PHOENIX — It’s hard to get to the Super Bowl.
It’s even harder to get back.
That’s the challenge awaiting the Eagles in 2023 off the heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII. In a way, Nick Sirianni is leaning into that feeling.
“What it does, you get close and it just fuels your hunger,” Sirianni said last week at the NFL owners meetings. “You know the steps that you had to take to get there and you know every detail matters and you’re going to try to recapture everything you can as far as the work to put in. It just makes you more hungry.
“There’s that thing that Jalen (Hurts says), ‘I’m not hungry, I’m starving.’ You guys all saw that. ‘I’m starving for this s—.’ I think that just makes you more hungry, makes you more starving. I know that’s the sentiment of the guys we have in that locker room. I know it’s the sentiment of the coaches and I sure know it’s the sentiment of me. Just more determined than ever.”
To be clear, Sirianni was asked about the Super Bowl last Tuesday. He didn’t bring it up on his own. And he’s going to try to continue that in 2023 because it’s not about trying to get back to the Super Bowl after losing one. It’s about trying to get there in 2023 with the understanding that it’s a long process and you can’t skip steps.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons in the 2022 season. The Eagles saw the value in hitting each step, focusing on each detail. After a physically and emotionally draining run to Super Bowl LVII and after a crushing defeat, it might be easy to lose focus. Sirianni’s goal is to never let that happen and he wants to rely on his veteran leaders to instill those important messages.
Some other teams have probably become victims to a lot of similar pitfalls after losing a Super Bowl.
In the last 20 seasons, just one team has returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing it. That was the 2018 Patriots, who won a championship the year after losing to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Of those other 19 Super Bowl losers in the last 20 years, four teams lost in the conference championship the next year, five lost in the divisional round, two lost in the wild card round and eight (40%) missed the playoffs entirely.
“I don’t care what happened last year,” Sirianni said. “I don’t care that we went this record and played in the Super Bowl or anything like that. We don’t give a crap about what the numbers say about who was able to get back to the Super Bowl. … It’s going to take day-in and day-out work. And I know that’s cliche but when you can set your sights narrow as far as here’s what we’re focusing on today, it helps you stay focused on that day and continuing to build and build and build.”
The Eagles lost plenty of talent this offseason in free agency and they also lost both of their coordinators to head coaching jobs. That’s going to make it tougher to run it back but they still have the best quarterback in the conference and plenty of talent.
But talent alone doesn’t win. That was Sirianni’s message last week as he invoked Jason Kelce’s impassioned plea from before the 2022 season.
“Expectations are just that,” Kelce said early last September, “they’re f—ing nothing.”
All that matters to the Eagles and Sirianni is the work. Because long before you get to a Super Bowl, you have to go on the journey. That begins on April 24 when the offseason program begins.
The Eagles have to climb.
“That was the message, and that’s why we have great captains and leaders on this team. That was the message over and over and over,” Sirianni said. “It felt like that’s what we were saying after every training camp practices. It doesn’t matter who you assemble, it’s about the work that we have to put in to get ready to play our first game and our second game and our third game and so on and so forth. I think that we’ll bank on that too next year.”
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