Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia spoke with Texans TV's Drew Dougherty about Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen, who recently interviewed for the Houston Head Coach position.
DD: Dave, Steichen has coached the likes of Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert and now, Jalen Hurts. Is it fair to say this is a guy who works well with the talent he's given, and doesn't force them into his system?
ZANGARO: It's always a little tricky to figure out exactly when you have an offensive coordinator under an offensive head coach. They're running (Philadelphia Head Coach) Nick Sirianni's offense in Philly, but Shane Steichen has a huge role in it. He's been the play caller for the last year and a half, so it tells you how much the Eagles trust him to give him those responsibilities.
But you're right about in terms of understanding how to use your personnel and not just being so rigid, which is where I think a lot of offensive coaches really get into some trouble. You have to play with the guys you have. He had never really had a player like Jalen Hurts before. A player who is such a dual threat was kind of new to him. He spent most of his career with Philip Rivers, who doesn't move that much, so there was kind of a learning curve. But he was there in 2020 in Los Angeles with (Justin) Herbert's rookie year, and for whatever reason, he didn't seem to get a lot of the credit for Herbert's success. A lot of that went to Pep Hamilton. But now you have two stops in a row with a young quarterback performing extremely well.
With Jalen, we've seen the growth from year one to year two as a starter. It hits you in the face. That's why he's (Steichen) getting this attention right now. It's probably why the quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson is going to get attention, too. When you have a quarterback like Jalen Hurts take that big of a jump year one to year two, you're trying to figure out, 'All right, what are the reasons?' A lot of it goes to the quarterback, but the coaching has a lot to do with it and Steichen's been really good.
I think three teams as we're talking have already expressed interest in him and that doesn't surprise me. You watch what this offense has done this year. You watch the quarterback growth, you watch his feel as a play caller and it makes a lot of sense.
DD: You cover the Philadelphia Eagles on a regular basis. You're at every practice, every game. Tell me about what qualities you see in him leadership-wise.
ZANGARO: He has a way to connect with players. We talked about (Eagles Defensive Coordinator) Jonathan Gannon last year. It kind of hits you in the face with Gannon because he is very outgoing and he's a loud guy. Steichen's not as loud. He's a little quieter, but he still forges those connections.
I think the public Steichen is much different than the behind-the-scenes Steichen. It doesn't seem like he has that quality to him, but he does, and we hear it from his players. We see it when we're off the podium with him. He's just very guarded when he's in a public setting and that's not a bad thing.
We've seen a lot of coaches kind of have a different public persona than they do behind the scenes. It's not a bad thing to have a guy who's a little more reserved in the public and that's Shane Steichen. When he's in front of his team, they're buying in and that's all that really matters. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that a guy can ace the press conference. We've seen plenty of guys ace press conferences and they can't coach a lick. So I think that's an important thing to remember.
DD: Is there an anecdote or an interaction that stands out to you about Steichen?
ZANGARO: Sure. Just from a personal standpoint, he makes an effort to kind of chat with everyone. Players, coaches, media. Before games, there aren't many reporters on the field, but I'm one of them because I have TV responsibilities and he's a 'check-in' guy. He'll check in with you. He'll come and say hi. But he does that with his players, too. You'll see it during warmups. He'll kind of make the rounds and he'll go and make a concerted effort to talk to position groups. Obviously more offense because he's the offensive coordinator, but he does it a little bit with the defense, too. That's something you need as a coach. You need someone who can't just check in for appearances, but who really means it.
I think that's a Nick Sirianni influence, something that Sirianni has been very good at in his time as the head coach. He makes everyone feel like he actually cares about them. It's genuine. But that feeling that they get from him is important and I think Steichen has some of the same qualities where the players know that he's like 'All right, this is your time with me.' He makes he makes sure that each guy has face time.
It sounds like a little thing, but it goes a long way, especially if you're going to be the head coach and you have 53 guys on a roster. Carving out time for the individual goes a long way.
DD: You and I have both been around the NFL for a while now. I'm certain you're like me, and you've seen guys as assistants and very early on, very easily you pinpoint them and you say, "I could see that guy being a head coach someday." You get that sense with Steichen?
ZANGARO: Sure. But I'll be honest: it took a little while to see it. I think the reason for that is, like I mentioned earlier, he's an offensive coordinator under an offensive head coach, and it takes a little while to figure out how what's he doing here, what's his role, how important is he?
But I think that's really shown itself really over the last year. Once he took over play-calling, that was a big moment not just for him as an individual, but for the organization. It showed how much trust they had in him that they were willing to say, 'Yeah, we have an offensive head coach, but we trust this guy to make those decisions in-game.'
He's also been a great sounding board for Sirianni. They go over high-level offensive conversations and they put themselves through crazy situations and Nick's been really good. I give him credit. He's kind of been grooming Gannon and Steichen for their next step, so he'll include them. They'll go through game situation meetings and they'll say, 'All right, what would you do in this spot? It's 4th-and-3 on the plus 40, or whatever the situation might be. So they've had reps like that. Obviously he's not making decisions in games, but they take those mental reps and that's a really big part of coaching. When you're on the field and there's high leverage situation, can you make the right call under pressure? You never truly know until the guy is in that spot. But the Eagles have tried to make sure these guys are as prepared as they can be.