SEAN DESAI: First, thank you all for coming. I know you guys had to be a little bit patient, and we all did a little bit. But this has been tremendous, I’ll tell you what, the transition. I have to thank [Chairman and CEO] Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie, [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman], [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni], really everybody part of the Eagles organization for giving me this opportunity. It’s been a blessing. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks as well for giving me my access and my opportunity in the league. I grew a lot there, and those years of experience have really helped me become the person and the coach I am today.
The honest truth is this is an emotional kind of homecoming for me to come back to Philadelphia. There’s a lot of pride that we take in this city. My wife went to school here. I went to school here. I started my coaching career here at Temple University down the road, and we helped turn that program around there.
To come full circle almost and come on the other side of Broad Street where it’s a different level of football over here is really special. We don’t take this lightly. We’re really humbled to be in this role, and really proud to be in this role, and really excited to represent this city and really pour back into this city the way the city poured into me and my family coming up as I was younger.
With that, let’s go.
Q. How did the whole process go with you getting interviewed and then ultimately getting the job? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: I mean, it was a whirlwind of a process for a lot of reasons. I had some other interviews and everything as well, and the season over here obviously went so long, and things prolonged a little bit.
I will say this: It was the most thorough process I have ever been a part of, and I say that because I think that’s a credit to the people in this organization and the way they don’t let anybody come into this culture that doesn’t fit it, and that’s from [Chairman and CEO] Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie to [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] to [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni].
I appreciate the thoroughness and the detail because that’s kind of some things I pride myself on, and being up front, being detailed, being thorough. So, that was a real good connection that I thought we built from the beginning. I enjoyed going through that process.
Q. Nick Sirianni has mentioned ‘attention to detail’ a couple of times when he’s talked about you. When he says that, what does that mean to you? (John McMullen)
SEAN DESAI: Well, I think it’s kind of as it is. You don’t leave any stone unturned. It’s our job to prepare and prepare ourselves, our coaches and our players and put them in the best position possible, and that starts every day.
If there’s a slight detail that’s wrong or kind of out of place, that’s a reflection of me. I own that, and I take a lot of pride in that because I think if I am prepared, that gives our players and our coaches a chance to be prepared. And if I’m not prepared, well, it’s a trickle-down effect, and we all know that. It’s the same in every industry. You guys deal with the same thing.
As the leader of this defense, I’ve got to make sure I’m on my game, and it’s an every-minute, every-day type of thing. I’ve got to make sure I’ve got enough foresight to anticipate what’s coming up ahead and making sure I give our guys a plan and a process to achieve our goals.
Q. What’s your defensive philosophy and what’s this defense going to look like? (Zach Berman)
SEAN DESAI: My overall defensive philosophy, and I’ve talked to our players and our coaches, it’s something that we want to build together. I don’t think it’s something that I can impart on somebody and say, this is the all-inclusive way to play defense. The one thing that we’ve agreed on and we’ve talked about as a staff and a group is there’s a certain mentality that we want to reflect. I really believe the city’s teams got to reflect the city, and we’ve got some grit, we’ve got some toughness, we want to be able to impose our will. We’re not going to take really anything from anybody.
We want to make sure that people feel us. We want to be able to run. We want to be able to hit, and we want to play smart. I think that’s a reflection of who we are obviously as a obviously Philadelphia Eagles defense, a reflection of really the history of the Philadelphia Eagles defense, and a reflection of this city, and that’s what we want to be. We want to be an encompassing part of that.
One thing I told the team, was it maybe at the end of meetings on Thursday, was I asked them if they knew with the word “palpable” meant. You guys know? Yeah, right? It’s a feeling in you. That’s what we want. We want to be able to be felt, whether you’re watching us on TV, whether you’re in the stadium, and obviously on the field. We want to make sure people feel this Philadelphia Eagles defense.
Q. What’s something you can take from your previous stint at the Chicago Bears, something you learned that you think you can bring into the job now? (Chris Franklin)
SEAN DESAI: That’s a great question. There are so many things you learn. There are so many things you learn, and if you’re not learning, I think you’re really not growing in this deal. And I’m talking for me, it’s a daily process.
One of the things I learned is I’ve got to continue to find the best ways to put our coaches and players in the best position to win, every game. It’s a play-by-play mentality. I can’t be a play late as a play caller, because if I’m a play late, that’s a reflection on the players and the coaches. And that’s on me.
I’ve got to make sure I stay ahead of it, stay ahead of where the game is trending, and constantly be prepared that way to organize ourselves and give our guys the best chance to win. Everybody is good. That’s the part of the kind of chess match between different play callers in this league. You’re just trying to get a little bit more better on each play than the other person. They’re going to win their fair share and we’re going to win our fair share. At the end of 70 plays or whatever it is, we’d better have won a little bit more than them to get the result we want. I think that was a big kind of reminder.
Q. In Chicago, where you’ve been there, you knew the scheme, obviously you knew the players. What was the first sort of month like for you here? What was the process for you and how did you go about getting to know the personnel here? (Bo Wulf)
SEAN DESAI: Yeah, it’s kind of full dive into the deep end. That’s how we’ve got to do it because you’re right, I’m new to the organization on a lot of levels, from a scouting level in terms of the expectations that were me with the draft and everything and learning how we evaluate players here, to obviously a schematic level and there’s new coaches and we’re going through the process of hiring new coaches. That was another thorough process which I’m proud of.
That process was great because every experience is different, right. So, like you said, the experience in Chicago, I was there for nine years in a lot of different roles and grew and then transitioned with three head coaches, I was the third coordinator, two GMs. So, you still had those transitions, it’s just that the building was the same, you know what I’m saying?
Then Seattle was a whole new building, whole new transition, whole new part of the country for me and my family, and so that was a transition that we had to go through there. You learn from all those, and hopefully you can speed up that process here, which we had to do, and I think we’re well on our way to speeding up that process here.
Q. You have a lot of positions where it looks like there could be competition for starting roles, for playing time and reps. What’s your philosophy going into training camp – having positions settled, or do you like having a lot of competition at a lot of spots? (Reuben Frank)
SEAN DESAI: I think one of Coach’s [Head Coach Nick Sirianni] – and I believe this is one of the places we connected – central themes is compete. That’s really what it is. Regardless of whatever we all may think of the depth and all that stuff, it’s about daily competition, and that starts right now. I mean, we just got out of a meeting and one of our rooms, two rooms, one of them did a Cahoots competition with their players. You guys know what Cahoots is? See, I’ll tell you what, you guys got to… I mean, come on now, we’ve got to catch up here with the new teaching and learning methods of the NFL. (laughter) It’s like an online platform where you can quiz people, but it’s like real live, so everybody has got their iPads out and they push the buttons and you see who scored the fastest and who graded the fastest. That’s a competition. Then another room did Jeopardy. We know what Jeopardy is. (laughter)
So, that process of the competition is ongoing, and we’re going to continue to nurture that feeling throughout the defense and really the organization because that’s what we believe in.
Q. When you look at the personnel on this team, last year they had the 70 sacks, a bunch of interceptions and everything like that, do you see things that you can tweak, that you can kind of change, or do you think it’s just keep it the way it is and just build on that? (Martin Frank)
SEAN DESAI: Yeah, I think… I respect the question because I’m new and they did have a tremendous year and we’re not going to take anything away from the defense that they had because it was historic. Seventy sacks, what’s that, the third most or second most in over 100 years of history of the NFL? We’ve got to give the credit where it’s due in terms of that. But having said that, I think the big thing that we’ve got to remind ourselves, and we’re talking about it with the players also, is every year is a new chapter, and past predictors don’t necessarily indicate future success in this league and really in any industry.
So, we’ve got to make sure we take that mindset that we start from the bottom again and build this foundation and build this thing from the ground up, regardless of what call you are. If you’re playing cover one, go ask 32 defensive coordinators, there’s pretty much only a couple ways you can play outside leverage cover one. Then inside leverage cover one. Okay.
But it’s about reestablishing those techniques and those fundamentals to be able to do it at a high level and giving them different tools and trades based on route progression and how you’re working and different tools to excel, so that’s what we’re going to really build on.
Q. The team retained a handful of veterans, particularly DE Brandon Graham, DT Fletcher Cox, and the two cornerbacks – James Bradberry and Darius Slay. With you arriving here, how much of an assist or help can that be? (Josh Tolentino)
SEAN DESAI: I’ll tell you what, the culture here is tremendous. We just talked about the foundation and everything. I mentioned this to the defense in my first unit meeting is obviously the foundation here was awesome last year. We’ve got to give credit. The foundation for the Philadelphia Eagles defense has been awesome for a long time, and one of the quotes that [Head] Coach Nick [Sirianni] uses is “the standard is the standard.” We’re upholding that standard. We’re looking to achieve it. One of the benefits that oftentimes, even maybe I may have took for granted being a part of other organizations, is you have guys like BG, Fletch, Slay, JB – the latter two have been in different organizations; the first two, you want to talk about setting the standard, they set it from 10, 12, 14 years ago. They’ve done a tremendous job in making sure that standard doesn’t slip through the waves of the NFL.
That’s the standard that we’re going to uphold. We’re going to make sure we honor those guys and make sure that we can keep rising the standards as the league requires you to.
Q. (Inaudible). How does one get from grad assistant at Temple to defense coordinator at the Eagles? (Zach Berman)
SEAN DESAI: I don’t know if I’m best equipped to answer that. I can just share my journey, my experience with that. We’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to be good at your job. You’ve got to be good at any roles that you’re given because those roles all encompass a lot of different things, and the reality is you’ve got to have good people around you.
I’ve been really blessed to have a lot of good mentors around me, starting with Al. Al Golden I’m talking about at Temple where he was the head coach, where he gave me a grad assistant job. He didn’t have to do that. Then he promoted me. And then he helped me get access.
Then Boston College where Frank Spaziani gave me a running back job and special teams coordinator job, so I had an opportunity to work on the other side of the ball at a top-level program.
Then it goes to Mark Trestman and Phil Emery and Mel Tucker that gave me access to the league, and then through Vic [Fangio] and Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace that eventually promoted me.
So, it’s a combination of all of those factors. I’m not foolish or egotistical enough to think that it was just me on my own. I think that’s an important thing. I really do. I think you’ve got to give the credit where it’s due, and then you’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to earn it along the way
Q. Some people take to Philly and some people don’t. What is it about this city that you took to that made you want to come back? (Tim McManus)
SEAN DESAI: Well, so I’m from Connecticut. I’m from the northeast. I’ve lived in pretty much every major city on the East Coast, a major city in Chicago in the Midwest, and then up in Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. I agree, Philly is a unique place. It’s unique to all those cities, and I agree with that mentality. Some people take to it and some people don’t.
What’s attracted me to it is I think the personality, the grit. You’ve got to earn it, and you’ve got to earn it every day. You’ve got to put in the work. We’re tough-minded people. We don’t take – you know, I don’t like swearing – we don’t take stuff from other people.
That doesn’t mean you do it in an egotistical way, doesn’t mean you do it in any type of way, but you know who you are, you know what your identity is, and you try to achieve that identity every single day. You have this workman mentality that you’re here to put in the work.
That’s kind of how I’ve built my career, with that mentality. That it wasn’t given to me and I had to earn it. I learned a lot that year in Philly. Getting through the doctoral program at Temple while I’m coaching, and then creating opportunities and taking advantage of the opportunities that were given. That’s kind of where I came of age. It’s 21 to 24 and doing all that stuff, you kind of learn that from your environment, and this was the environment that I grew in.
Q. You mentioned Vic Fangio a little bit. How big of an influence on your philosophy is him? I know he’s sort of the guy around the NFL now, and he mentioned when he got the Miami job that man, he’s tired that everybody runs his philosophy because everybody gets to see it. So, what’s your sort of framework with that philosophy? (John McMullen)
SEAN DESAI: Yeah, he’s been a tremendous influence on me. Just as some of these other people have. One of his biggest influences for me, obviously I appreciate his mentorship still to this day, he’s really taught me how to prepare in this league and how to call a game in this league. I had the good fortune of sitting next to him while he was doing that for however many, five years or whatever we were together, to learn it. I know why his frustrations are the way they are in terms of a lot of people talking about his scheme and his system because he should be very prideful of it because he established an identity for himself and his defenses over 30 years, and the reality is not everybody is doing it the same way he is.
Everybody has got to add their own identity to that defense and apply it, and the reality is there’s only been a couple people that have really spent time with him and worked under him, and have really learned under him, and the other people, they’ve learned through different channels. It’s like the game of telephone. How many times if we go down the line, what’s the communication when you get down to the end. I think he should take a lot of pride in the way he’s done it because he’s had great success.
Q. Speaking of Vic, his split safety looks have been in vogue in the league increasingly with a large number of coordinators now adapting that process. What is your philosophy in terms of that? Why is it important to lean maybe heavy on those looks in certain situations? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: Yeah, I think the key word to that question is “the looks.” I think the most important thing is giving an appearance and a look that can cover up a lot of different things you do with your defense and your deployment of your defense and your players. So that goes into this disguise element that we try to do, right, because really we all know, you’ve got to impact the quarterback. Our philosophy is we’ve got to impact them physically and mentally. One of them is not going to be good enough. We need both, and we both on every single play, and so that’s a function of the looks that we give.
We’ll give them split safety looks and play split safety, we’ll give them split safety looks and play post high, we’ll give them post high looks and play split safety, we’ll give them post high looks and play post high. After that, there’s only really four combinations you can do. There’s only so many ways you can deploy people in this league.
But that’s the essence of what we’re trying to get done when we do that because we’ve got to impact the quarterback.
Q. Your involvement in the draft process. What did you see in DT Jalen Carter and LB Nolan Smith specifically at the top? How excited were you to get those guys? (Bo Wulf)
SEAN DESAI: Yeah, I was really excited. Anytime, to be honest with you, for me, anytime we get defensive players through the draft, wherever they are, I get really excited because you’re just adding more talent to the room, to your group, and then you’re being able to be creative in how you can utilize that talent in creating more competition.
So, in particular with those two guys, I mean, obviously they’ve had championship careers where they’ve been, so they come from a good pedigree, and they’re really athletic and unique at the things that they can do in their own right. Jalen is dynamic and fast and big and strong, and Nolan is those same things, but his leverages go a little bit different with his athleticism and his ability to move in space and rush the passer and do things in a different form.
Really excited for both those guys, and really for all the guys obviously that we’ve acquired here, and really for me everybody is new, so all the guys that we’re learning on the defense.
Q. When you say you want your defense to be felt, do you have a specific vision of what that looks like, whether it be schematic or play style? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: I think it’s a combination of both. I know you guys are going to hold me to it, but I hope you do because this one you can hold me to. We want to be felt, and hopefully you’re sitting at home or in the stadium and you say, whew, that was a good play. You might not know the scheme, you might not know anything, but that’s how you get felt on defense.