HomeDa Birds NewsEagles Extend Special Teams Coach Despite Contradictory Actions

Eagles Extend Special Teams Coach Despite Contradictory Actions

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PHILADELPHIA – Contradiction is not exactly new at the NovaCare Complex but it was interesting to see the news of Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Michael Clay receiving an extension and the reactions it received.

When the 2023 season kicked off in Philadelphia had one of the 97 gambling outlets flooding my inbox with the latest betting odds on everything from the Super Bowl LIX futures to the nonsense of Saquon Barkley landing with the Eagles put numbers on which Philly coordinator was the most likely not to be back after the campaign, Clay would have easily led the field.

And that would have been perceptive from the smart-money crowd.

Clay limped into Year 3 as the leader of the lone weakness during a historic 2022 Eagles season where his special teams groups rated bottom five in the NFL by Rick Gosselin’s statistical measuring stick or Pro Football Focus’ film-based observations.

Furthermore, the other coordinators (Brian Johnson and Sean Desai) were first-year stewards on a perceived Super Bowl contender so no one who going to project unemployment for either so quickly.

Former Eagles OC Brian Johnson
Former Eagles OC Brian Johnson is now Dan Quinn’s assistant head coach/passing game coordinator in Washington. John McMullen Eagles Today

Turns out the expectations were so out of whack that Johnson got blown out despite being in charge of an offense that was No. 8 overall and a tick better than that at No. 7 when it came to points per game. Peel back the onion to Nick Sirianni’s insistence on being situational masters and you’ll find Johnson’s first group at No. 3 in third-down offense, No. 1 in fourth-down offense, and No. 9 in red-zone offense.

None of that data could overcome the stench of recency bias, however, as the Eagles lost six of seven to end the season and looked stale doing so.

For Desai, he didn’t even make it to the end of the season as the defense plummeted from No. 2 overall in 2022 to a bottom 10 unit, being demoted for the Week 14 game at Dallas in favor of Matt Patricia. Although the titles never changed and Desai limped to the finish line as the DC while Patricia stayed as senior defensive assistant but was handed the play-calling duties.

Both were dumped after the season.

Clay, meanwhile, put together groups that had drastic turnarounds in the opposite direction, finishing No. 1 in special teams DVOA, No. 10 in Gosselin’s stat rankings, and No. 5 in PFF’s film evaluation.

Related: Eagles Signing Special Teams Coordinator to Extension: Details

Who could have guessed a young coach might evolve with better personnel?

Britain Covey turned into one of the game’s dominant punt returners for the Eagles, kicker Jake Elliott had an All-Pro-level year, in-season pickup Braden Mann calmed down the punting issues while a turnover toward youth on the coverage units to players like Josh Jobe, Kelee Ringo, Sydney Brown, and Ben VanSumeren made all the difference in the world.

On one hand, it’s nice to have a success story like Clay, who started as the youngest coordinator in the NFL when hired and is now one of the league’s best at 32 with a seemingly long shelf life.

At the same time, he is living proof that Johnson and even Desai may have had similar trajectories if similar patience was afforded to them.

The news of Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Michael Clay receiving an extension was certainly surprising after the 2023 season, particularly when considering the reactions it received. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been as surprising as it seemed at face value. Despite the rough start to his tenure, Clay managed to turn things around in a big way and solidify the special teams as one of the best in the league.

Heading into the 2023 season, there were many rumors and speculations about which Philadelphia coordinator was most likely not to be back after the campaign. Clay would have been a top contender in this regard, as his special teams group was historically weak during the 2022 Eagles season. However, as fate would have it, Clay managed to completely turn things around, finishing No. 1 in special teams DVOA and ranking highly in various other statistical and observational measurements. This significant shift led to Clay receiving an extension, something that was not anticipated by many fans.

The coordinators of the Philadelphia team had an interesting season, and their fates were quite varied. For example, Brian Johnson, who led the offense, was let go despite the team’s overall high ranking. Kellen Moore will now fill that void. Similarly, Sean Desai, who oversaw the defense, was demoted during the season and ultimately let go after the season had concluded. These changes highlight the volatility of the coaching position in the NFL and the importance of consistency when it comes to evaluating coordinators.

The success of Michael Clay and his special teams unit provided a refreshing take for a team that had its ups and downs during the 2023 season. Clay, who started as the youngest coordinator in the NFL when he was hired, has now solidified his position as one of the best at only 32 years old. This success not only showcases Clay’s abilities but also brings to light the potential trajectories Johnson and Desai could have had if they had been given more time and patience.

Overall, the extension of Michael Clay was a positive step for the Philadelphia Eagles, and it will be exciting to see how the team continues to evolve and improve in the future. The special teams are now in good hands, and with a renewed focus on consistency and development, the Eagles are poised for success in the coming seasons.

These changes highlight the volatility of the coaching position in the NFL and the importance of consistency when it comes to evaluating coordinators. The success of Michael Clay and his special teams unit provided a refreshing take for a team that had its ups and downs during the 2023 season. Clay, who started as the youngest coordinator in the NFL when he was hired, has now solidified his position as one of the best at only 32 years old. This success not only showcases Clay’s abilities but also brings to light the potential trajectories Johnson and Desai could have had if they had been given more time and patience.

Overall, the extension of Michael Clay was a positive step for the Philadelphia Eagles, and it will be exciting to see how the team continues to evolve and improve in the future. The special teams are now in good hands, and with a renewed focus on consistency and development, the Eagles are poised for success in the coming seasons.

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