Earlier this summer, Nick Sirianni used a video of a hot dog eating competition to help make a point.
The first-year Eagles coach has a tendency to break up the monotony of his team meetings with video segments he handpicks, and that day competitive-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi was his choice.
During the meeting, Sirianni said he highlighted Kobayashi’s attention to detail, something he wants his players to emulate.
“Our fifth core value is fundamentals,” Sirianni said. “There’s this video of Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut competing, and they go, ‘Why is Kobayashi so good at eating hot dogs?’ The details and fundamentals he puts into it. He has to have the right temperature of water to dunk the thing. He has to break the hot dog perfectly in half.
“We are all seeing it and watching it, and it’s like, ‘What’s the point of that?’ My point is, if you want to be the best in the world at what you do, right, on the football field, it comes down to the little things, and that right there was a fundamental talk.”
There’s much to be determined regarding what kind of coach Sirianni will be, but it has become evident early that he’s willing to try unorthodox methods to get teaching points across.
Sixth-round rookie linebacker JaCoby Stevens, who is on the practice squad, said team meetings had a cadence during the early part of training camp.
“How he teaches, he gives a point, then he tells a story, and then he gives you a video,” Stevens said last month. “The video, they stick with me more because the videos are new. I’ve never met a coach that would play a video during a team meeting. He teaches through the videos.”
The strategy has been effective, at least for Stevens.
“I’m sitting on the couch with my girlfriend watching TV and [Kobayashi] comes on,” he said. “Next thing you know, I’m thinking about what Coach said. So, it works.”
Sirianni has shown videos of Kobe Bryant on a few occasions, including one where the late Hall of Famer from Lower Merion explained his offseason training regimen. Before the team’s last preseason game against the New York Jets last month, Sirianni dug up a handful of examples of players securing roster spots by making plays in the preseason finale through the years.
Each player Sirianni showed was coached either by him or a member of his staff. Sirianni’s examples were Chargers running back Austin Ekeler in 2017, Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman in 2014 and Colts receiver Zach Pascal in 2018. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon offered Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo’s tape from 2014 and special teams coordinator Michael Clay highlighted former 49ers return man Victor Bolden.
“At some point, my voice, they are going to hear me and I’m going to talk a lot; but at some point it can’t just be my voice saying it, right?” Sirianni said. “So I have these things, these messages that I want to get across. So how do I get those messages across? I think it’s the art of storytelling. I guess I’m a good storyteller. So you can have this storytelling, but then visual [learning] is so big in our profession.
“If I’m going to teach a quarterback how to read a play, what are we going to do? We are going to go to the video. If I’m going to teach a receiver how to run a route, what are we going to do? We’re going to go to the video. I’ll set the stage of a message a lot and then we’ll go to a video.”
Sirianni’s use of video isn’t limited to team meetings, though. Several of the Eagles’ young wide receivers have noted they’ve often gotten text messages from the coach with route videos, dating back to the offseason.
Second-year wideout Jalen Reagor said he grew to expect something from Sirianni, a former Division II wide receiver, to pop up in the receiver group chat on a daily basis.
“Throughout the whole offseason, he texted us route videos and stuff every day,” Reagor said. “It could be stems, steps, getting in and out of breaks, head deception. Whatever you could think of, that’s what he’s been coaching.”
Sirianni’s background as a college wide receiver and the several years he spent as a wideout coach in the NFL are apparent in how he approaches practices. He typically splits his time between the quarterbacks and wideouts during individual drills, and he has often taken a hands-on approach with receivers.
He has shown a willingness to extol the positives from the group, but also hasn’t shied away from coaching the group hard when he deems it necessary.
During a routes-on-air session early in camp, Sirianni jogged across the field to give receiver John Hightower a fist bump and say, “I freakin’ loved that route.” Later that same practice, the coach scolded Hightower for not getting his head turned around fast enough to catch a back-shoulder pass. “Eyes!” he shouted from across the field.
“We always hear him say, ‘Power step!’ or ‘Get vertical’ or ‘Get your foot in the ground!’” receiver Quez Watkins said. “He’s always in our ear, he’s always helping us out and getting us better looks.”
Sirianni notably got animated with Reagor after the 2020 first-round pick had a miscue in the early days of camp. The day after the exchange, Sirianni told reporters he had already warned the team’s wideouts that he’ll be their harshest critic because of his history playing and coaching the position.
“I said, ‘Guys, this was taught to me a long time ago as a coach: The position that is the hardest to play or coach is the one that your head coach played or coached,’” Sirianni said. “ ‘So quarterbacks, I’m talking to you guys, too, because I’ve coached that position. Wide receivers, I’m talking to you.’
“The standard is high. The standard is high of what we want and sometimes those conversations happen like that, but it’s all out of just one thing: to get the guys as good as we possibly can get them and get them better.”