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What Went Wrong With Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni

Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni was highly regarded over his first few years with the team. However, last year's slide caused some doubt.
Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni

How did Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni Go From Loved to Doubted

The Philadelphia Eagles look to field a competitive team next season. However, one uncertainty remains in Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni. Over the years, Sirianni has gained somewhat of a unique reputation in Philadelphia and the NFL world. He’s a relatively young Head Coach at just 43 years old and has somewhat of an unorthodox style. He can often be spotted wearing Player-themed merchandise and is known for his sideline antics to rile up crowds and opposing teams.

Initially, the fanbase viewed this trait positively as a sign of authenticity and love for the city. After last season’s second-half slide, though, the once positively viewed trait turned into an annoyance. No one cares how a coach acts when they’re winning, but for the last two months of the 2023 season, the Eagles simply weren’t. After starting 10-1 and looking like they were well on their way back to the Super Bowl, the team bottomed out. They lost six of their final seven games. The Tampa Bay Buccanneers dispatched the Eagles in the Wild Card Game 32-9, ending the miserable stretch.

Many of the struggles from that period came on offense. The team scored 20 points only twice in those final seven games. This is uncharacteristic of an offense with names like Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, and DeVonta Smith. In the offseason, the Eagles found fresh faces in Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio to fix the team’s playbook and scheming. Sirianni announced shortly after the season he will no longer be in charge of the playbook and that responsibility will go to Moore. How did the once-loved coach fall so far from grace?

The Hiring

In January 2021, the Eagles announced they were hiring Sirianni as their next head coach. From his very first press conference, Sirianni’s abilities were put into question. Sirianni nervously stumbled over his words throughout while not really giving substance on what he would change. This first impression led to heavy criticism in the media. He didn’t inspire much confidence early into his first season either, as the team started 2-5. However, similar to his status now, Sirianni gave up playcalling for the first time in his tenure to then Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen. Also around that time, Sirianni made his infamous “flower analogy” in a press conference going into a game against the Detroit Lions.

“The results aren’t there right now, but what’s going on here is that there’s growth under the soil,” Sirianni said. “I put a picture of a flower up, and it’s coming through the ground, and the roots are growing out. The roots are continuing to grow out.” The team did blossom in the second half of the season. Under Steichen, the offense improved with more designed run plays around Hurts. The team finished 7-3 after the 2-5 start, earning a surprise playoff birth in a rebuilding year. The front office took this as a sign that the team was ahead of schedule and went all-in, trading for Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown on draft night.

Climbing the Mountain Top (Almost)

The Eagles had a breakout campaign the following year taking in many accolades. They finished with the most wins ever in franchise history with 14. Jalen Hurts was the runner-up for league MVP, and running back Miles Sanders went to his first Pro Bowl. The team had eight Pro Bowlers total. A.J. Brown set the Eagles franchise record for most receiving yards in a season. Brown and Smith became the first receiving duo in franchise history with 1,000 yards receiving each. The team was also third in total offense that year and second in total defense.

All of this culminated in a Super Bowl appearance against the Kansas City Chiefs where… they came up just short. Despite losing 38-35, there was a lot of promise of a bright future. However, the team never could of anticipated the fallout of 2023.

What Went Wrong in 2023

The team was already starting off on the wrong foot with limited cap space and key free agents leaving for different. On the defensive side of the ball, the team lost key playmakers like Javon Hargrave on the line and C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the secondary. However, most probably didn’t expect that the biggest losses of the offseason would be the coordinators. Shane Steichen would leave after a promising two years with the Eagles for a head coaching job with the Colts. Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon also got a head coaching gig with the Cardinals that offseason.

One would have hoped Sirianni gained some knowledge and experience in playcalling behind Steichen now that the offensive load was more directly on his shoulders again. He would need to be more effective as the new coordinators, Brian Johnson and Sean Desai, had less experience in their respective roles. Things took a turn for the worse, though. The passing game dropped from ninth best in 2022 to 17th in 2023. Especially during the second-half collapse, the passing offense looked uneven, with an overreliance on screen passes and big-play shots downfield with very little motion.

It could be possible that stepping aside for Moore is once again the best option for Sirianni, given the success he had with that the first go around. The Eagles have to consider this though, Do they really want a head coach who’s nothing more than a glorified cheerleader? What if Moore has a successful season and gets offered a head coaching job like Steichen? Does the team really want to scramble every other offseason to find a new coordinator to cover up Sirianni’s deficiencies? This will be an interesting development to monitor over the course of the 2024 season.

Main Image: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports


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