Nick Sirianni, Shane Steichen and the Eagles' play calling mystery

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Is Nick Sirianni really calling plays for the Eagles? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A question about who’s calling the plays Sunday if Nick Sirianni isn’t back led to an interesting answer about who’s been calling them all season long.

Nick Sirianni initially said passing game coordinator Kevin Pettulo would run the team Sunday against the Giants if Sirianni remains out with COVID.

READ: Eagles HC Nick Sirianni tests positive for COVID-19

Asked later to clarify whether Petullo would actually call the offensive plays, Sirianni said no, that responsibility would fall on offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.

Then he indicated that Steichen and Sirianni have somehow been serving as co-play callers the first 14 weeks of the season.

“Obviously, Shane and I have been calling the game together the entire year, right?” Sirianni said Wednesday. “For whatever reason, I get credit -- or the other way around when it doesn't go well -- for the play calling. But Shane and I have been calling it together the entire year. Shane has done a great job there.”

This is notable because Sirianni has referred to himself as the Eagles’ play caller all year and when asked about play calling has never mentioned Steichen.

It’s also notable because it doesn’t seem possible for two people to share play calling duties. There’s a 40-second clock. There’s no time for two people to collaborate on a play call.

We knew it was Steichen who actually handled the mechanics of relaying the play call to the quarterback on the radio, but what Sirianni was referring to was more than that.

He wasn’t completely clear, but he spoke of a sort of joint process where both Sirianni and Steichen select a group of plays from the play sheet before each series, and it’s actually Steichen who is deciding which play is run when.

This seems unusually complex, but Sirianni and Steichen have always been on the proverbial same page. They spent 2013 through 2017 together with the Chargers before Sirianni left for the Colts and eventually to the Eagles, where he hired Steichen to run the offense.

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I asked Sirianni to clarify how two people can simultaneously call plays.

“We're just calling it together,” he said. “We talk about the series of plays before each go around. It's like, ‘Hey, we're going to run this, this, this, this and this on this one,’ and we know the flow of what we're going to do. 

“Shane calls it in, but we discuss what that flow will be before each one, and then Shane rolls with that series of five plays and … it can be different each series I guess is what I'm saying. 

“Sometimes Shane is going to roll with those five or six plays that we talked about, and sometimes Shane is a going to call it in the order we talked about, and then I'm going to tell him, ‘No, I want this here.’ 

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“So we're doing everything together. We talk about the third downs beforehand, and that's kind of cemented in before the drive starts. Hey, this is our next third and two to three, this is our next four to six, etc., next red zone call, each section of the red zone. 

“So we're just calling it together based off the collaboration, and like I said, I think he's done a great job.”

The Eagles this year are ranked 11th in the league in scoring, 1st in rushing, 11th in total yards, 8th in yards per play, 12th in first downs and 3rd on third down.

Since Week 8, they’re 3rd in the league in scoring, 1st on third down, 2nd in yards per play and 2nd in yards per game.

So what Sirianni and Steichen are doing is a little different and a little odd. But it sure is working.