Why Eagles expect smooth transition with Brian Johnson as OC

Why Eagles expect smooth transition with Brian Johnson as OC originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

INDIANAPOLIS — It was the worst-kept secret in the NFL.

Everyone knew the Eagles were going to promote Brian Johnson from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator this offseason after losing Shane Steichen and they made it official earlier this week at the combine.

But how do they know it’s going to work out?

Because if there’s anything the Eagles have learned about Johnson in the last two years, it’s that he was ready for the next step in his coaching career.

“With Brian, I'm in there with him every single day and seeing him work every single day, seeing him with the quarterbacks, seeing him in game planning meetings, seeing him on the practice field,” head coach Nick Sirianni said.

“So, I thought that was the natural progression for us to go that route. His relationship with Jalen (Hurts) and just Brian is a sharp, sharp dude. I lean on him for so many different things and now he's in charge of running the offense.”

While the Eagles’ search for a defensive coordinator — a search that led them to Sean Desai — was expansive, their search for an offensive coordinator was a trip down the hallway of the NovaCare Complex.

The only other candidate the Eagles interviewed for the offensive coordinator job was Iowa State offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase, who works under Matt Campbell, who has a connection to Sirianni through Mount Union. The Scheelhaase interview fulfilled the NFL’s Rooney Rule, requiring teams to interview an external minority candidate.

But this job was always going to go to Johnson. And the Eagles might have lost him this offseason had Steichen not been hired by the Colts.

Now the new head coach in Indy, Steichen has complete faith in his replacement.

“Brian was phenomenal,” Steichen said on Wednesday. “The two years I spent with Brian, the way he saw the game, what he did with Jalen over the past two years, I think he’s going to do a phenomenal job in Philly as the OC.”

A big part of the offensive coordinator job in Philadelphia is calling plays. Sirianni began his rookie head coaching season as the Eagles’ play-caller but handed over those responsibilities to Steichen halfway through 2021 and the Eagles’ offense thrived.

Steichen had a flair for calling plays and that ability helped him land the job with the Colts.

The Eagles expect Johnson to be a good play-caller too. He has experience from his time in the college ranks with Florida and before that Mississippi State and Utah. But it’s more than that.

It was interesting to hear Sirianni and Steichen’s different reasons why they think Johnson will succeed in this area. As the game plan expert, Sirianni pointed toward the preparation during the week that makes things easier on Sundays.

“You put yourself in every position you possibly can,” Sirianni said. “You know, two-minute scenarios. You put yourself in as many positions as you possibly can, so you don't flinch when it comes.

“You're practicing, just like you practice (playing), right? You practice to make sure that you're ready to roll in the game. It's the same thing with calling plays. He's been in that process, and Brian had some experience calling it at the college level as well.”

That situational work during the week clearly helped Steichen. And we should remember that this is still Sirianni’s offense. While he’s not the one calling the plays on game day, his explanation is that a lot of those decisions are predetermined thanks to the prep.

But there’s also something else that Steichen had.

And Steichen thinks Johnson has it too.

“He just had a natural feel,” Steichen said. “The conversations we had throughout the week. Obviously we were right next to each other, our offices were right next to each other. Just the way he talked about the game, saw the game, those little details, he was quick to it. He saw it well and I think he’s going to do a phenomenal job.”