Remember the roots speech?
Back in 2021, Nick Sirianni’s first year as the head coach in Philly, the Eagles weren’t playing very well. Their loss in Las Vegas dropped them to 2-5 on the season but that’s when Sirianni pulled the roots speech out of his back pocket.
Sure, a lot of fans made fun of him when he said “flower” instead of “plant” during his press conference but his players weren’t laughing. They heard him talk about how the hard work they had put in ensured that roots were growing underground and eventually a plant would spring up. The players bought in and Sirianni was right. The Eagles turned it around, winning 7 of their next 9 games to get into the playoffs.
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That was the most important juncture of Sirianni’s head coaching career.
Because now adversity has struck again. That might seem silly if you look at the Eagles’ record. They’re 10-3 and still control their own fate in the NFC East. But if you watched the last two games — a 42-19 loss to the 49ers and a 33-13 loss to the Cowboys — you get it. The Eagles were, to steal a phrase from Fletcher Cox, punched in the mouth in back-to-back weeks. And the teams doing the punching are two teams that will be standing in the Eagles’ way on the road back to the Super Bowl.
Why is this the most important juncture of Sirianni’s career?
Well, in 2022, the only real adversity the Eagles faced was when Jalen Hurts suffered a shoulder injury in December and had to miss a couple games. But there was something magical about last year’s team up until the point they lost Super Bowl LVII.
So the Eagles under Sirianni have really faced the most adversity in 2021 and now.
Back in 2021, there weren’t high expectations. That was a rebuilding team, coming off a dismal COVID season with a new head coach and a new starting quarterback and if they didn’t turn it around it would have been disappointing but not shocking.
This team? This is a team with an MVP candidate at quarterback, coming off a Super Bowl appearance and despite some close games they began the season with a 10-1 record. The expectations are higher. The stakes are higher.
With it, there’s more pressure to live up to the standard, which the Eagles have very clearly fallen short of the last two weeks.
“Adversity can do a couple of things to you,” Sirianni said after the latest loss. “It can break you or it can make you way better. And I know that everybody that's in that locker room has been through s— in their lives and has made it to this point. They’ve made it to this point because of the s— they've been through.
“And so that adversity has made a lot of us in that locker room where we are today, and we’ve got to remember that. We’ve got to internalize that, and we’ve got to make sure that they have adversity that we're facing right now we're able to get through and make sure we get better from it.”
The Eagles’ 42-year-old head coach puts a lot of thought into his messaging. During the offseason, if you see Sirianni strolling around his South Jersey town, he’s not wandering aimlessly. He’s thinking.
Sirianni always has a video clip to show his team or a story to share. Anything to motivate. And then he tries to wisely pick his spots without making the moment more than it is. It sounds simple but it’s not and Sirianni takes it seriously.
This is obviously a pretty big week to get the message right.
The upcoming game against Seattle is suddenly one of massive importance as the Eagles try to take the NFC East title and still fight for the No. 1 seed in the conference.
The Eagles have an extra day of rest before playing the Seahawks on the road Monday night and they need it. While there’s plenty on Sirianni’s plate this week as it pertains to the on-field product — his offense managed to score a paltry 6 points on Sunday — he’s going to have to dig deep to make sure things don’t snowball. Some of that will be on his leaders and his captains, but Sirianni is in charge of everything. This is his show and he happens to be running it with two new coordinators in 2023.
In his nearly three years as an NFL head coach, Sirianni has been extremely successful. No doubt. He has a 33-14 record and is very clearly going to get into the playoffs for a third straight season in 2023. But like we mentioned, the expectations are higher this year and adversity has officially struck.
We’re going to learn a lot about the 2023 Eagles down the stretch and it starts with a massively important game in Seattle on Monday night.
Let’s see if Sirianni can rise to the occasion again.