You know the story. You have heard it 300 times. The Philadelphia Eagles lost an elite play-caller and offensive coordinator this past offseason when Shane Steichen accepted the head coaching job for the Indianapolis Colts. Brian Johnson was promoted from quarterbacks coach to the O.C.'s chair to replace him. That led to a few questions.
Will the offense change? How will he use all of these skill players he has at his disposal? Though Johnson has served in this role before. he has never done so at the NFL level. He has big shoes to fill, but he has the talent. He has the respect of his players, and most importantly, he has Jalen Hurts.
Philly's first preseason game gave us a glimpse of how Brian Johnson intends to steer the Eagles' offense.
Brian Johnson's first crack at the O.C.'s chair came during the 2020 NCAA football season at the University of Florida. So yes, while he, again, has experience, that track record doesn't tell us much about how he'll perform at the NFL level.
He also had Kyle Trask manning the Gators' controls. If you want to compare his skill set to that of Jalen Hurts, that won't work well. That would be like comparing a Honeycrisp apple to a rotten navel orange that doesn't have much of a rind. We're discussing two different things entirely.
When we say ‘glimpse’ we aren't talking about the new twists, schemes, or anything similar. This is the preseason folks. We’re talking about his communication with the quarterback. Say what you will about validity, effectiveness, and usefulness in preseason games. They can, at minimum, help a rookie play-caller get at least a smidge of real game-adjacent experience.
Following Philadelphia's first preseason game, one versus the Baltimore Ravens, head coach Nick Sirianni, QB2 Marcus Mariota, and rookie signal-callerTanner McKee spoke with members of the media. Each was asked their opinion about how Brian Johnson did in his new role. Here's what they had to say.
"I really thought Brian [Johnson] and Sean [Desai] were in a great groove. I thought the communication was operating at a high level. Now we had some pre-snap penalties, we had a delay of game. And anytime you have a delay of game, it's on everybody. It's on me, it's on the quarterback, it's on the coordinator, it's on all of us."- Nick Sirianni
The ‘delay of game’ penalty was very noticeable, but again, it's preseason, and there are jitters. We all kind of expected something like that to happen.
Sirianni’s ability to hold himself and his players accountable is something that we’ve all grown to know and love about him, so his acceptance of partial responsibility for the penalty was predictable. He's earned everyone’s trust, so we can trust that he’s going to do his part to make sure those things get cleaned up, hopefully by the second preseason game.
Here's the good news. Philly has two more warm-up games before they kick the season off in Week 1 versus the New England Patriots.
Here's some of what the rookie had to say.
"I thought it was great. I feel like we had a really good mixture of different things. As a player, I'm just gonna operate was is called and not second guess too many things. We have checks that we're going to get in and out of for certain looks, but once the coach gives you a call, you have to execute that call and play that call like it's the best play that's ever been written up. As a quarterback you have to convey that to the guys in the huddle, so having that confidence when the coach gives a call saying 'Yeah this play is going to work' I feel like it's a big this to a quarterback."- Tanner McKee
Tanner McKee is brand spanking new at this, so take what he says with a mondo-sized grain of salt. It’s very clear from his response that he knows his role as a player on this team, but that’s pretty much all we can gather from what he said.
"Oh, he was great. I think it's a very underrated talent to be able to communicate from the headset. It's such an emotional game, and you can get tied up in what's going on, but he was very calm and collected and made it really efficient for us as quarterbacks to be able to get to the plays in and out.- Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota is the guy we want to listen to here. He’s now playing for his fourth team and his seventh offensive coordinator.
The dude has had experience working with these guys and he knows the traits that make coordinators both good and bad at their jobs. When he says that communicating through the headset is an “underrated talent” and that Johnson does, in fact, possess that talent, we can take great solace in that.
To make long stories short, so far so good with the Brian Johnson era. We'll see how things progress as we move forward.