January 30, 2023
If you plant it, they will come.
In October 2021, the Eagles were 2-5 and their rookie head coach looked overmatched. Frustration was palpable throughout the city after the Birds dropped back-to-back games. Nick Sirianni was a bit of an unknown when he was hired that January and the early returns were angering Philadelphians. That exasperation only grew after Sirianni delivered his infamous "flower" press conference.
Ahead of the team's Week 8 matchup with the Lions in Detroit, Sirianni said the following to the media:
I put a picture of a flower up, and it's coming through the ground and the roots are growing out and the roots are continuing to grow out, and everybody wants to see results.
Shoot, nobody wants to see results more than us. We want to see results too, but it’s really important that the foundation is being built and that the roots are growing out, and the only way the roots grow out every single day and they grow stronger and they grow better is if we all water, we all fertilize, we all do our part, each individual coach, each individual player, everybody in the building that we do our part to water, to make sure that when it does pop out, it really pops out, it really pops out and it grows.
We are going through tough times and everybody wants to see results, but just keep doing what we’re doing, keep watering. Look at yourself first and know, ‘Are you watering? And are you fertilizing every day?’ So when it’s time to pop, it’ll pop.
That went over as well in Philly as wearing a Cowboys jersey on a Sunday does.
I wanted to give Sirianni the benefit of the doubt early in his Eagles tenure, but even I thought, "Ehhh... I don't know about this one."
Well, 15 months later, Sirianni was right. The Birds improved throughout the remainder of the 2021 season and snuck into the playoffs. Sirianni's Eagles followed that up with an electric 2022, guiding the franchise to their fourth-ever Super Bowl appearance. There's been a whole lot of watering down at the NovaCare Complex and it's translated to fans downing "water" in plastic cups on Broad Street in celebration.
After the Eagles' 31-7 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, I straight up asked Sirianni in the postgame presser if he could've imagined coming this far this soon after that panic-inducing 2-5 start.
"Honestly, when you think about the present and only about the present, you don't think about what's going to happen two years down the road," he said. "You don't. You literally say — and I think that was the biggest lesson of being 2-5 is, 'Hey, we have a big hole to climb out of,' and if I look at this mountain and I say to myself, 'I have to climb this mountain,' it's going to feel like too much of a task."
There's a mountain awaiting in Arizona for Sirianni and this team. The Lombardi Trophy is at the top.
Progress wasn't necessarily linear for this iteration of the Eagles. They laid a dud in their Wild Card game against the Buccaneers last season. Jalen Hurts got injured late in 2022, as they lost back-to-back games for the first time all year. The talking heads were ready to dethrone the Birds instantaneously, wondering if they'd lose their grip on the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They didn't, just as Sirianni isn't losing his grip on whatever part of the mountain he's climbing on a given day.
"But if I look at that mountain that we were in and say, 'We just have to climb this part today and we have to climb this part tomorrow,' you don't think about it," Sirianni continued. "You just think about the part you climbed today. I think that's what that teaches you. You don't think about what could happen two years down the road, you just put the work in each time over and over and over again.
"And you know what? Sometimes you get the result and sometimes you don't, and I'm just happy we got the result of where we are right now because the guys have just put their heads down and worked day by day, and now we're in this spot, and we're going to go and give it our best shot here in a couple weeks."
The Eagles are getting the results. Sirianni hasn't been out-coached all season, taking down Coach of the Year Award finalists Brian Daboll and Kyle Shanahan in the playoffs. Daboll is supposed to be a big culture guy? Losing by 31 to a bitter rival is a hell of a culture. Shanahan is a genius? The conservative way he coaches has cost him two Super Bowl rings, one as the 49ers' head coach in 2019 and one as the Falcons' offensive coordinator in 2016. Would Shanahan ever go for it on fourth and one from his own 34 in a 7-7 game in the second quarter of a playoff game? Nope. Gutsy moves like that have become Sirianni's hallmark.
Maybe NFL franchises should stop looking for the next Shanahan and look for the next Sirianni, the guy who's moving mountains to bring Philadelphia its second Super Bowl win.
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