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Photos: Philadelphia Eagles

Four seasons after their Super Bowl win, the Eagles are very much a team in transition. At the helm, new head coach Nick Sirianni is bringing youth, energy and intensity to off-season training. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro gives us a glimpse of what to expect of the Sirianni era.

The 2021 NFL Draft is starting in less than 30 minutes, and Nick Sirianni is in the front seat of a luxury SUV taking the short ride from the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia to Lincoln Financial Field. He’ll be making his first official appearance in front of Eagles fans at the team’s draft party, but right now he has other things on his mind. Sirianni rolls down his window on the passenger side of the vehicle and shouts out to some fans on the sidewalk in front of the stadium. Then he abruptly changes course on the way to the stage where he will be addressing the crowd and announces a new plan.

“I’m gonna go have a catch with these guys,” Sirianni says, spotting a handful of fans tossing a football around Headhouse Plaza. “I just can’t pass it up.”

And for the next minute or so, Sirianni airs it out as more fans gather around and razz him for his arm strength (it’s really good) and ask for the Eagles to knock it out of the park in the draft (they trade up and select Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith), and generally laugh and clap Sirianni on the back. Everyone has a grand old time.

“He’s been preparing for this his whole life. He’s a young guy in many respects, but I’m just telling you: This guy is brilliant. Football smart.”

“I love doing that stuff,” Sirianni says. “I just hope my shoulder doesn’t hurt in the morning.”

Sirianni laughs. He’s been the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles since January 24 when the team let go Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson after 5 seasons. Since then, Sirianni has been keeping up a hectic pace of hiring a coaching staff, and preparing for free agency and the NFL Draft. He’s also been teaching a new series of schemes – in a virtual setting – to his players. That pace is, honestly, right up Sirianni’s alley. He is a 39-year-old ball of energy and intensity who loves every bit of it.

“This is what it’s all about – competition,” says Sirianni, who is married (to Brett) with 3 kids and is living in Moorestown. “I love to compete. Give me anything, and I’ll try to win. You want to play Ping Pong? Let’s go. Pop a shot? I will take on anybody. The challenge of going against a worthy adversary is something I enjoy doing so much.” Born in Jamestown, N.Y., Sirianni grew up in an environment of athletics and education. He played the game through a successful career at Mount Union College in Ohio, where he was a star wide receiver on a team that won 3 NCAA Division III National Championships. Sirianni was an all-conference selection after his senior season in which he caught 13 touchdowns and parlayed that performance into a 1-year stint in something called the Atlantic Indoor Football League.

By then, Sirianni was on the coaching path that would lead him to Philadelphia. His father was a storied high school coach in New York. Both brothers are football head coaches; one for a college team, one for a high school. Sirianni started teaching X’s and O’s at Mount Union working with defensive backs, and then coached wide receivers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania through 2008. Since then, Sirianni has coached in the NFL – first in Kansas City, then San Diego/Los Angeles. For the most recent 3 seasons, he’s been the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, a team that had 3 quarterbacks in 3 seasons and still made the playoffs in 2 of those campaigns.

With the Colts, Sirianni worked under head coach Frank Reich, the former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia who helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII. When Eagles chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie cast his search net – which ultimately led him to consider more than 20 head coaching candidates – Sirianni was a late interview who wowed with his intensity, vision and energy. Lurie spent a dozen hours spread over 2 days with Sirianni.

“It became apparent that this is a very special communicator, not just a brilliant football IQ, which was very evident early on as we went through how he game plans, how he attacks defenses, how he maximizes personnel – not just relying on a scheme but how to each week attack exactly who you’re playing, what their strengths and weaknesses are in great detail,” Lurie said when he introduced Sirianni to the media. “Much more than that, he’s somebody who connects with everybody. To me, it continues the culture we’ve had and builds on it. Leadership, it goes hand-in-hand with what I’ve been talking about, but it’s even bigger than that. Can command a room. He has an edge. I think he’ll be himself and at times it will be with an edge. I think that’s great. I encourage that.”

The public perception of Sirianni – created in a virtual world and based on a clunky introductory press conference during which he spoke from a large video screen in an empty auditorium – has been of a man with a docile personality and a rambling way when interviewed. In person, Sirianni shreds that perception. His intensity takes over a room, and as he learns the business of being a head coach, he leads the way.

“He’s been preparing for this his whole life,” Reich says. “He’s a young guy in many respects, but I’m just telling you: This guy is brilliant. Football smart. To his core, he’s a football coach. He comes from a football family. He’s a natural leader. He’s got a lot of presence. He’s a great coach on the field. He holds guys accountable. Strong leadership. Good communicator. Phenomenal teacher. All the qualities you need to be a head coach.”

The job ahead is not an easy one. The fall from the Super Bowl-winning team has been fast and steep. The Eagles are cleaning out from a tumultuous offseason during which they not only made a change at head coach but also traded franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to Indianapolis. Lurie has described the roster as “transitioning,” which is NFL speak for “rebuilding.” Those familiar names from the Super Bowl team are down to a handful on the current roster and will continue to be reduced as the Eagles turn to youth in the Sirianni era.

Sirianni’s coaching staff is ambitious and young – special teams coordinator Michael Clay turns 30 in August, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is 36, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is 38. Everything feels different about the Eagles in South Philadelphia, including Jalen Hurts in his first full season at the quarterback position. That fits with the vision Sirianni has. Life ain’t easy in the NFL. It isn’t supposed to be. For a head coach with the competitive fire Sirianni has, the situation seems pretty much perfect. This is the ultimate competition: It’s Sirianni and the Eagles against a world that doesn’t think a whole lot of this football team.

That’s why, a few days after Sirianni met the fans for the first time and won them over with his enthusiasm and access and personality – he posed for a series of selfies on his way out of Lincoln Financial Field heading to the first round of the NFL Draft – the new head coach raved about his first draft class, a 9-player group that will help define the next generation of Philadelphia Eagles.

“To get [wide receiver] DeVonta Smith, to get [offensive lineman] Landon Dickerson, to get [defensive lineman] Milton Williams with those first 3 picks, it’s like, ‘Yeah. This is the way we want to start this thing,’” Sirianni says. “I love all of them. I’m excited about all of them. It felt like every time we picked a player, we got a guy who had the qualities we were looking for. There was a picture I saw today of Landon picking up DeVonta after they scored at Alabama, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get that picture in my office. Look at the connection they have. They’ve been teammates before and they have that love of football.’ To start that way with those 2 players, it’s exciting for me. It’s exciting for all of us.”


Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

June 2021
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