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Eagles show championship merit of split offensive coordinator duties

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Minicamp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII Sunday, and in doing so the Eagles not only brought home the first Lombardi trophy in franchise history, they continued the recent trend of Super Bowl winning teams using split coordinators on the offensive side of the ball. For years many fans wondered whether the split in duties between Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable was a hindrance rather than a help, but if recent Super Bowl winners are any indication, such a split may become the norm.

Adding the Eagles to the list of recent Super Bowl winners that utilized a coordinator split for the running and passing games duties makes four of the last six Lombardi recipients to have used a split coordinator system. The use of such a split in the NFL can be traced back decades, with several teams having experimented with the approach through the years. However, in recent years it has become far more common and for several teams has helped bring postseason success.

Going back to 2012, the Baltimore Ravens split the duties between run game coordinator Juan Castillo and Cam Cameron, until Cameron was fired during week 14, at which time Jim Caldwell took over as the interim offensive coordinator. The combination of Castillo and Caldwell led the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

The next season, obviously, saw the Seattle Seahawks destroy the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII with Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable sharing duties. Seattle nearly repeated in XLIX, if not for the league’s number one scoring defense giving up what at the time was the largest fourth quarter comeback in Super Bowl history and an ill fated pass that was caught by a member of the wrong team.

In Super Bowl 50, Rick Dennison was the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos as they defeated the Carolina Panthers, while Greg Knapp served as the passing game coordinator for the victors. Dennison is a ground game specialist who took over as the offensive line coach for the Broncos when Alex Gibbs left to join the staff of the Atlanta Falcons following the 2003 season. Knapp, meanwhile, is a disciple of the West Coast offense passing game, having served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers for several years starting in 1997.

Super Bowl LI is one of the two exceptions to this trend, with the Patriots representing both of the two Lombardi winners in the past six years to have utilized a single coordinator to handle both aspects of the offensive game planning.

And that finally leads to the 2017 Eagles. The Eagles raised the Lombardi behind a 41 point effort from the offense behind the playcalling of Frank Reich. Reich called a pass heavy game, but Philadelphia ran the ball 27 times at a clip of 6.1 yards per carry. The run game coordinator for the victors was former NFL offensive lineman Eugene Chung, who amusingly was the thirteenth overall selection of the New England Patriots in 1992.

Chung spent three seasons with the Pats before being taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1995 expansion draft, though his career as a player was unremarkable. Chung broke into coaching in 2010 joining Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia as an assistant offensive line coach. When Reid was hired in Kansas City in 2013 he took Chung with him, only to see Doug Pederson hire Chung when Pederson took over as the head coach in Philadelphia in 2016.

Obviously, the splitting of the offensive coordinator duties is no guarantee of success, but the recent trend of Lombardi trophies raised by teams using a split role definitely lends credence to the idea. With the number of teams set to use a split coordinator system in double digits, it definitely appears as though this type of setup has moved from being a novelty or an experiment to an accepted practice. NFL teams are always looking for a competitive edge, and with two thirds of recent Super Bowl victors having used a split of the duties, in a monkey see, monkey do league, it’s probable that other teams will follow suit in the coming years and such a split may become the norm in the not too distant future.