What Delaware's Joe Flacco can teach Eagles' QB coach, who's 2 years younger, about job, Jalen Hurts
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has surrounded himself with several young assistant coaches who in some cases are younger than the players they are leading.
That is apparent with quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, who is 34 years old, or two years younger than Eagles backup quarterback Joe Flacco, the former University of Delaware star who grew up and lives in South Jersey.
But the difference in NFL experience is particularly apparent when you consider that Flacco is entering his 14th NFL season, has thrown for more than 40,000 yards in his career, which ranks in the top 20 of quarterbacks all time.
Flacco has not only won a Super Bowl, but was named the game's MVP.
Johnson's NFL experience, meanwhile, goes back to February, when Sirianni hired him.
So it's not a stretch for Johnson to say that he's leaning on Flacco in helping him become a better coach as well as helping to mentor presumed starter Jalen Hurts.
"I’ve obviously watched him for a really long time," Johnson said about Flacco. "He has a ton of experience. I always say that experience is life’s best teacher. He has a lot of intellectual property that he’s willing to share with our room, and it’s been great for our room just to hear some of his shared experiences throughout his career in the league."
Flacco has plenty to share.
He was the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick in 2008 and became a starter in Week 1. Flacco led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons, including the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Beginning in 2018, Flacco has worked with three potential quarterbacks of the future in Lamar Jackson with the Ravens, Drew Lock with Denver in 2019 and Sam Darnold with the Jets last season.
Johnson, meanwhile, is one of several coaches on the Eagles under the age of 40 (Sirianni turns 40 on June 15). There's also offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, special teams coordinator Michael Clay and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson.
There's also linebackers coach Nick Rallis, who doesn't turn 28 until next month. He's the youngest position coach in the NFL.
"This game, it’s a forever adapting game, and you have to be willing to adapt the way you think and some of your philosophies," Rallis said. "You can’t be set in stone any one way ... and accepting I’m not always going to have all the answers.
"I love feedback from these guys because my room is an extremely intelligent one on its own, but the players have a different perspective on the field."
Johnson said he approaches it the same way. He might be young, but he does have plenty of experience with elite quarterbacks.
He was a college quarterback at Utah, where he backed up Alex Smith before taking over after Smith was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft.
He began his coaching career in 2010 as Utah's QB coach. A few years later, Johnson worked with current Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott as Mississippi State's quarterbacks coach.
Last season he worked with Kyle Trask, the second-round pick of the Buccaneers, as the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Florida.
But Johnson also has a significant connection to Hurts, going back to when Hurts was just 4 years old. That's when Johnson was the quarterback at Baytown (Texas) High School, and Hurts' father, Averion, was an assistant coach there.
Johnson said he remembered little Jalen running around the fields as a kid, then watching him develop into the top-rated recruit coming out of high school. In fact, Johnson said he tried recruiting Hurts to Mississippi State during Prescott's senior year there.
Hurts chose Alabama and won a national championship as a true freshman.
"It’s very interesting because I’ve known him for a really long time, but this was actually my first time getting a chance to work with him on the grass," Johnson said about the spring practices. "Obviously, everyone knows about his intangibles and what type of player and what type of person he is. He’s extremely coachable. He wants to be a great player. He works extremely hard at his craft."
Flacco said he wants the same thing for both Hurts and himself.
When Flacco signed with the Eagles at the end of March, he said he expected to compete with Hurts for the starting job. And Sirianni has said he views the quarterback position as a competition, even though Hurts was the Eagles' second-round pick in 2020.
"I think it’s that simple," Flacco said about competing in March. "A football team is not one or two guys. It’s a bunch of guys doing what they’re supposed to do. Quarterback rooms, that’s how they are in general, anyway. You get in there and you grind, and you go to town on the game plan. It’s always a very tight room that everybody in there has a lot of input and bounces things off of each other."
That includes Johnson. He'll try to learn as much as he can from Flacco, just like Flacco will try to learn as much as he can from Johnson. All of that will also benefit Hurts.
"He’s just as smooth as they come," Johnson said about Flacco. "He’s done it for a very long time. He understands exactly what the goal is, what he’s trying to accomplish, and how he can continue to improve and put us in a position to be successful."
Eagles cut a QB
As of now, the Eagles are down to two quarterbacks after they waived Jamie Newman on Wednesday. The Eagles signed Newman as an undrafted free agent last month. It's expected that they will sign another quarterback before training camp starts July 27.
Newman was the only quarterback during the rookie minicamp in May. Newman was a starter at Wake Forest through 2019. Then he transferred to Georgia for the 2020 season, but then opted out for COVID-19 reasons before ever playing there.
The Eagles also waived WR Khalil Tate, and waived/injured WR Trevon Grimes. The Eagles are reportedly signing WR Michael Walker from Boston College to replace one of the wide receivers.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.