Thursday, July 18, 2024

Commanders have full belief in Brian Johnson, ex-Eagles OC finally getting opportunity he didn’t in Philly

ORLANDO, Fla. — Brian Johnson was the scapegoat for the Philadelphia Eagles‘ offensive failures last season. When one door closed, another one opened for Johnson — still one of the rising offensive minds in the league. 

Dan Quinn didn’t hesitate to bring Johnson aboard the Washington Commanders staff. Johnson has the title of assistant head coach now along with being the passing game coordinator. He’s part of the braintrust to find the next franchise quarterback in Washington, playing a massive role in turning the organization around. 

“I’ve known Brian for a while. I followed his time through when he was at the [University of Florida] Gators and saw all the work that he did with the offense there,” Quinn said about Johnson at the NFL Annual League Meeting on Tuesday. “I’ve had a chance to compete against him over the last few years. 

“We were very intentional, in terms of the offensive side regarding [offensive coordinator] Kliff [Kingsbury] and Brian and [quarterbacks coach] Tavita [Pritchard] and [assistant quarterbacks coach] David [Blough] and, you know, making sure from the quarterback standpoint that we just had the most unique and strong setup as we possibly could.”

The Commanders see the innovation Johnson brings to the table, something Johnson couldn’t do with full conviction in Philadelphia. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was adamant about the offense being his and Johnson was the play-caller. 

Johnson’s relationship with Jalen Hurts couldn’t save him in Philadelphia, as the on-field results in his one season as the play-caller resulted in Hurts turning the ball over 20 times in the regular season. Hurts also threw over the middle of the field just 37.5% of the time last season. Among the quarterbacks that threw 250+ attempts, only Kenny Pickett was lower at 34.2%. 

The Eagles had a top-10 offense in points per possession (seventh at 2.33) and yards per possession (sixth at 34.0), but it wasn’t enough for Johnson to be retained. Quinn was thrilled to get Johnson on his staff when the Commanders finalized the hire in February. 

“I’ve been super impressed by him,” Quinn said. “I had high expectations about what he would be about going into it and now getting to work with him, I’ve really been impressed.”

The Commanders are building from the ground up, taking pieces from every NFC East rival in order to build a roster that can get to the top of the division. Johnson is the piece from the Eagles, while Quinn and Joe Whitt are the pieces from the Dallas Cowboys

Of course, the Commanders have the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft and all signs point to quarterback. Johnson is going to play a huge role in finding that next franchise quarterback in Washington, having the help of Adam Peters (general manager), Kingsbury and Quinn in getting the right signal caller. 

“I think we did that collaboratively, like what are we all looking for,” Quinn said. “Because as you guys all know, it’s not like that comes in one size fits all.

“I think the best of the best can find out what strengths a person has at any position and make sure you can tailor some things suited just for that person. Brian certainly did that in Philadelphia, he did that in Florida, and would do that again here. Knowing what somebody’s real strengths are and how do you max those out.”

The Commanders are giving Johnson the opportunity the Eagles couldn’t. This is Johnson’s chance to enhance his coaching resume and build toward becoming an NFL head coach down the line. 

Quinn certainly believes Johnson is going to succeed. 

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