In a surprising turn of events, the Philadelphia Eagles filled their head coaching vacancy with Nick Sirianni this past Thursday after a prolonged search for Doug Pederson’s replacement. At thirty-nine years old, Sirianni will be the youngest head coach for the Eagles since Ed Khayat took over the position four games into the 1971 season. Sirianni joins the ranks of young offensively-minded head coaches (à la Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, and company) in the NFL and he brings a wealth of experience into his newest coaching gig. Former players and coaches alike rave about the animated nature of Sirianni’s coaching. Just check out this video to see what I mean…
— Bryce Zielinski (@zbryce21) January 21, 2021
Nevertheless, it’s easy to be cynical given what we’ve learned in recent days concerning the state of affairs in Philly. The “All for One” mentality that defined this team’s postseason runs from 2017-2019 is nowhere to be found. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be optimistic about the direction of this franchise when it seems more likely that this was not so much a move to acquire the best man possible for the job as it was a power move by Jeffrey Lurie and company to firmly establish that management will always have the final say in the direction of the organization.
An Argument For Sirianni
Upon hearing that Nick Sirianni had been hired as the head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, my first thought was “Who the hell is Nick Sirianni?“. My sentiments are hardly unique; by all accounts, news surrounding the Eagles’ head coaching search revolved essentially around two names: former RBs coach Duce Staley and Tom Brady coattail’s rider Josh McDaniels. The few publications that mentioned Sirianni as a candidate ranked him in the lower tier of possibilities. To say the least, he seemed to be on the outside looking in. What changed? What do the Eagles see in him? As I’ve learned more about who Nick Sirianni is as a coach, this move begins to make more sense. Jim Ayello, a beat reporter for the Indianapolis Colts, had this to say about the loss of Sirianni:
Frank Reich lost his OC today. But the better way to put it is this: The Colts coach lost his sounding board. He lost his chief collaborator. And he lost a great friend.
This is what Nick Sirianni meant to the Colts and what he brings to the Eagles. https://t.co/KDRDS5Li01
— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) January 22, 2021
Hearing this, it makes a lot of sense why the Eagle’s front office would be in on Sirianni. For years, Eagles fans have bemoaned the loss of Frank Reich (the offensive coordinator during the Eagles’ championship run in 2017) and point to his absence as the reason behind Carson Wentz’s unprecedented decline in production. Wentz looked absolutely broken this past season. Difficult to coach, unwilling to acknowledge that he made mistakes, spiteful towards the staff: these are all criticisms that were levied against Wentz during the 2020 season. Getting Wentz back to the player he was in 2017 (if that’s even possible) will require a firm, guiding hand.
Unfortunately, Frank Reich isn’t walking back through the front gates of the Linc anytime soon. The Sirianni hiring is the Eagle’s way of saying, “If we can’t get Reich, we’ll get the next best thing”. Indianapolis’s offense has ranked top-ten in scoring two of the past three years. In 2019, Jacoby Brissett look like a legitimate option to replace Andrew Luck (for about seven games, that is). You’re doing something right if you had a hand in that development. Still not buying it? Take this for what it’s worth: Nick Sirianni just helped build the eighth ranked offense in all of football with a man under center who looks like he’s throwing a handful of dog crap when he spins a football. If anyone is going to get Carson Wentz back on track, this will be the guy.
A Pessimist’s View of the Situation
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, lets get real. However you want to cut it, this move reeks of a power ploy by the Eagle’s front office in saying, “We are running this organization the way that we want to.” Ever since the highly publicized meeting between Doug Pederson and Jeffrey Lurie that resulted in the ousting of the former head coach, it’s become clear that there’s a divide between the vision of the front office and that of the on-the-field personnel. It’s our way or the highway. There’s no way that can be a recipe for success at this level. There needs to be a consistent tone and approach throughout the entire organization. That simply isn’t the case in Philly right now.
This is why Duce Staley, despite having the backing of several current and former Eagles players, didn’t get the job and why more established candidates, such as Dennis Allen and Josh McDaniels, were also looked over. Granted, Sirianni brings loads of energy and enthusiasm to the role. The players are probably going to love him. He’s probably got some great ideas on how to jumpstart our offense. However, he’s coming into this job with a lack of weight to his name. While I won’t say that he’s going to be a puppet for Lurie and Company, is it really that far of a stretch to believe this will be the case?
It’s difficult to see Philadelphia’s future change for the better with Howie Roseman still in place as GM. Whether it be coordinating the draft or signing free agents, Roseman’s track record speaks for itself. He’s terrible at this part of being a general manager. Feel differently? Consider this: he chose a damn firefighter in the first round in 2011. Here’s another: JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Everyone mentions us passing on DK Metcalf, but thirty other teams did that, too. What about Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton, and Diontae Johnson? Howie’s free agent signings aren’t much better. Yeah, we got lucky in 2017, but do you remember Nnamdi Asomugha in 2011 or Demetress Bell in 2012 or Andrew Sendejo in 2019. Yeah, case closed. Howie sucks at drafting. A coach with more experience, a more established history in the league, would undoubtedly subvert Howie’s authority within the Eagles organization.
Howie ceding some of his responsibilities as general manager would be the best possible scenario for the Eagles. His inability to competently assess player talent has hamstrung this team for years. There’s no way that Howie will let this happen, though, particularly considering that we saw this happen in 2015. Chip Kelly imploding the Eagles during his disastrous tenure as both head coach and director of football operations seemingly instilled the fear of God in Jeffrey Lurie should he ever attempt to replace Howie Roseman again. Nick Sirianni presents an easier target for Lurie and Roseman to manipulate into accepting their bidding and carrying out their vision of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles. Whether he is successful or not, the product that on the field will be determined by the executives in the skyboxes, not by the coaches on the field.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Who knows? Perhaps Nick Sirianni is the guy we need to re-energize this team and the Philadelphia fanbase. I’m skeptical, but I will acknowledge that change was needed. The message had grown stale. Once that happens, changes have to be made. I’ve got nothing but love for Doug Pederson, but he just seemed over it. In years past, I felt that Doug connected well with fans. His interactions with the media were earnest and straight-forward. That just wasn’t the case this year and it felt like the magic had run out. Maybe Sirianni will provide that shot of adrenaline and innovation that we’ve seen guys like Sean McVay and Kyle Shannahan provide for their respective teams in recent years. Lord knows our offensive game planning would benefit from a little ingenuity. Perhaps we should listen to Merrill Reese and allow ourselves to be cautiously optimistic moving forwards.
Nick Sirianni. Until a day ago I can’t tell you I saw this coming. I’ve never met Nick, or for that matter ever heard him interviewed. Once upon a time they took a chance on a quarterback coach from Green Bay and he ended up as the winningest coach in Eagles history. Let’s hope!
— Merrill Reese (@mreeseeagles) January 22, 2021