PHILADELPHIA — You could see the frustration mounting as Friday’s practice wore on. Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni sprinted up the left sideline as one play unfolded so he could let the offensive players know where the execution was lacking the moment it ended. Not long after, one of the reserve running backs didn’t turn around in time to catch a Joe Flacco pass.
“Details!” Sirianni screamed.
Fifty-five minutes in, he blew his whistle and stopped practice in its tracks, gathering the players around him to point out the sloppy play, then turned it into a teaching moment.
“This could be a microcosm of the season,” Eagles veteran defensive end Ryan Kerrigan said. “There are times when you have your ups, you have your downs. What are you going to do when you get off to a slow start? You’ve got to pick yourself up. That was his message, and I think we finished practice stronger than we started.”
About a week into Eagles training camp, we’re starting to learn more about Sirianni’s style as he transitions from Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator to first-time head coach. His practices, for one, are shorter than is custom, lasting around one-and-a-half hours, sometimes less. But they’re action-packed, reminiscent of former Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s frenetic sessions.
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They fit his personality: high energy, constant motion, competitive, and a little chippy. Sirianni has more of an edge to him than advertised. He’s blunt in his assessment of players — speaking of quarterback Jalen Hurts‘ footwork recently, he said the “process [of addressing those fundamentals] is going well, but we are far from where we need to be” — and will make it known in real time when a player’s performance dips below expectation.
“He’s a high-energy coach. Guys are responding well. And he will chew some tail,” Eagles Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks said.
Added cornerback Darius Slay: “One thing we know about this team and this coaching staff that they’ve already harped on is, don’t take anything the hard way because they’re doing it out of love, they’re doing it out of respect. So when coach pulls us up like that, we’re not going to do nothing but respect him and try to go to work hard as we can for him.”
One sequence during Saturday’s practices highlighted Sirianni’s approach. He ran over to second-year wide receiver John Hightower to praise his toe-drag near the sideline following a catch, and the next minute was barking at him for making a mental error.
Just as Philadelphia is starting to get a better feel for Sirianni, he is learning more about the fan base he’s now in charge of pleasing.
“I’m on vacation at the [New Jersey] shore and there was a wedding going on in the hotel we were at. I walked by and one of the groomsmen noticed me, and said, ‘Can you wait right here? I’m going to go get the bride and groom,'” Sirianni told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio. “And the next thing you know, I’m taking pictures with the entire wedding party — the groomsmen, the bride, the groom, the mother of the groom, everybody. I was in there for about 20 minutes until my wife [looked at her watch and said] ‘It’s about time.’
“There was a lot of Eagles chants and there was a lot of playcall discussion. They gave recommendations. But my experiences with the fans, it’s really unbelievable how great this organization is and the fans that live in this city are as well.”
It is to be seen whether Sirianni continues to get invited to parties. He has no previous head-coaching experience, has assembled the youngest coaching staff in the NFL, and has taken over a 4-11-1 team wrought with dysfunction last season. Every decision is heavily scrutinized in this town, and every loss is taken as a personal affront.
But the coach said he knows “what I signed up for,” and to this point appears to have the backing of his players.
“He’s been exceptional thus far,” Brooks said, “love having him here.”