Nick Sirianni Says He, Not Brian Johnson, Decided to Run on 3rd and 11 in the Red Zone
I nearly spit out my coffee when listening to Nick Sirianni cop to the worst play from Sunday’s win against the Commanders. It was the 3rd and 11 Red Zone running play to Kenneth Gainwell that went absolutely nowhere. Here’s the question and answer from Tuesday’s appearance on 94 WIP:
Jon Ritchie: You are very honest about your own personal evaluation, holding yourself accountable and that sort of thing. The offense, when we ran the ball on 3rd and 11 at the start of the fourth quarter, why did that play give us the best chance?
Sirianni: Good question. I’ll be honest with you, and I don’t do this very often to Brian (Johnson), because he’s the offensive coordinator and obviously we go through the plan all week together and think about the plays we’re gonna call in certain situations. When the game is going, I let him roll, but in that situation he wanted to pass it and I said ‘you know what, we’re gonna run it in this particular case.’ That was my call. I thought we were gonna get a light box. We’ve run plays similar to that against light boxes and they’ve succeeded. This one, in this particular case, didn’t. If they’re running a light box, and we get the ball to a certain spot on the field, I’m going to consider going for it. We’re always calling a play in terms of trying to be successful, obviously. In that particular case that’s what I went with because it thought it gave us the best chance to succeed. Sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn’t… (quote continues with unimportant Sirianni word salad)
Quick note: it drives me fucking crazy when Jon Ritchie says “we.” I know he played for the Eagles, but that was more than 15 years ago.
But yeah, anyway, that was a horrendous, atrocious, hideous, ghastly 3rd down call. We talked a little bit about this on Monday and I wrote:
“It would be one thing if you had a 3rd and 6, or maybe a 3rd and 5 and knew you were in four-down territory. Run Gainwell (or, God forbid, your RB1), pick up a couple of yards, then tush push to move the chains or throw something short on a 4th and 2. But this call didn’t fit those parameters at all. They just handed the ball to RB2. There’s no passing element here (the receivers aren’t running routes). It looked like a straight outside zone run on 3rd and 11, like they were conceding the possession and just wanted to make sure they got the 3 points instead.”
There are skeptics out there who will say “he’s lying just to protect his coaches.” Okay. I have no way to prove that.
But if we take the quote at face value, the question now becomes one of “how often is Sirianni inserting himself into the play calling?” Hopefully not very often, if the other instances are similar to this one. I will note, however, that Sirianni mentions his decision to run the ball, but he doesn’t say whether or not he called that specific running play. You know what I mean? Maybe Sirianni said “let’s run it here” and then Johnson called the very boring handoff, so that’s a technicality to consider.
Here’s the full audio from the interview with Joe DeCamara and Ritchie:
EDIT – let me throw the postgame quote on 3rd and 11 in here: