It was Oct. 27, and the Eagles were still reeling from another blowout loss, this one 33-22 to the Raiders in Las Vegas.
They had trailed by as many as 23 points in the 4th quarter, the fourth time in five weeks they trailed by at least 21 points at some point in an ugly loss. And they arrived in Philly to the reality that they were 2-5 with five losses in their last six games.
Things seemed hopeless.
Nick Sirianni met with the media three days later and insisted there was progress being made, we just couldn’t see it yet. But even if it wasn’t visible on game day, he could see it Monday through Saturday in the way his team worked, the way his players practiced, the way they bought into his core values and the way his players were learning.
That’s when he talked about flowers and everybody laughed at him.
They mocked him and ridiculed him because everybody knows football is war, players are gladiators, games are battles and we don’t talk about flowers around here.
But if you stopped to think about it, his point was a good one. A plant grows roots below the ground where nobody can see before it blossoms above ground into something that looks pretty good.
When Sirianni shared this allegory with his players, he talked about plants, not flowers. When he shared the story with the media, he said flowers.
Be that as it may, the reaction to Sirianni’s message was instantaneous.
“What an idiot.”
Sirianni definitely has a different way of doing things, and his New Agey botanical metaphor – along with that 2-5 record – did not go over well.
But there was one place Sirianni’s message did through, and that was the only place that really mattered.
The locker room.
“One thing I love about our team meetings is you really don’t know what to expect, and you’re always going to leave with something that you truly remember about how the talk went,” T.J. Edwards said a day later.
“I think that’s something kind of awesome that coach does, keeping it fresh with us. I think the team took it well. We’re obviously disappointed how the season’s gone so far, but there’s no stopping us at all.”
Guess what’s happened since Sirianni’s chat?
Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon both seem to have developed a better understanding of their personnel and what each player is good at. The offense has morphed into a running game powerhouse. The defense has played extremely physical and has finally started forcing turnovers.
And the Eagles are 3-1 since Sirianni’s flower analogy, with all three wins by double digits and the one loss coming to a 6-4 Chargers team on the last play of the game.
The Eagles are a dangerous football team right now, and with an extra wild-card in the mix and a schedule that’s awfully favorable over the next five weeks, it’s absolutely realistic to start thinking postseason.
Sirianni was right.
Everything he said on Oct. 27 was true. The Eagles were getting blown out week after week, but he never lost the team. Amidst all the ugly losses, his message never stopped getting through, and his players never stopped working and learning and growing and improving and buying in.
Progress was being made every day. We just couldn’t see it yet. Which was his point all along.
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