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January 29, 2021

Don't rush to judge Nick Sirianni after one bad press conference

Eagles NFL
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New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.

Every press conference has a winner and a loser. Sometimes the subject up on the dais wins. Sometimes the media gets the better of it. And other times, the press conference itself, the moment, prevents either from claiming victory. 

You can put down new Eagles coach Nick Sirianni's first meeting with the Philly media as a rare win for the press conference. But that doesn't mean the 39-year-old first-time head coach is a loser. Nor does it mean he's going to be bad at his job. It only means he's bad at one part of it, the part that many would say is the least important — talking to us in the media — and even then there's still plenty of time for growth. 

Why are we talking about this and not Sirianni's offensive philosophy or the five core principles he outlined during his 11-minute opening statement on Friday afternoon? Well, that's because the Eagles coach didn't say a whole lot of substantive value during his presser, and the way he didn't say those things has taken over the majority of the internet's collective focus. 

There's a clip making the rounds on Twitter of Sirianni bumbling his way through part of his introductory press conference on Friday. It's bad enough on its own, but what makes it even worse is that throughout the clip, Sirianni is talking about how "smart" his team needs to be. If we're being honest, it's tough to watch. And Sirianni would probably be the first one to admit that.

It's easy to see why some, specifically fans of other NFL teams, are using this clip as a reason to bash the Eagles new coach. And you know, what, that's fine. Philly fans have done that and worse to other fanbases. I mean, you guys haven't forgotten about Dan Campbell and his hunger for human kneecaps already, have you? The joy some media members seem to be taking while reveling in his poor first impression, however, feels like a bit much. But that's a story for a different day. 

I'm not going to lie and sugar-coat it. I've witnessed countless press conferences in my decade-plus working in Philly sports, and Sirianni's performance, particularly in the early, opening-statement portion of his presser seen above, is up there with the worst moments I've covered. But, please, I beg you not to judge the Eagles new coach based on one clip from his first press conference as a head coach. 

Or did you already forget the reactions to Doug Pederson's first presser back in January of 2016? The one where owner Jeffrey Lurie stood by his side throughout like a parent holding their child's hand as they walk them through the door on the first day of school. The one that had people questioning if he was up for the job he just inherited. The one that had people saying a lot of the same things they're saying about Sirianni today.

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And we all know how that worked out, with the first-time head coach winning a Super Bowl in just his second season at the helm. Sure, Pederson was fired earlier this month after a 4-11-1 season — his first with a losing record since 2016 — but to call his tenure anything other than a massive success would be underselling the importance of bringing this city its first ever Lombardi Trophy. 

Was it time to move on from Pederson? Maybe, maybe not. But the Eagles officially did that when they introduced Sirianni on Friday, and it's amazing how quick some have forgotten the lesson his predecessor taught us just a few years ago.

And it's not just Pederson. It's other coaches as well. It's almost, like, you know, not everyone is a natural at public speaking. Andy Reid? Not a great public speaker. The same can be said about Charlie Manuel. There are plenty of other recent examples as well... 

The biggest issue with Sirianni's first impression was not so much what he said, but the manner in which he said it. Was he stuttering and stammering and jumbling his words at time? Yes. Did he call Eagles president Don Smolenski "Don Swolinski?" You bet. But was he also able to sidestep repeated Carson Wentz questions without giving us in the media any more canon fodder? Also, yes. 

See, there wasn't really much wrong with the content of what Sirianni said, especially once he entered the Q&A portion of the press conference. He got in and out of his answers quickly — and, yes, some of that was because he talks quickly — and handled unexpected followups from the notoriously tough Philly media. He didn't get tripped up by the Wentz questions, no matter how many times they were rephrased and re-purposed in an attempt to catch him off-guard. 

He was also clearly prepared by the team, as some of his answers were nearly identical to the answers he gave Dave Spadaro during an earlier interview on the team website, which shows that the coach is, well, coachable, and will likely improve his public speaking as he gets more experience, much like Pederson did (for the most part). 

The one area the team let him down in his preparations was in allowing him to give an opening statement that was over 10 minutes long. I don't know if that was a last-minute adjustment after hearing his new boss ramble on for more than 15 minutes, but the Eagles should've nipped that in the bud, kept it to a two-minute (max) written statement, and gotten right into the questions. There was no reason to let your new coach, in his first public press conference, get in front of the camera and just ramble on for 10-plus minutes.

That viral clip of Sirianni that was the jumping-off point for this column? Of course that's from the opening statements. The rest of his presser sounded much more together and, while there was still some stammering and self-correcting, the coach appeared more in control — even though in practice it was quite the opposite. Perhaps Sirianni gave such a bad first impression with that opening statement that it changed how the rest of the presser was viewed. 

Let's just hope it's not how the rest of Sirianni's career is viewed. 

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