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NFL Playoffs: Eagles’ blowout loss to Bucs makes it clear: Changes are needed on Nick Sirianni’s coaching staff


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NFL Playoffs: Eagles’ blowout loss to Bucs makes it clear: Changes are needed on Nick Sirianni’s coaching staff

Updated: Jan. 16, 2022, 4:14 p.m. | Published: Jan. 16, 2022, 4:14 p.m.
TAMPA — The Eagles were embarrassed Sunday in a 31-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium. Everywhere you looked, they were outclassed by a better team that was better prepared. For three hours, the Eagles — a seventh seed who reached the postseason thanks to the league’s charity — argued against ever again expanding the playoff field.
The offensive line was tossed around like rag dolls, so the NFL’s top rushing team couldn’t move the ball on the ground. And with the Bucs stacking the line of scrimmage to stop the run, the moment was too big for quarterback Jalen Hurts, who panicked and ran out of the pocket with a receiver wide open on a deep route, overthrew others, and just plain looked like a young passer whose confidence crumbled when his teammates needed it the most.
Don’t be fooled by Hurts’ final stats — 23-of-42 for 258 yards, a passing TD, two-point conversion pass and two interceptions. Most of the good stuff came in garbage time, and his performance will re-open the debate on whether he’s The Guy.
But Hurts wasn’t the only culprit: Center Jason Kelce committed two devastating holding penalties that erased big gains, tight end Dallas Goedert dropped a pass when he was wide open and could have run until Tuesday morning. Jalen Reagor muffed a punt that was recovered by the Bucs and turned into a back-breaking touchdown. Wide receiver Quez Watkins was caught on camera quitting on a route, which almost led to an interception.
The coaches, too, will have to answer for the game plan.
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon put together his usual laminated play card of bland coverages, ineffective pressure packages and a bewildering inability to stop anything in the air. Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady, despite struggling with accuracy throughout the first half, treated Gannon’s defense like a carving station on a buffet line.
If Gannon gets any interviews during the head-coaching searches, chances are one of the first questions will be: "What the hell was that, and why should we give you a job?” So far, the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings have requested interviews, but even that might change after the Eagles’ performance on Sunday. Surely, no other team will join that list.
The Eagles rode an improbable wave to the playoffs in head coach Nick Sirianni’s first season, and they are a year removed from owner Jeffrey Lurie calling for a "transition period,” a pubic-relations term used to quiet demanding fans.
But the humiliating playoff loss to the Bucs revealed how unready for success the Eagles — who beat only one team with a winning record while going 9-8 — were this season. As they enter a monumental offseason, with a healthy salary cap and three first-round picks, the coaching staff should be in transition, too — which means cutting those behind the curve.
Sirianni, a first-year play-caller, couldn’t figure out the Bucs defense, led by former Jets head coach — and likely soon-to-be head coach again — Todd Bowles. Sirianni coached scared with a game plan of short passes that were snuffed out by the swarming Bucs defense, which obviously wasn’t afraid of Hurts throwing the ball vertically.
The Eagles’ top wide receiving threat, DeVonta Smith, was virtually ignored for most of the game. He caught four passes for 60 yards. Missing starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, the Bucs were vulnerable, but for three hours, Eagles fans listened to Hall of Fame quarterback and Fox analyst Troy Aikman rip Sirianni for inexplicable and gutless play-calling.
Sirianni didn’t seem prepared to be punched in the mouth, and the Bucs brought brass knuckles to the Eagles’ pillow fight. Sirianni did a decent job in his first regular season, and his future seems bright heading into his second offseason, but he needs to reevaluate his weaknesses as a play-caller, which often have put the Eagles into deep deficits early in games.
He also must reevaluate his coaching staff. When Sirianni looks at how uneven the defense performed this offseason, he must determine if he can upgrade. Gannon, while dealing with underwhelming talent at linebacker, safety and defensive end throughout most of the year, never seemed to find a way to stop a quarterback better than Taylor Heinicke.
Gannon routinely coached with nimbleness, choosing to focus on soft zone coverage instead of using aggressive blitzes, press coverage and disguised fronts. He was criticized for not being able to put pressure on quarterbacks, and the good ones carved up his timid coverage.
Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, while leading five scoring drives in the playoff matchup. He was sacked four times, but the pass rush was not a factor.
Despite making the playoffs with a feel-good journey, the Eagles aren’t even close to getting back to where they were just four years ago, holding a Lombardi Trophy aloft. Sirianni has to look in the mirror and realize the staff and roster that he has isn’t good enough to contend, and major changes should be coming for both.
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Changes are needed but I don't think they need to make wholesale changes. It may be a blessing if Gannon gets a HC job. He did nothing to really impress this year and I don't think his scheme is going to sit well with us fans. We want to see our D smash teams in the mouth. If they are going to be carved apart at least do so whilst getting in big hard hits.

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