The Nick Sirianni hire spoke to the impression he made upon the Eagles, to Jeffrey Lurie’s foundational belief in quarterback-driven offense, and to identifying a budding head coach -- à la Andy Reid -- before the rest of the NFL caught on.
It was also a yielding to a choice that was made, yet again, with Howie Roseman in mind. Yes, of course, the Eagles general manager would factor into who would replace Doug Pederson. The coach-GM relationship is among the most important dynamic in team-building.
But Roseman was the elephant in the room -- and quite literally, was in the room for interviews during this search -- because no other personnel executive in recent league history has ever sustained three coaching firings with the same team.
The 45-year-old is as tenured as GMs get in the NFL, and fair or not, that is viewed unfavorably by many coaching candidates because it suggests an unwillingness from ownership to hold him accountable.
And the Eagles, in choosing Sirianni over the more qualified Josh McDaniels -- and likely more threatening to Roseman -- suggested that Lurie balked at the potential disruption of the status quo.
Roseman, perhaps more than anything, allows for the owner to be intimately involved in football decisions. The last time he was muscled out of the picture -- but not out of the building -- coach Chip Kelly was fired by Lurie less than a year later.
If Reid, Kelly, and Pederson couldn’t outlast Roseman -- the first is headed to the Hall of Fame, the second went 26-21 in three seasons, and the third won a Super Bowl -- then who is any other coach to think that he can?
The 39-year-old Sirianni, though, would be willing to take that chance more than most contenders. In accepting the Eagles’ offer, the former Colts offensive coordinator skips the play-calling step to ascend to the top post. And it’s not like he was interviewed by any of the other six teams looking for head coaches.
Reid and Pederson had similar pedigrees and weren’t highly sought after as well, and both would become the most successful of their classes. Lurie deserves the benefit of doubt because he has previously discovered hidden gems.
But he is also now on his fourth coach in 10 years, all while Roseman has remained entrenched. Lurie’s trust in the GM has been long established, and it’s not as if Pederson won that Super Bowl three years ago on his own. Roseman showed in 2016-17 that he can build a title team. But the last three years have all but offset what had been gained when Lurie reinserted his personnel authority after Kelly had won a power struggle in 2015.
Would hiring a head coach have been easier had Lurie cleaned house? Perhaps. It didn’t help that the Eagles spotted other teams a one-week lead. But they were still able to interview Robert Saleh and Arthur Smith before they eventually accepted jobs from the New York Jets and Falcons, respectively.
They didn’t interview either Urban Meyer (Jaguars) or Dan Campbell (Lions), but they had planned on meeting with Brandon Staley, who never made it that far and was hired by the Chargers the day before.
On paper, the Eagles weren’t an attractive destination. They have an aging, expensive roster devoid of young talent, an unsettled quarterback situation, an exploding salary cap, and a GM in place who has mastered the art of self-preservation.
Much was made of their extensive search, which included 10 interviews. Joe Brady, Todd Bowles, Duce Staley, Jared Mayo, Kellen Moore, and Dennis Allen were the other six after Sirianni, McDaniels, Saleh and Smith. But Lurie has always been methodical, and only the Texans remained among the teams with vacancies.
Still, appealing candidates like Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kakfa -- coaches the Eagles had been linked to -- took their names out of consideration as their teams continued in the playoffs.
McDaniels emerged from the first round of interviews -- Smith, some league sources believed, would have been the initial choice -- as the leader in the clubhouse. But the Patriots offensive coordinator would have come with baggage, outside his ill-fated two-year stint with the Broncos and his much-criticized reneging on the Colts.
The 44-year old may have been willing to cede the type of Bill Belichickian control he’s always insisted on having -- with dwindling opportunities -- but to many close to McDaniels it would be only a matter of time before he wanted influence over the roster. Roseman was looking at Kelly 2.0 and no matter how many boxes McDaniels checked off -- smart, innovative, organized, disciplined, offensive-minded, quarterback-tested -- his strong personality had to give the GM pause.
And Lurie, as well. McDaniels had the reputation as a tyrant in Denver, but 10 years time seemed to soften the rough edges. But the Eagles must have thought -- or heard -- that McDaniels might have been a potential wolf in sheep’s clothing.
They shifted their attention to a second round of interviews -- “scrambling” was the word one source used -- with Sirianni separating from other young, offensive-minded assistants like Brady and Moore as McDaniels’ chief competition.
The meeting took place over two days -- Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning -- and by Thursday an offer and acceptance had been reached. The Eagles were impressed by Sirianni’s preparedness, his staff suggestions, and his experience with a variety of quarterbacks from the Chiefs to the Chargers to the Colts.
Having toiled under former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich for the last three seasons helped, as did the Colts coach’s endorsement. Sirianni’s background -- from a coaching family, narrowly focused on reaching the pinnacle of the profession -- reads like so many other NFL head coaches.
But it’s difficult to look at the hire without a lens obscured by Roseman. His fingerprints are all over the Eagles and they’re similarly all over Lurie’s decision to go with Sirianni over McDaniels, who wasn’t exactly a sure-fire hit either.
The selection was unpredictable as few had Sirianni as a candidate. But the process, ultimately, was predictable as long as Roseman remained in place. Even so, it still may prove successful. And if not, it may be the GM’s last chance.