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Why Kelce is already impressed by new OC Brian Johnson


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Why Kelce is already impressed by new OC Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson hasn't been the Eagles OC for long but he's already impressing the longest-tenured player on offense

By Dave Zangaro  Published July 27, 2023


Jason Kelce has been around long enough to see six offensive coordinators come and go in Philadelphia during his long and storied NFL career.

So he has a good feel for this.

And there’s one thing that new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson has done that has already caught Kelce’s eye.

"I think one of the things that all of these coaches do, is they do a great job of communication,” Kelce said. "Shane (Steichen) was like that last year. Nick (Sirianni) is certainly like that, especially for a guy who doesn’t call the plays and is just the head coach. He’s very involved with what is happening still. It’s not to the point where you’re a micromanager, it’s just to the point where you understand the frame of reference everybody has. I think Brian is very much doing that already.”

One of the biggest challenges for any coach who gets promoted is knowing how to divvy up his time. It’s something coordinators go through when they become head coaches and it’s something position coaches go through when they become coordinators.

For Johnson, it means he won’t be spending all his time with Jalen Hurts and the quarterbacks. The Eagles promoted Alex Tanney to do that. It’s now Johnson’s job to spend time with all the offensive positions, even the big guys.

“[Johnson] was in the offensive line meeting room yesterday,” Kelce said after the first training camp practice of the summer. "I think the offensive line room, to me, I feel good about offensive coordinator if they’re sticking around the offensive line a little bit. Because so often as a coordinator, you get so involved in the passing game and everything else going on that a lot of times those guys don’t have a clue what’s going on in the O-line room. 

"And I think to be a great offensive coordinator, to be a great play caller, you really have to have the full gambit of why we’re doing things, what we’re doing things because of, why the run game plays are in this week. 

"I think that they all do a great job of that. But Brian’s stepped right in and he’s communicating from the receivers to the tight ends to the O-line and obviously Jalen.”

Obviously, Johnson has a pretty good feel for Hurts. But being able to marry that knowledge to the rest of the offense will be important.

One of the biggest storylines as the Eagles ramp up toward the 2023 season is the loss of both coordinators from the 2022 Super Bowl run. Former defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is now the head coach in Arizona and former offensive coordinator Steichen is now the head coach in Indianapolis.

The biggest changes for the Eagles are likely coming on defense, where there’s a ton of new verbiage and a new — albeit similar — scheme being implemented by Sean Desai with plenty of new faces.

On offense, there’s less change. This is still Sirianni’s system and the Eagles bring back 9 of 11 starters on that side of the ball. But the promotion of Johnson from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator is still an important one. 

And you don’t have to look back very far to see what can go wrong if you don’t nail those hires. Remember when Frank Reich left after the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017? Doug Pederson promoted receivers coach Mike Groh, replacing Groh with what ended up being a revolving door of position coaches in the receiver room. Groh lasted a couple seasons as the OC before getting fired and staffing disagreements eventually helped lead to Pederson’s ouster in Philly.

So this stuff is important. And the early returns on Johnson are good.

Of course, the biggest question about Johnson simply can’t be answered until the regular season starts. Steichen was a diabolical play caller and even though Johnson called some plays at Florida, we haven’t seen him do it at the NFL level. And the Eagles certainly aren’t going to overplay their hand in the preseason.

While Johnson, 36, certainly deserves some credit for Hurts’ incredible growth in the NFL but it’s not the only reason he was promoted. This spring, Sirianni said Johnson’s relationship with Hurts — Johnson has known the quarterback since Hurts was 4 years old — was a "cool story” but made it clear that Johnson earned his promotion on his own merit.

If the Eagles weren’t able to promote Johnson this offseason, that promotion might have come elsewhere.

"As far as the team goes, it’s a seamless transition,” Sirianni said this spring. "You’ve got someone who’s really ready on your staff. He knows exactly what we’re running offensively. He’s been seeing all the things that I want done in the offensive room for the past two years and, boom, he’s a really good coach. That transition, he’s the best guy for the job, and there’s no learning curve for him.”


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