Eagles coach Sirianni says he didn't have to 'sell' front office on his return
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Sirianni had to explain Wednesday how the Eagles would move on this offseason — specifically by finding new offensive and defensive coordinators — after a 1-6 finish that seemed likely to lead to organizational upheaval.
What Sirianni didn’t have worry about? Owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman moving on from the third-year coach.
The 42-year-old Sirianni will return for a fourth season — just as he expected. For all the hot takes and swirling speculation about Sirianni’s job status in the wake of Philadelphia’s NFC wild-card playoff loss, it appeared his standing inside the NovaCare Complex was never in doubt.
“Did I have to sell my vision? No, because it was business as usual,” Sirianni said.
But somebody had to pay for the collapse of a team that reached the Super Bowl last season and started this one 10-1 before a seven-week meltdown. Sirianni said it was his decision to fire offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and defensive coordinator Sean Desai. Sirianni repeatedly called the offense “stale” and simply said he wanted to grow the defense.
Sirianni and Roseman were both light on specifics about preferred candidates and a timetable for hiring new coaches.
Even as news broke during Sirianni and Roseman’s news conference that Vic Fangio was out as the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, they refused to say if the former team consultant during last season's postseason run was a top candidate.
“We've got a lot of good targets that we're working through,” Sirianni said. “There's a lot of guys that have done really well in the interview process. We look forward to continuing that process and we'll see what happens.”
Johnson joined the Eagles as quarterbacks coach in 2021 and was promoted to offensive coordinator after Shane Steichen left to take the head job in Indianapolis. He has interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans this month.
Under Johnson’s guidance as an assistant, Jalen Hurts was a finalist for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 2022. Hurts regressed this season with Johnson calling the plays.
He threw a career-high 15 interceptions and his passer rating dropped to 89.1 from 101.5 last season.
Desai lost his play-calling duties to assistant coach Matt Patricia in December.
“Matt was in a tough situation. You can’t completely change the defense,” Sirianni said. “He was trying to make some things happen with, quite frankly, things that weren’t his defense. I know I put Matt in a tough spot. I know I put Sean in a tough spot, obviously. But at the time that I did that, I did it because I thought it was the best decision for the football team.”
Sirianni will call the shots on the new hires.
“I trust him with the coaching staff, that’s his responsibility,” Roseman said.
Roseman sounded like a GM who was ready to work with Sirianni for years to come.
“I’ve seen what he has done winning games,” Roseman said. “He's put us in a position where we're competing for a world championship. Putting us in position where every year we're in the playoff race. Those things are hard to find.”
That was also good enough for Lurie. The Eagles won their lone Super Bowl and lost two more since he bought the team in 1994.
“It was business as usual with how we go about the end-of-the-year meeting,” Sirianni said. “It was just normal. It wasn’t anything different than it’s been the last three years.
“In my mind, you better believe I’m thinking, how do I re-prove myself. I was a young coach that Mr. Lurie and Howie and this organization trusted to give the job to. I had to prove myself that this guy can lead the organization like they asked me to. I had to prove myself from then."
Sirianni has three playoff trips in three seasons, a Super Bowl appearance and wins in 67% of his regular-season games. Eagles veterans Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce — who plans to retire — were among Sirianni's staunchest defenders.
“I think the important thing for us to look at is, before the stretch, which was a difficult stretch, not diminishing the 1-6 stretch at the end, we were 26-5 over the last 31 games,” Roseman said. “That is hard to do in the National Football League. It is hard to find a head coach in this league who has that record of success.”
The Eagles were flying high after an overtime win against Buffalo on Nov. 26 gave them a 10-1 start for the second straight season. At that point, they had won 27 of the previous 29 regular-season games started by Hurts.
Everything unraveled after they were blown out at home by the San Francisco 49ers in the following game. Then, they got pounded at Dallas. A last-minute loss to Drew Lock and the Seahawks came next. After escaping with a win over the Giants on Christmas Day, they suffered consecutive losses to the lowly Cardinals and Giants.
That cost the Eagles the NFC East title and dropped them to the No. 5 seed, and they were soundly beaten at NFC South champion Tampa Bay in the playoffs.
“Of course there’s things that I’ll be adjusting,” Sirianni said. “You don’t just take a six-week stretch and say, ‘Boom, I’m scratching this entire philosophy.’ You look at it as a whole.”
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