Philadelphia’s biggest misstep in 2023 has been demoting Sean Desai while allowing Brian Johnson to lead the offense

  • Sean Desai was made a martyr despite executing the second-half adjustments Eagles fans crucified Jonathan Gannon for overlooking
  • Brian Johnson has done nothing to build on Shane Steichen’s success even though the offensive personnel has hardly changed
  • Hurts is making bad decisions, the secondary is a liability, and the front four can’t get anything done – bad play on both sides

Rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba's fingertip touchdown lifts Seahawks past Eagles | The Seattle Times
Smith-Njigba catches TD over Bradberry, via The Seattle Times

Drew Lock just capped off the game of his life with a pass Jaxon Smith-Njigba is sure to remember. The go-ahead score was nothing short of incredible, twisting the proverbial dagger in a loss that quieted Broad Street.

Fans everywhere are calling for James Bradberry’s head on a pike after his dismal Monday night performance. Taking over the lead cornerback role with Darius Slay sidelined, Bradberry was responsible for 6 receptions on 6 targets, allowing 112 total yards and a touchdown.

With the No. 1 seed slipping out of reach, Jalen Hurts’ MVP campaign completely derailed, and Dallas in the driver’s seat in the NFC East, it’s time to ask:

How did we get here?

Brian Delance Johnson is how. Not Sean Desai, despite his demotion. Let’s take a look.

Sean Desai was demoted to the coaches box after back-to-back blowouts from the 49ers and Cowboys … and he should NOT have been. Nick Sirianni’s decision to shake things up with the promotion of Matt Patricia was a misguided, reactionary move that failed to appreciate what Desai has accomplished this season in spite of personnel issues.

Let’s consider who he replaced: Jonathan Gannon. Philadelphia chased that man off the East coast after his inability to adjust in the second half allowed Patrick Mahomes to rally Kansas City. The Chiefs scored on all four second-half possessions in that Super Bowl as Gannon let the Eagles’ lead slip away. Since then, only Desai’s Week 13 defensive coordination vs. San Francisco has allowed as many points (42) on more consecutive possessions (6 straight TDs).

Facing the best offense in the NFL, Sean Desai had no answer for the 49ers – but to allow this single-game performance to justify his reckoning shows a lack of appreciation for the answers he had to Gannon’s questions. Moreover, Desai has been working with a geriatric cornerback room and a front four that has lost its luster.

Enter Matt Patricia.

Did Nick Sirianni rearrange the wrong set of deck chairs after Eagles offense fluttered in loss to Seahawks?
Patricia (left) and Desai (right) shake hands, via The Philadelphia Inquirer

The last time the Eagles had a second-half meltdown this bad, it cost the city a parade. On Monday, Matt Patricia called plays as Drew Lock turned into crunch-time Peyton Manning, finding receivers with newfound precision. Mrs. Lock (mom, not wife) is allowed to think her son caught fire after posting a 9-14 record in 5 years, but Patricia knows where the real responsibility lies. 17 second-half points are the most the Eagles have allowed since Week 2 vs. Minnesota (aside from the aforementioned 49ers game, of course). It is not crazy to suggest that Sean Desai standing on the sidelines could have won Philadelphia that game.

Meanwhile, Brian Johnson HAD that chance. Things started alright as the offense leaned on the run (ranked 8th in rushing yards). With 17 rushes and 10 passes to start the game, Philadelphia jumped to an early lead and looked in control. Johnson & Co. had ample opportunities to shut the door on the middling Seahawks, but simply could not execute. In fact, 6 of the 10 Eagles possessions lasted 4 or fewer plays (4 punts, 2 INTs).

It’s worth noting Jalen Hurts was playing through significant health issues, but all season long the offense has failed to convert on first-half-ending drives and turned the ball over with sloppy play.

Brian Johnson isn’t working with an all-new offense either; nearly EVERY starter on the offense is back from the 2022 season. The only exceptions are Isaac Seumalo and Miles Sanders, who were replaced by Cam Jurgens and a tandem of De’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny. Frankly, the new roster is actually an upgrade – except on the scoreboard. The 2023 squad is averaging 25.6 points per game, 7th best in the NFL. Yet that figure still represents a drop from the 28.1 points per game that made the 2022 unit the 2nd best in the league.

What changed? Brian Delance Johnson.

Philadelphia Eagles promote Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator
Sirianni (left), Johnson (center), and Hurts (right), via The Philadelphia Inquirer

If Philadelphia wants to boo and hiss at Jonathan Gannon for all his faults, have at it – but when Sean Desai fills in those gaps, how dare the front office send him packing? Meanwhile, Brian Johnson is still getting hooked on phonics while being handed the keys to a Porsche.

The Eagles have many problems – personnel issues, bad QB play, an aging secondary, no more Big Dom – and not much from Nick Sirianni in the way of resolving those problems. Colin Cowherd is (rarely) right: this team can absolutely still meet San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.

But doing so with Brian Johnson and without Sean Desai demonstrates management’s inability to recognize the team’s greatest weaknesses.

Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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