Eagles’ Nick Sirianni says defensive ineptitude is on him too

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Sirianni says defensive ineptitude is on him too originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Nick Sirianni probably realized how it sounded. Or somebody told him.

Because after the Eagles’ 33-22 loss to the Raiders, there was a lot of heat on the Eagles’ defense and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. And a lot of that heat was seemingly coming from Sirianni.

Not only did he talk about potential changes in defensive scheme during his press conference but then he told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark that the offense’s struggles came down to a lack of possessions.

It had a very “us vs. them” feeling between the defense and the offense.

On Monday, Sirianni struck a much different tone. He said when he criticizes the defense, he’s criticizing himself too. He’s the head coach and all the mess is on him.

“I want to make it very clear, when I say the defense needs to tighten up, I'm looking at myself first,” Sirianni said. “Every product that's on that field, special teams, defense, offense, has my name on it. I'm not just the offensive coordinator, I'm the head coach of this football team. So, everything that's out there on that field is first my responsibility.

“When I say the defense needs to tighten up and needs to get the ball back to the offense, I'm saying that that's my responsibility, right? That's my responsibility to say, ‘Hey, on this one, I want to tighten up and play man coverage on this one.’ In no way, shape or form was I putting any blame on the defense or Jonathan Gannon at all.

“I have utmost faith in Jonathan Gannon. I have utmost faith in our defense. I'm putting that responsibility on me and nobody else.”

OK, that’s a nice sentiment. And it’s partially true. Because Sirianni is the head coach so he’s culpable for all the team’s struggles. But he’s also not a defensive coach. He’ll certainly give input — you’d imagine that will come plenty this week — but he’s not devising the game plan, he’s not calling the defensive plays on Sunday.

That’s all on Gannon, who came here with high expectations and has so far been unwilling to adapt and has been disappointing. After a very good start to the season on defense, the Eagles have given up 32.4 points over their last five games.

During the Doug Pederson Era, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was given almost complete autonomy on that side of the ball. But Schwartz was a former head coach and a longtime NFL coach. Gannon is a 38-year-old first-time DC on the youngest coaching staff in the NFL.

So a very important question was raised on Monday: Does Gannon have autonomy on defense?

“Well, when you say that, everything that goes onto that field is my responsibility,” Sirianni said. “My name is on it. If I want something done, then we're going to do it that way because my name is on that. Now, I trust Jonathan completely in the sense that he's doing most of the studying on it. I'm going to be there, just like I said, to support and also answer questions as an offensive style.

“If I see right for us to pressure on a play, then we're going to do it that way. But again, I trust our staff completely. That's kind of our process.”

That was a roundabout way of saying not really. While Gannon clearly gets to run the defense, Sirianni said pretty clearly that ultimately he’s in charge: “If I see right for us to pressure to pressure on a play, then we’re going to do it that way.”

We’ll find out pretty soon if changes are made.

Because when the Eagles have played bad quarterbacks, their passive style of defense has worked. Heck, in fairness, it also worked in the opener against Matt Ryan and the Falcons. But against guys like Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and now Derek Carr, the Eagles’ passiveness has led to terrible defensive performances.

And it’s been hard to watch.

Attacking is intrinsic for defensive players. In this defense, they don’t get to attack a ton.

That has been especially tough for six-time Pro Bowler and the Eagles’ highest-paid player Fletcher Cox, who voiced his frustration following Sunday’s loss.

“We'll talk about everything. We'll talk through it,” Sirianni said. “We're going to address anything that we need to address as a team. But I'll keep those conversations private that we'll have there.

“I understand Fletch's frustration. I'm frustrated. He's frustrated. We just got to do everything we can do to get the ship righted.”

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