HomeDa Birds NewsDid the Eagles mishandle the process with Sean Desai due to their...

Did the Eagles mishandle the process with Sean Desai due to their expectations and impatience?

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PHILADELPHIA – The buyer’s remorse from the Philadelphia Eagles over former defensive coordinator Sean Desai may have started over the summer, on Aug. 9 to be exact.

The Eagles moved their scheduled training camp practice on that day from the NovaCare Complex across Pattison Avenue to Lincoln Financial Field, ostensibly to work on communication with the preseason opener looming.

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“We have to get ready to play and coach in game-like scenarios,” Eagles’ head coach Nick Sirianni told SI.com’s Eagles Today at the time. “I thought it was a good opportunity for us. We went to the stadium the day before – or the Sunday, pardon me – and there were some things that I needed to work on as a head coach with some game management things.

“I also wanted the coaches to practice some more of the communication of what’s going on before our first preseason game.”

Sean DesaiTwitter
The expectations for Sean Desai was off the charts. Twitter

During the actual session, Sean Desai, who had already publicly beaten himself up for some mistakes during previous practices, failed to put the right group on the field against the No. 1 offense during the second team period of the session and GM Howie Roseman was tasked with correcting Desai.

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The page was turned quickly on the “incident” and the Eagles tried to downplay but it stuck in the mind of many observing.

Desai was fired by Sirianni, according to a league source, on Sunday, about six weeks after being demoted from the responsibility of defensive play-calling, a decision that robbed the 40-year-old of the power he had over a struggling defense.

Although Desai was technically still the DC through the end of the season, he and senior defensive assistant Matt Patricia essentially reversed roles with the latter assuming the responsibility of running the defense for the final month of the regular season and the 32-9 playoff drubbing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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The defense arguably got even worse without Sean Desai even against a lighter schedule, indicating the problems on that side of the balll were driven by personnel issues more than scheme or coaching.

Patricia, who is out of contract, also won’t return to Philadelphia for the 2024 season.

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The best the 2023 Eagles’ defense looked was with Sean Desai running the ship earlier in the season in Week 3 at Tampa, Week 7 against the explosive Miami Dolphins, and perhaps as late as Week 11 in shaky weather at Kansas City.

The wheels came off against two of the best offensive teams in football – San Francisco and Dallas – in Weeks 13 and 14, the latter game serving as Desai’s last stand but one in which he already had third-down autonomy stripped from him, according to a team source.

The foundation for the Sean Desai removal started even earlier than that when self-scouting during the bye week when the team was 8-1.

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The knocks we’ve heard on Desai seem superfluous. An educator by trade with an Ivy League background, few questioned the ex-DC’s smarts or understanding of defensive football. If anything his coverage schemes were probably too complicated for a team that had a ton of moving parts on the back end due to departures and injury attrition.

The last two DCs to call NovaCare home before Sean Desai – Jim Schwartz and Jonathan Gannon – radiated self-confidence and Desai’s presence was far more understated, leading some to question if he had the demeanor to handle a veteran-laden locker room.

On at least two occasions – against the LA Rams on Oct. 8 and vs. Dallas on Nov. 5, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay implored Desai to scale things back to help the younger players and the new additions with some of the communication issues.

“We take everything into account,” Desai said when made aware of Slay’s quotes by Eagles Today after the Rams game. “I wasn’t aware of that quote, but he did come to us, and we talked about the plan that we had and what we wanted to do matchup-wise.

“And we stuck with our calls and tweaked some of our techniques within the calls to help our guys with their matchups. … And then Slay is right. One of the big messages all those guys, including the coaches and all the vets at halftime, let’s just do our stuff, let’s play our techniques, let’s win the leverages that we’re asked to win. If you do that, you’ve got a chance, and that showed.

“Our guys really took ownership of that.”

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What was unfolding was a young DC getting his footing and learning along the way, even encouraging the players to take partial ownership of the finished product.

For a more entrenched veteran defensive mind, that kind of thing may have even been championed.

For Desai, amid untenable expectations, it was perceived as weakness, as was a later Kevin Byard revelation that he encouraged all the defensive backs to contribute to the game plan by focusing on individual opponents.

Had Gannon returned this season, the idea that the Eagles could follow up on a campaign in which numerous players had career years en route to having the No. 2 ranked defensive overall, No. 1 against the pass, and a franchise record 70 sacks would have been pie in the sky.

For an ascending coach who needed time to grow in the role without five starters from the 2022 unit, it was a death sentence.

Sean Desai deserved better and the Eagles should have shown more patience.

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