When looking for an offensive coordinator last year, a priority was finding someone who had a great relationship with Jalen Hurts.
You can’t get anybody closer than Brian Johnson, a family friend since Hurts was a toddler.
Now the Eagles have to find a better fit.
Family friend or not, Johnson is out after one year, and the biggest task for the Eagles' next offensive coordinator will be getting more out of Hurts, whose play dropped off from his MVP level of 2022, especially during the season-ending seven-game slide.
So it’s not enough just to hire a new offensive play caller. He’s got to mesh with Hurts the same way Shane Steichen did.
“You want there to be comfort with Jalen, whoever is the new coordinator, and so obviously just like I talked to Howie (Roseman) about it, just like I talked to (passing game coordinator) Kevin Patullo about it, I'll talk to Jalen about that as well,” Sirianni said. “You're in constant communication with your players, especially your quarterback, and so we'll talk through everything.
“I'll keep him aware of things that he needs to be aware of and keep him in the loop of that because he's our guy, and it's really important that those two guys are going to work hand in hand to make sure we're getting back to where we need to be.”
It sounds like whoever the new offensive coordinator is will have broader control of the offense than Johnson did last year.
The unwieldy combination of Johnson calling plays for Sirianni’s scheme left the entire offense clunky, unimaginative and – to use Sirianni’s word on Wednesday – “stale.”
Not surprisingly, Hurts suffered more than anybody from the unusual structure.
The new coordinator, the Eagles’ third in three years, will only be successful if he gets Hurts back playing at his 2022 near-MVP level.
So far, the only known candidates are former record-setting Texas Tech quarterback and one-time Cards head coach Kliff Kingsbury and record-setting Texas A&M quarterback and current Texans quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson.
Both come from a high-flying passing scheme and both have experience working with outstanding young quarterbacks. Kingsbury coached Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech and Kyler Murray in Arizona during his Pro Bowl seasons, and Johnson coached 22-year-old C.J. Stroud to a record-setting rookie year this past fall.
Whoever winds up as the new coordinator will need to work with Hurts on improving his blitz recognition, speeding up his release, getting his pocket awareness back to 2022 levels and reducing his interceptions.
“We're all going to have things that we need to work on, and Jalen is no different than any(body),” Sirianni said. “We're all going to look at the things from the season and say, ‘We need to work on this or we need to work on that.’
“The one thing I do know about Jalen is when there are things (in) his game that he needs to improve, he goes to work and he busts his ass to do that.
“I think there were a lot of questions after (2021) about, ‘Could he be (an NFL-caliber) passer,’ or whatever the questions were, and he came out and put together an MVP-type season the following year. Just the way he threw the ball, the way he delivered the ball, accuracy, all those different things, he just continues to grow.
“I said it last year a bunch. I don't know if we know what this guy's ceiling is because he's going to work and do everything that he needs to do to get better.”
Hurts’ accuracy dropped a bit from 66.5 percent to 65.4 percent, passing yards dropped from 247 to 227, yards per attempt fell from 8.0 to 7.2 and interceptions multiplied from six to 15.
But he still had the 2nd-most total touchdowns in the league with 38 (behind Josh Allen), the 2nd-most rushing first downs in the league (behind Christian McCaffrey) and joined Tommy Thompson, Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb as the fifth Eagles quarterback to take three straight teams to the postseason.
“For 11 weeks this year, he was on top of the MVP talk,” Sirianni said. “We all had a bad stretch through the last portion of it. In fact, there were games, like even though we were in a bad stretch as a team, I thought Jalen was playing really good football.
“I have no doubt about (Hurts) because I've seen him do it. I've seen him do it over and over again, and I look forward to him doing it ... this offseason with all the things that we talk about for all of us to improve on.”