The Eagles fired Gomer Pyle so they could hire Barney Fife. Gol-l-l-lee.
Sure, Doug Pederson acted goofy sometimes, but he was a big, fearless goof. His replacement, Nick Sirianni, held an introductory press conference Friday, where he projected all the confidence of a snared rabbit. He was overwhelmed; unprepared; contradictory.
And, bless his soul, he lied.
He didn’t lie out of malice, but lie, he did. Asked if he had a timeframe for naming a starter between broken Carson Wentz and raw Jalen Hurts, Sirianni replied:
“That hasn’t even crossed my mind.”
Come on, Coach.
One NFL source, who has deep ties to the organization and was watching the press conference, immediately texted me one word:
My thought, exactly.
This matters, because an NFL locker room has the most sensitive BS detectors on Earth, and football players hate BS artists. When Sirianni spoke, BS detectors all over Philadelphia were clicking like Geiger counters in Chernobyl.
Hasn’t even crossed my mind? Come on, Coach. Philly ain’t Mayberry, and we ain’t Goobers.
Say “I haven’t decided on when I’ll name a starter,” or “I need to get Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts in front of me for a while.” But, “That hasn’t even crossed my mind”? Sigh. It sounds even dumber than it sounds false.
Pinocchio’s better at it than this. You could almost see Sirianni’s marionetteers manipulating him in real time. Little wonder Sirianni stumbled so much his first time on the big stage.
Meanwhile, in Kansas City, with top-shelf candidate Eric Bieniemy still on his staff, Sheriff Andy just shook his head.
Masters of Puppets
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and his general manager, Howie Roseman, fired Pederson because he refused to keep taking orders from a pair of football dilettantes. After five seasons, Pederson finally insisted on being his own man: hiring his own staff, determining which players would play when and where, and insisting on more input in roster composition. These insistences cost him a sixth season.
This happened more than a week after the season ended, and Pederson’s change in attitude shocked his bosses, so they hastily arranged 10 interviews (two candidates declined their invitation). They rounded up plenty of good candidates.
In the end, desperate to retain complete control of the franchise, Lurie and Roseman declined to employ any of the best candidates. They shrank from former head coaches Josh McDaniels, who won six Super Bowls coaching Bill Belichick’s offenses in New England, and Todd Bowles, who will run Tampa Bay’s defense in Super Bowl LV on Sunday. You see, McDaniels and Bowles are their own men. So is Bieniemy, who will prepare Andy Reid’s offense.
Rest assured, when Lurie and Roseman asked about Wentz vs. Hurts, it had crossed the minds of McDaniels and Bowles. Had he been interviewed, Bieniemy would have offered a strong opinion, too. Then again, these three men have bona fides. Sirianni does not.
However, Lurie believes Sirianni to be a “caring communicator,” and, to him, that’s what matters most. Lurie actually said that “caring” is the “first step” in coaching. If nothing else, they agree: Lurie and Sirianni used “caring” and “communicate” in one form or another 14 times Friday. Notably, they didn’t care to communicate much about scheme, or resumes, or results. Isn’t it funny how Lurie doesn’t demand that Roseman be a caring communicator?
You know how Bill Belichick caring-ly communicates? He says, “Do your job.” If you don’t, he fires you.
That might not be caring communication, but it’s effective communication.
Nip it in the bud
When it was mercifully over, Sirianni had delivered exactly 37 minutes of exuberant, optimistic word salad. A high-energy nothing-burger. He looked and sounded like the love child of Dick Vitale and Tony Robbins.
— Sirianni claimed he would stress fundamentals, and that his fundamentally sound team would prevail. The last time we heard this level of naÏveté was 2012, when Reid promoted offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator. Everybody got fired that winter.
— Sirianni said he knows there are smart players on the Eagles, but, for some reason, he believes he first must dumb down the schemes: “We’re going to have systems in place that are easier to learn.” So apparently he has watched lots of Carson Wentz’s tape.
— Sirianni said Roseman would control the 53-man roster, but, as for the week-to-week lineup … “I believe I have the say over the 47 on game day.” I believe? Ha! Sirianni apparently didn’t even ask whether he’d be in control of his game-day lineup. Nick, we’ve got some bad news for you.
— Finally, Sirianni insisted several times that he knows virtually nothing about the players he’ll be coaching. Not the receivers. Not the quarterbacks. Nobody.
“We don’t know any of these guys really yet from what we’ve seen on tape so far because we haven’t watched any,” Sirianni said. “We can’t wait, again, to start watching the tape and seeing what our players can do.”
This is outrageous. Sirianni said he hadn’t watched any tape of the players he was being interviewed to coach. Why lie?
It’s impossible that Sirianni went to the biggest interview in his 39 years so badly prepared that he couldn’t express opinions about Wentz and Hurts. That he never watched rookie receiver Jalen Reagor or tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz run routes. These players helped bring the Eagles to 4-11-1 in 2020. These players are critical to the Eagles’ future, both immediate and distant. It is simply not believable that Sirianni is unfamiliar with them — especially Wentz, Lurie’s $128 million, No. 1 priority.
Lurie clearly stated on Jan. 11, the day he fired Pederson, that he expected the next coaching staff to repair his broken franchise quarterback: “[Wentz is] very fixable, and I fully expect him to realize his potential.”
Which means Question 1 to each candidate was: How will you fix Carson, what do you consider his potential to be, and by when will he be fixed?
What else did they talk about for two days in Palm Beach? GameStop?
That hasn’t even crossed my mind. Ridiculous. If the process and the timeline of Wentz’s rehabilitation hadn’t crossed Sirianni’s mind, then he shouldn’t have been hired. Period.
Sirianni seems well-intentioned, but, in his first moment, he blanched. That raises a legitimate concern: Will he be ready for the next big moment, and the next, and the next? If he can’t handle a softball question from Les Bowen during a Zoom call, then what’s he going to say to the team when they’re down by two touchdowns at halftime at Dallas?
Do not pity Nick Sirianni. Do not excuse his embarrassing, bumbling performance. He chose the job, and this is part of the job. You don’t get graded on a curve just because you’re 39; not when you have one of 32 precious positions, for which dozens of other candidates were far better qualified.
You know who else was well-intentioned, and unqualified, and unprofessional? Bernard Milton Fife.
Let’s just hope Nick Sirianni doesn’t shoot himself in the foot.
Or someplace even worse.