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January 21, 2021

What they're saying about Eagles' decision to hire Nick Sirianni as next head coach

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Nick-Sirianni-Eagles-1_012121_usat Matt Kryger/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni works with Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Devin Funchess during his time as Indy's offensive coordinator.

On Friday, just about a week and a half since they announced they were moving on from Super Bowl winning coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles have reportedly found his successor in 39-year-old Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. 

The reactions have been...mixed to say the least. And perhaps that's in part due to the fact that Sirianni entered the coaching search late — just a few days ago, in fact — and doesn't have a ton of experience, especially when it comes to play-calling. The fan reactions have fluctuated between "Thank god it's not Josh McDaniels" and "Who the hell is this guy?" 

But the reactions from the media and those who work in football have been equally skeptical, from people questioning his intelligence... 

...to people praising the young coach's interpersonal skills...

...to people wondering whether he might be too soft to get through to Wentz.

And, of course, there are those that are skeptical about the real reason why the Eagles hired such a green coach and whether or not it even makes a difference. 

The truth, as usual, likely lies somewhere in between the two. It's also worth noting that the reaction to Doug Pederson's arrival in Philly was more negative than positive, and we all saw how that worked out (with the team winning a Super Bowl in Year 2). Expecting the same to happen this time around is pie-in-the-sky stuff, but we bring it up here to remind you that if you're one of the people who are already out on the coach, maybe give him a chance first. 

After all, you don't want to wind up being the next Mike Lombardi


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The hot takes are likely only going to get hotter over the next couple days as we wait to see who winds up being most wrong about the Sirianni hire. But in the meantime, let's take a look at some instant reactions from the media in both Philly and Indianapolis in a new edition of What They're Saying... 

More of the same?

Zach Berman | The Athletic

While the name might not have been a predictable one, there was certainly something predictable about the type of coach the Eagles ultimately hired. After all, it's not all that different from Lurie's two most successful coaches to date — including the one they just fired three years after winning the Super Bowl... 

For whatever argument the Eagles made about prioritizing leadership and not having a predilection toward offense, the decision to hire Sirianni fits the model they’ve used in the past: An offensive-minded coach who has experience working with quarterbacks. This is not to suggest that Sirianni doesn’t possess the necessary leadership qualities — he very well might check the boxes in that area — but this is the type of hire a team makes when its priority appears to be fixing a struggling quarterback and igniting a stagnant offense. Even that criteria would lead to questions about Sirianni: He didn’t call plays in Indianapolis or other NFL career stops; the offenses he coordinated never ranked above 10th in DVOA; and he’s never coached on a team that advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs. So there were clearly more credentialed candidates available — including Black offensive coordinators coaching this weekend, which shouldn’t be lost given how this hiring cycle has unfolded and how Lurie called finding the best minority candidates “top of mind.”

Lurie seems to be relying on his ability to identify successful coaches who might not top the list of prospective coaches. Andy Reid didn’t call plays and wasn’t a coordinator before the Eagles hired him in 1999, and he became the winningest coach in franchise history. Pederson wasn’t a full-time play caller before the Eagles hired him and had been an offensive coordinator for the same amount of time as Sirianni, and he won the only Super Bowl in Eagles history. Both of them worked closely with quarterbacks, though, and they became the play callers in Philadelphia.  [theathletic.com]

Who really has the power?

Tim McManus | ESPN

Over at ESPN, Tim McManus took a look at what the Sirianni hire means in a couple key areas. First up, what does it mean for Wentz, the player Sirianni will be tasked with fixing first and foremost? 

Sirianni has majored in the QB position and is in lockstep with Reich, whom Wentz trusts fully. The odds of Wentz staying in Philadelphia went up when Pederson was fired, and likely ticked up another few notches with this decision on this coach.  [espn.com]

Then there's the question of what drew Lurie and Roseman to the young head coach in the first place. Aside from his "strong people skills," there's a belief (like Acho alluded to above) that the power brokers at the top of the organization view Sirianni as someone they can control, at least initially. That was also how it felt when they hired Pederson, but that changed as Pederson became more successful in the role, and there's an argument to be made that this sort of conflict, lack of autonomy, whatever you want to call it, is what ultimately led to the two sides parting ways.

There's also internal dynamics to consider. Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman are deeply involved in the Eagles' football operations. In order for that power structure to stay intact, the coach has to be amenable to it. Sirianni doesn't come in with the kind of clout like McDaniels, for instance, and will likely be fine initially with fitting into that construct and focusing on the coaching side of things.  [espn.com]

And finally, McManus takes a look at some of the concerns with the Eagles new hire. 

Sirianni has never called plays. Will he assume those responsibilities while adjusting to his first head-coaching gig? He'll be making that big leap while operating in one of the country's most intense media markets. His previous NFL stops were Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego and Los Angeles. He's in store for a whole different experience in Philly.  [espn.com]

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What Sirianni brings to the table

Eliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

The Eagles have a broken quarterback and, in turn, a broken offense. Sirianni seems like he could be the guy to fix both, assuming he can take on the added responsibilities that come with head coaching while not missing a step in the other areas he's excelled at in his career. 

Helped build Colts offense: No, he hasn’t called plays. That is a big question. He has, however, helped build one of the best offenses in the NFL in two of the last three seasons. With Sirianni as the offensive coordinator the Colts were top 10 in both points and yards in 2018 and 2020. Sirianni’s role is similar to what Reich’s was in 2016 and 2017 — Reich built the offense with Doug Pederson. The Colts took a chance on Reich and it worked out. Sirianni is a riskier hire, but he brings the same kind of upside as Reich, and has the potential to come to Philadelphia and fix a broken offense.

Good track record with quarterbacks: The Eagles want a coach that can fix their quarterback position. Sirianni seems to check off that box, as he has gotten near career years out of both Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers. In 2018, after missing 2017 completely, Luck threw for 39 touchdowns and had a career-high 98.7 passer rating. Rivers had similar success with Sirianni in Indianapolis, finishing with a 97.0 quarterback rating, one of the highest of his 17-year career. Although Frank Reich certainly deserves some of the credit for that as well, it seems that with Sirianni helping to build the offense, quarterbacks have success.  [radio.com]


MORE: Potential Eagles defensive coordinator candidate: Colts DB coach Jonathan Gannon


Learn from the past

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

So far, we've talked a lot about what happens now that Sirianni is in Philly, but Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia took a look back on where the new Eagles coach came from, even before he started his coaching career. 

A COLLEGE STUD: Sirianni was a wide receiver at NCAA Division 3 powerhouse Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio. Mount Union won seven NCAA Division 3 titles between 1993 and 2002, and Sirianni was on three of those teams. His senior year he caught 52 passes for 998 yards and 13 touchdowns, finishing just two yards of 1,000 for the season. His biggest game was a 4-for-164 performance in a 55-7 win over Ohio Northern, including a 73-yard touchdown catch from Zac Bruney. His 19.6 career average ranks 5th in school history. He spent one year playing for the Canton Legends of the Atlantic Indoor Football League before starting his coaching career back at Mount Union in the fall of 2006.

A FAMILY OF COACHES: Sirianni comes from a family of his coaches. His dad, Fran Sirianni, coached high school football in upstate New York for 45 years and was inducted into the Clarion (Pa.) Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. Nick played for his dad at Southwestern Central High in West Ellicot, N.Y. Older brother Mike coaches at Washington & Jefferson in Washington, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, where he’s the winningest coach in school history and has a career record of .812. Another older brother, Jay, no longer coaches but won a state Class C championships while coaching at Southwestern Central.  [nbcsports.com]

The view from Indy

Zak Keefer | The Athletic

So, what do they think about Sirianni in Indianapolis? Here's more from Colts beat writer Zak Keefer, who gives some insight into how involved the OC was in game planning the Colts' offense, even if he wasn't the guy calling the plays. 

There's a bit of irony with this hire: Three years after winning a Super Bowl and losing their offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, to the Colts, the Eagles go out and hire Reich's own offensive coordinator, Sirianni, to replace Pederson. While Sirianni didn't call the plays in Indianapolis — Reich handled those duties — he played a massive role in the offensive game plan each week, working hand-in-hand with Reich. The two worked with three different starting quarterbacks in three seasons, molding their multiple offensive system to fit the very different talents of Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers. Sirianni was also instrumental in the development of several young players on the roster, particularly wide receivers. There's no doubt a strong endorsement from Reich, one of the more respected coaches in the game, helped his candidacy.  [theathletic.com]

What the Duce?

Chris Franklin | NJ.com

What about the guys they didn't choose? There's one that should be of particular interest to Eagles fans: Duce Staley. 

After saying that hiring a minority coach was "top of mind," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie once again passed over the incredibly qualified Staley, despite the Eagles running backs coach getting a ton of support from both current and former players. It's time for the Birds to stop stringing Duce along, writes Chris Franklin of NJ.com... 

After six years with the Eagles as a player and a decade more as a coach -- countless hours in the NovaCare Complex as a member of three different coaching regimes -- he has been snubbed again.

The Eagles have chose Nick Sirianni as their next head coach.

And the NFL owners, who give lip-service to the Rooney Rule, have done it again: They’ve hired the White Guy over The Right Guy.

Staley was the right man for the job, and the Eagles bypassed him again.

We most lost likely hear how Sirianni, 39, the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, is the next up-and-coming candidate for the job. We’ll hear stories about his innovative mind, and how he is respected by everyone in the locker rooms he has coached, and other positive traits that will be showered on him.

Hmm … those lionizations sound really familiar.  [nj.com]

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