This is a step-by-step process that, frankly, is trimmed into segments of the day. As in, "Let's have a good meeting." And, "We really need to focus in on this practice." Then there's, "We're going to challenge each other in this conditioning session." The whole idea is to eliminate distractions, be where the feet are, and devote all concentration to that singular task. It's the Nick Sirianni Way and the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles have lived and breathed that mantra throughout an eventful season that continues on Sunday at FedEx Field against the Washington Football Team.
"We've preached the same thing and buying into our process and getting better every day," quarterback Jalen Hurts said in an exclusive interview for the most recent Eagles Insider Podcast. "Everybody has tried to label us in terms of what our identity is as a football team but that really didn't matter, nor did we care. It's always been about getting better every day. And day by day, as a group, we bought into that. Day by day, as a group, we grew to be on the same page. We're still striving for more of that every day. Nothing changes."
That's the mindset of this football team as it prepares for Sunday's NFC East game at Washington. Sirianni's Sayings ring true throughout the NovaCare Complex "one percent better," "doubling down on what we know to be true," "control what we can control," "rent is due," as the Eagles get ready for their second game against Washington in a span of 13 days. You remember when Sirianni talked about planting the seeds for success and made the analogy to a flower and the reaction from those outside the NovaCare Complex? Well, all of that has served him well, as the team's mindset has certainly been in lockstep with his direction.
"I think the team has achieved that mentality," Sirianni told me earlier in the week. "Why does the team achieve that mentality? Because we've got great leaders on this football team. 'Dawg mentality,' 'rent's due,' 'getting one percent better every day,' is not world-renowned, new learning for them. We all know that to be true and when you have something that is simple – and I kind of like having a coaching point that they know what I'm going to say before I say it. To me, that's always been good coaching when you can do that – and you have the leaders that we have on this football team that believe it and can go out and execute it each day; that's what we've been throughout the year."
What the Eagles have been is a team that has, truly, improved through the course of the season leading to this moment. They know they're playing a Washington team that was ravaged by COVID-19 and by injuries two weeks ago at Lincoln Financial Field and fell to the Eagles, 27-17. They know how difficult it is to beat a team twice in such a short period of time. They know that the fluid nature of the NFL means you have to remain nimble – Washington in recent days has put four key players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list – running back Antonio Gibson, starting right tackle Sam Cosmi, starting left guard Ereck Flowers, Sr and one of the best punters in the NFL, Tress Way – and that's how the Eagles have approached every day in this season.
Philadelphia starts the new year with an 8-7 record, having won five of its last six games. The Eagles won't have running back Miles Sanders, out with a broken bone in his hand. Running back Jordan Howard has been limited all week in practice with a stinger and is listed as questionable. Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell are prepared to handle the workload if it comes down to that. It's been the way it has gone all season – the next men up have prepared all season to play, so that when their numbers are called, they are ready for the responsibility.
"You have to be ready to go and I think that is one thing we've done extremely well throughout the team," safety Rodney McLeod said earlier in the week. "Prepare to be the starter, so that when it's your time, you are ready. It sounds like everybody would do that anyway, but that's not always the case. With this team, we've all taken that approach."
That comes from Sirianni, so as the final word of 2021, know that he has been the guiding force in his rookie season as the head coach. Sirianni and the Eagles are 8-7 after a string of early injuries hurt the team in the trenches, after they started 2-5, as they navigated the ongoing infection of COVID-19, and how they've grown together to reach a pivotal moment in the season.
"You haven't seen the very best of us," Hurts said. "We're still waiting for that day when we put it all together and say that we've played our best. Until then, we're always striving for more. I think that's the definition of what we're trying to accomplish here."