concept to Philly.

Use play-action as the cheat code... eventually.

(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Most quarterbacks are more efficient out of play-action; Wentz wasn't in 2020. He threw four touchdowns to five picks with play-action, and 12 touchdowns to 10 interceptions without it. But if you go back to the 2019 season, before everything fell apart, Wentz threw seven touchdowns and no interceptions with play-action, and 20 touchdowns to seven picks without it. It's likely that the downturn in play-action efficiency in 2020 had a lot to do with the Eagles shuffling through different offensive lines nearly every week, and play-action throws take longer to develop. Quarterbacks also turn their heads on play-fakes, which means they have to turn their heads back to re-calibrate coverage concepts. Again, when you have a quarterback who all of a sudden can't read his way out of a paper bag, you want to make things as elementary as possible. So, maybe the ideal construct is to mix play-action in slowly as (well, if) Wentz starts to feel comfortable in the design of the offense.

Use motion to create a commotion.

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the most notable deficiencies of the Eagles' offense in 2020 -- at least when Wentz was in the game -- was a frustrating lack of consistent pre-snap motion to help their quarterback. Pre-snap motion does a couple of things to help -- it generally gives a man/zone indicator, and if it's done well, it can eliminate a defender based on where the motion goes, and where the play goes. Per Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics, the Eagles used pre-snap motion on just 14% of their offensive snaps through late November, which was around the time the Eagles made the switch from Wentz to Jalen Hurts. Per Sharp Football Statistics, in the 2019 season, NFL teams had 0.2 more yards per attempt, a 3% success rate increase, and 0.02 more EPA per attempt with pre-snap motion. This shouldn't be hard for Sirianni to figure out.

Get the Wentz buy-in right away.

(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

This is the great intangible we don't know. If it's true that Wentz is a bit looser when it comes to accepting hard coaching than he should be -- and this was probably a reason the Eagles looked at McDaniels -- the best Sirianni can do is to come in with a big box of Frank Reich vibes and hope for the best. One thing's for sure -- if Sirianni is able to make Carson Wentz a functional quarterback again, he'll be the hero Doug Pederson stopped being in a big hurry. If not? Well, Pederson can tell you how quickly you can go from Super Bowl Winner to ex-head coach. Sirianni doesn't have the former, and that might be where he gets the latter.