PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles cut against the grain on Thursday by choosing Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their next head coach.
Sirianni’s name came up late in Philadelphia’s extensive coaching search that included 10 official interviews and many informal flirtations. They reached out to measure the interest of Lincoln Riley, the Oklahoma Sooners coach. They asked to speak with Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, though potential discussions didn’t take place until after Sunday’s AFC championship game. They considered hiring New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
In the end, however, the Eagles left with 39-year-old Sirianni, who succeeds the only Super Bowl coach in the team’s history, Doug Pederson. He comes to Philadelphia with no experience on the phone and with some important shoes to fill.
What does that mean for quarterback Carson Wentz?
When Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie fired Pederson on Jan. 11, it became clear that the Eagles preferred to keep and fix Wentz rather than trade, and they attracted candidates who were on the same wavelength. Wentz was at his best when Colt’s trainer Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Sirianni was Reich’s right-hand man in Indianapolis and trained quarterbacks in San Diego when Reich was the Chargers O-Coordinator in 2014 and 2015.
Sirianni has completed the QB position as a major and is in step with Reich, who fully trusts Wentz. The likelihood of Wentz staying in Philadelphia increased when Pederson was fired and in that decision has likely cost that manager a few more points.
What attracted the eagles to Sirianni?
Philadelphia had an interview with Sirianni on Tuesday that allegedly carried over to the next day. Buzz soon realized he was a front runner for the job alongside McDaniels. He helped the Colts get into the top 10 on offense for two of the last three seasons, despite a changing line-up at quarterback. Similarly, he got a lot out of the chargers’ receivers when he was their positional coach from 2016 to 2017.
A source said Sirianni has “great skills”, is good at evaluating players and has a strong work ethic. While Sirianni may not be the loudest persona, he is said to have a greater advantage on him than it may initially appear.
Internal dynamics must also be taken into account. Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman are deeply involved in the Eagles’ football operations. In order for this power structure to remain intact, the trainer must be accessible to it. Sirianni, for example, doesn’t come in with a McDaniel’s clout and will likely be okay initially if he fits into that construct and focuses on the coaching side of things.
Did the late start affect who Philadelphia might hire to coach?
Yes. The Eagles were interested in Arthur Smith, Robert Saleh and Brandon Staley, but those candidates were too far removed from other teams to seriously consider reversing course once the Eagles jumped into the mix after waiting a week to see Pederson to fire.
With the hot names becoming popular, the only real course of action was to be conscious and find the right fit.
The Eagles also had a 4-11-1 season with a train crash and didn’t come into the market from a strong position. Questions about how things ended with Pederson, the difficult quarterback situation with Wentz and Jalen Hurts from round two of 2020, and the poor outlook for the 2021 salary cap all made the job attractive.
What are the concerns about Sirianni?
Sirianni has never mentioned plays. Will he take this responsibility as he prepares for his first head coaching appearance? He will make that big leap while operating in one of the most intense media markets in the country. His previous NFL stops have been Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego and Los Angeles. He expects a very different experience in Philly.
Sirianni now needs to set up a staff. The pool has already shrunk and assistants across the league are being snatched up by other new coaches. This process has to start in earnest.
Is it the right rental?
There was a strong case for Duce Staley. The extent to which current and former players campaigned for him both publicly and behind the scenes is very rare. Staley has the respect of all members of the Eagles organization, commands a room like no other, and has earned the opportunity after 10 years as an assistant in Philadelphia, including the last three years as deputy head coach.
There is a fair question as to whether Staley’s blunt style would have been reconciled with Wentz, but it is fair to say that you should hire the best coach and let the coach run the team and quarterback space as that person is for holds correctly.