To understand where the Super Bowl Eagles are now, you should examine from where they came.
While their journey has been amazing — and not direct — it also had more than its share of treacherous road.
On Oct. 24, 2021, Nick Sirianni was a 40-year-old, first-year NFL head coach. He was criticized when he was hired. He appeared nervous at his introductory news conference. Maybe he was overmatched for the job. Maybe Philly wasn’t for him.
On Oct. 24, the worst fears of Eagles’ fans were in plain sight. The Eagles lost at Las Vegas, 33-22, to fall to an unsightly 2-5 record — after a 4-11-1 season the year before. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr lit up the Eagles’ defense. He completed 31-of-34 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns.
The citizenry was up in arms. Who is this new coach, the guy who had one job that he apparently couldn’t handle?
The media corps that covers the Eagles arrived at Sirianni’s day-after news conference armed with questions that had to be asked. Questions the public were asking. Tough, but fair, questions.
Questions that indicated a team sinking fast and maybe a coach right with it.
SOME OF THOSE QUESTIONS …
- What was your reaction to Fletcher Cox’s critical comments of defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme and will you do something about it?
- Does Jonathan Gannon have autonomy with the game plan?
- Why would more possessions lead to a better rhythm as opposed to just producing whenever you do get the ball?
- The past few games, opposing quarterbacks are completing passes at a record level against you … You talked yesterday about needing to be more aggressive defensively. What specifically have you and Jonathan talked about and why is this happening?
- Have you considered making a change at starting quarterback?
SENDING A MESSAGE
Sirianni also was asked how could he send a message that the loss at Vegas was unacceptable. What accountability did he plan to put in place?
- “The same accountability we’ve had throughout,” Sirianni said on Oct. 25. “Obviously losing a game is never acceptable. We always are going to go through and we’re going to correct a game the same way regardless of if we’re 5-2 or 2-5.”
Sirianni pointedly was asked: Where are you getting better? Where are you seeing yourself getting better?
- “We always want to improve our fundamentals,” Sirianni said. “We feel like we are getting better fundamentally, just knowing the scheme, knowing the system.
- “Again, when you’re 2-5, you’re going to question a lot of things. But getting better, too, is not these drastic jumps. It’s just little by little each day.
- “So, we feel like we’re getting better in a lot of different areas, figuring out who we are, what we do well. Those are some of the areas we’re getting better at.”
NOW, IT’S SUPER
Sirianni turned that 2021 2-5 team into a 9-8 team that made the playoffs. The Eagles benefitted from an easier schedule in the second half of the season. Still, winning in the NFL is difficult — especially for a 2-5 team.
Hurts improved through last season. The Eagles averaged 28.5 points per game over the final 10 games.
Move the journey ahead 462 days … and Sirianni is on the stage yukking it up with Fox Sports’ Terry Bradshaw about going to the Super Bowl, fresh off a 31-7 destruction of San Francisco.
This year’s team was 14-3 with two playoff victories. Since that Oct. 24 loss, Sirianni is 21-6 in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs.
Sirianni is a confident — maybe even cocky — head coach. He has an outstanding roster, an excellent staff and strong support from the owner and front office.
His team was the NFC’s best all season long and is a slight favorite to defeat the Chiefs.
It has been a remarkable journey, a turnaround Philly hasn’t seen in nearly 30 years. The 1992 Phillies were 70-92. In 1993, they were 97-65 and went to the World Series.
Sirianni was asked after beating the Niners if he thought he would go to the Super Bowl after he was 2-5 not that long ago.
- “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. You don’t,” Sirianni said.
- “I think that was the biggest lesson of being 2-5. Hey, we got a big hole to climb out of. And if I look at this mountain and I say to myself, ‘I got to climb this mountain’ it’s going to be a big challenge, it’s going to feel like too much of a task.
- “But if I look at that mountain that we were in and I say, ‘We just got to climb this part today. We got to climb this part tomorrow’ … You think about the part you have to climb today.
- “I think that’s what that teaches you … You just put the work in each time, over and over and over again.”
Sirianni had one prescient answer at that Oct. 25, 2021, news conference that might have changed the fortunes of the franchise.
He was asked: Is there a point in which you would like to see Gardner [Minshew] at all?
- Sirianni: “No, I got a ton of faith in — obviously, I really like Gardner and I think he’s a good back-up. But I got a ton of faith in Jalen [Hurts]. He will be our starting quarterback.”
This morning, Nick Sirianni woke up in Arizona.