By Jason Hayes
“It’s very important to me that we build a smart football team. That we have a smart football team here. And I know we have the people in place to do that. The first part of that - the first part of being smart is knowing what to do. We’re gonna… we’re gonna know… we’re gonna have systems… in place.. that… are easier to learn. Alright, complicated to the defence or offence that they are going against – or the special teams group that they are going against – but easy for us to learn. ‘Cus when we can put that, ‘cus when we can learn our system and we can get good at our system, then our talent can take over. Less thinking equals talent takeover but we need to have systems in place and we will have systems in place to do so.”
On January 29th, 2021, Nick Sirianni uttered these words at his introductory press conference and opened himself up to a tidal wave of scrutiny from media and fans alike. Words such as “trainwreck”, “out of his depth” and “joke” were tossed around as the Eagles unveiled the guy who would replace their only ever Super Bowl-winning head coach, Doug Peterson.
A few months later, as the Eagles sat at 3-6 to hallway through the season, Sirianni made headlines for another press conference – this one involving the growth of a metaphorical flower. He explained how the roots of a plant grow outwards to form the foundation before the results can be seen above the soil, as a means of justifying the slow start.
While the majority laughed, Nick Sirianni continued to “water” and “fertilise” the plant; and in Week 9 of 2022, as the 41-year-old sat down at the podium after his eight straight win to start the season, it was striking how far he has come since that opening press conference.
When asked about Dallas Goedert’s performance, one of the many emerging stars who’s on for a career year, Sirianni used a Friday Night Lights quote to describe him, “he’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s mean, he’s fast”.
Had he said this last year there would likely be another onslaught at the hands of the ruthless Philly media, but at this stage these quirky references and metaphors are met with a more respectful response. Funny how winning can change things.
Also striking was how humble Sirianni was, hesitant to take any credit himself. When asked about the team’s performance, he spread praise across all facets of the organisation; mentioning chief medical officer Arsh Dhanota, sports medicine director Tom Hunkele, sports performance director Ted Roth, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and team owner Jeffrey Lurie as key reasons for the Thursday night victory.
Sirianni went on to say that “this is the best organisation” that he’s ever been a part of, and even gave the fans a mention as a major contributor to the team’s victories, calling them “the best in the world”.
Side-tracked momentarily, he asked reporters what the score was in the World Series game between the Phillies and the Astros. No more nervous stammering or sweating, he orchestrates how these conferences go now.
He eventually finished off the nine-minute presser as light-hearted as it began, asking “Does anyone else have another one? Cus’ I got nowhere else to go. The bus ain’t leaving without me” with a grin stretched from ear to ear. If Sirianni was any more relaxed he’d be on a beach in Hawaii. No doubt, this combination of humbleness, confidence and humour has won over many of the naysayers from that introductory press conference.
If it hasn’t, then the product on the field surely has. In a year where ‘parity’ is the talk of the town, where seemingly any team can beat another each week, the Eagles have been the exception.
Led by MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, the offence has brought to life the words from January 29th, 2021, “less thinking equals talent takeover”. A simple yet effective RPO, read based offence has them third in the league in yards per game and second in points per game. The defence is no slouch either, sitting at third in yards per game allowed and fourth in point per game allowed. Oh, and they also lead the league in takeaways.
While the likelihood of making it to Week 17 with a zero in the loss column is unlikely, a favourable remaining schedule leaves no obvious end in sight for this hot streak. For now, we better get used to this new version of Nick Sirianni.
You can’t help but wonder what’s hidden within that flower which looks primed to blossom. A Super Bowl, perhaps?