SIRIANNI LOOKS POISED FOR A BIG JUMP IN 2022
One year ago, heading into the final month of the off-season, the Eagles franchise was on the brink of ruin.
Carson Wentz, the prized quarterback who was to lead this franchise into the postseason annually for a decade or more had been dumped and traded away to the Indianapolis Colts.
Doug Pedersen, the only Super Bowl winning coach in franchise history had been unceremoniously fired.
And the team was coming off the worst season in recent history after winning four measly games.
Number one draft pick, Jalen Reagor, had "bust" written all over him after only one season.
And they hired first time head coach, Nick Sirianni, to clean up a big pile of mess.
He was so far down the list of candidates to succeed Coach DougP that he was on a South Florida vacation when the Birds called him up from their compound in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Not only did Nick Sirianni restore optimism to the proud franchise, he led them to nine wins and a playoff berth against the SB LV Champs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He did it the old-fashioned way. He almost instantly won the respect of the players in the locker room and they went to work. It was hard work full of long practices and longer speeches. But with it came purpose and an undying belief in how to build back up a franchise with a TEAM FIRST approach.
It wasn’t easy, and there were some serious bumps along the way. There was a humiliating defeat to the Cowboys on MNF in Week 3 where the Cowboys held a 41-14 lead with time dwindling down in the fourth quarter.
On top of that Coach Nick called two runs, a total of two runs to Miles Sanders in the whole first half.
A few weeks later the KC Chiefs put up over 500 yards of offense against a defense where the safeties were lined up in Citizens Bank Park.
It was so soft that Sirianni publicly called out his defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, for his game plan. Star defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, sounded bewildered by how they were deploying him and questioned what their philosophy was.
But St. Nick was not deterred. By time the Saints rolled into the Linc in week 11, the Birds demolished a legit defense by running it a league best 50 X every which way you can pound a pigskin and rolled up 40 points.
The fans began to see changes and how the players responded to those changes.
This column is not meant to be a recap of 2021, so let’s look ahead to 2022 with St Nick firmly in charge and ready to navigate season number two.
His staff returns intact while the roster has undergone some big upgrades in key spots. Local So Jersey and former Temple star, Haason Reddick comes to bolster a mostly anemic pass rush. Fletcher returns on a one-year deal.
James Bradberry comes in from the NYG to start opposite of Slay. Starting Center, Jason Kelce, felt rejuvenated enough to return to his familiar center position which should anchor a very strong offensive line.
The draft added two starters from the FBS National Champs, both Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean to bolster the middle of the Birds defense.
Meanwhile, Howie Roseman pulled off a draft day trade to add 25-year-old AJ Brown to the wide receiving corps.
He is best friends with Jalen Hurts as Hurts is the godfather to Brown's daughter.
Speaking of Hurts, Sirianni, who has coached Philip Rivers to many Pro Bowls; has never not supported Jalen Hurts to be their QB1.
Some people may reserve judgment on this but Hurts has made it clear that he wants to be coached hard and wants to be great.
There were games in 2021 when Sirianni was publicly very critical of Hurts, yet the friction never developed between head coach and QB.
The roster is much improved. The QB returns for his second year in the same system for the first time since he was at Alabama.
The holes of weakness have been filled and optimism is high as the off-season has flown by with nary an obstacle.
This season has high expectations. It now falls on St Nick to lead this franchise to double digit wins and a chance to claim the NFC East title away from the despised Dallas Cowboys.
It starts on September 11th in Motown. The honeymoon is over. I am excited to see where Sirianni can take this team. 11 wins and the NFC EAST title will put him in coach of the year candidacy.
There are 17 games to be played between now and then and he will get tested by the normal challenges of a season and a testy media market covering every move and a fan base that has always had little patience.
But deep down in the core of Nick Sirianni is a toughness and a metal that has built him Philly Tough for the season that lies ahead.
I believe in St Nick and I think the Eagles and the fans will share this belief as we navigate through his second season together. *