When an organization does as much wrong as the Philadelphia Eagles have in recent years, the benefit of the doubt is lost among fans.
That, more than any other reaction to the hiring of Nick Sirianni as the team’s next head coach, is what stood out as immediate reaction poured in. Siranni is now starting his tenure behind the eight ball and will have to prove himself beyond just wins and losses both inside and outside his locker room.
But let’s pump the brakes for a minute on the biggest (and most damning) assumption about Sirianni. You know the one: The idea that he’s here only to coach and fix Carson Wentz.
I get why this is the strongest takeaway from the hire. I’ve read the tea leaves. We all know how much (and to its detriment) this Eagles front office adores, believes in and isn’t ready to give up on Wentz. We’ve heard the stories from insiders on how the Eagles still want to salvage this quarterback, and connecting the dots from Sirianni to Frank Reich and a successful past with Wentz under center here is impossible not to do.
Yet I’m a big believer in actions speaking louder than words, and reality trumping emotion when it comes to this kind of situation.
Yes, Sirianni looks like a hire designed for Wentz. But so would any offensive candidate, especially one with a background working with quarterbacks. We would be having the same conversation if this was Josh McDaniels or Joe Brady. When a $34M quarterback plays as poorly as Wentz did in 2020, any hire would look like an attempt to fix that problem.
And if Sirianni was hired strictly for the hope of being a Wentz whisperer, why in the world was he so far down the list of prospective candidates? If, say, the Eagles contacted the Colts to request this interview in the day or two after Doug Pederson’s dismissal, it would have felt clearer to me. Instead, this was just one of many interviews. It didn’t happen until the end, and after a slew of names (Jerod Mayo, Todd Bowles, Dennis Allen) that would have done nothing to serve the purpose many are assuming this coach is solely here to do.
Here’s the (likely) reality of this coaching search: The Eagles had no direction. They weren’t prepared. If I had to guess, the top choice was Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. Yes, Jalen Hurts’ college coach. Josh McDaniels was likely the top finalist, and his background and credentials scream "quarterback fixer" way more than Sirianni’s.
I have no doubt that the Eagles and Lurie hope Sirianni can fix Wentz, but I think it’s foolish to believe he will or that this hire is totally and 100 percent about the 34th ranked passer in the NFL. The Eagles can be shortsighted, but that would be ridiculous even by their standards.
Plus, as NFL history has shown us, that kind of thinking simply doesn’t work.
Here’s a headline from The Washington Post in the aftermath of Jay Gruden’s hiring in January 2014: “... hire of Jay Gruden puts team on path to fixing Robert Griffin III.”
Here’s one after the Sirianni news broke: “Job 1 for new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni is to fix Carson Wentz.”
And finally, one that emerged from D.C. about 18 months later: “Washington coach says RG3 is no longer the starting quarterback.”
It was assumed that Gruden was hired to fix Griffin III. The problem? Griffin wasn’t fixable. He wasn’t coachable. His physical gifts weren’t what they once were any longer. Despite his owner’s infatuation with him, the play on the field stunk. Sure, Gruden tried. Griffin started seven games in his first season. But backup Kirk Cousins started five. One year later, Cousins took the job outright, and Griffin’s career was done in Washington.
We’ve also seen this story play out here in Philadelphia before, albeit with less drama. Think back to the hiring of Chip Kelly and the assumption about his scheme and the personnel left behind by Andy Reid. Surely Mike Vick’s dual-threat ability would make him unstoppable with Kelly’s attacking offense, right? And that Nick Foles kid, the rookie who won one game at the end of the 2012 season? He didn’t really have a place in Kelly’s offense, right? By the end of October 2013, the team and offense belonged to the quarterback none of us would have assumed.
Sirianni may have told the Eagles that he has a plan for Wentz. He’ll try to fix him. My guess is that it won’t work. Hurts, much like Cousins then, feels like the loser of this coaching change in the moment. But I won’t be surprised if (or when) the two sons of coaches hit it off and the 22-year-old shows the new coach what he showed the previous one: His leadership and potential can’t be ignored.
Was Sirianni hired because he wouldn’t rock the boat? Of course, but I expected that going into the process. Is this a Roseman-Lurie production? You bet, just like it was when Pederson was hired in 2016. Did this all increase Wentz’s chances at coming back? There’s no doubt.
The Eagles have eroded faith we had in their process, but I’ll hold out hope on this front: Sirianni strikes me as a good coach, and one that will be more than just a Wentz fixer. The players’ ability (not the owner’s hopes and dreams) will decide this sooner than later. I’m a fan of Sirianni, and am willing to give him a chance to get the most out of what looks like a dire situation that may not be as ugly or predictable as it seems.