Somewhere within the stories of Boston Scott and Jordan Howard, two veteran running backs who enjoyed strong Training Camps and preseason performances and then had to wait to have their names called in the 2021 regular season, there is a Nick Sirianni Relatable Moment to be shared. Maybe it's something from his playing days that he has stored away, a tale to be told to a room full of his current players. Or maybe it happened in the dozen years he coached in the NFL before coming to Philadelphia – a player who waited, watched, and then grabbed that moment by the horns and never let go.
Surely Sirianni has a PowerPoint presentation to dust off and orate to his team for this very instance, for it has to happen all the time in the NFL, right? Doesn't it?
Turns out, no, Nick Sirianni does not have a story to tell and, no, it doesn't happen all the time. At least, not successfully as performed by both Scott and Howard, who combined for 117 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries Sunday in Detroit after weeks that saw Howard on the team's practice squad and Scott without a carry until the Week 7 game in Las Vegas after Miles Sanders was injured.
Sirianni didn't have a story to tell – until it happened with those two players.
"I think that's going to be a forever story," Sirianni said on Monday in our weekly one-on-one interview. "Maybe I don't have a story from my past, but they're going to be the prime examples of what you need to do, and how you need to be a pro and how you need to come to work every day and be ready when your number is called and when you do, I mean, what a great example for young guys that are backups right now, right? To see Jordan do what he did, or Boston to see what he did when they came in – Jordan hadn't had any carries – and he comes in and has 12 really good runs, physical runs, and scores two touchdowns. Same with Boston.
"We're really excited about that and they'll be my story moving forward."
Through the weeks, both Howard and Scott stayed focused and stayed ready, even without the game reps. That is the definition of a professional and it's something by which to judge a roster. By the end of this 17-game season, and moving forward, the Eagles are going to need all of them – all 53, all of the practice squad, all of the players they bring onboard through the course of the year – and the depth of the roster is essential to building a program. The guys who are playing every week, they're getting all the reps in practice and they know the role they're going to play on gamedays.
Everyone else has to be the next man up. And that isn't easy.
"You always want to keep them engaged and keep them interested, but that's something that those guys are no matter what," Sirianni said. "They know what it is to be a pro. There is no question why they've been in the league as long as they have been because they know how to be pros, they know how to work every single day and they know how to be ready even without reps."
Scott and Howard weren't the only ones to fill that bill on Sunday. Nate Herbig has been in and out of the lineup in his three seasons as an Eagle and on Sunday he stepped in for Jack Driscoll at right guard and the offensive line didn't skip a beat. T.J. Edwards had his chance for increased playing time at middle linebacker and delivered a team-high 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. Safety Marcus Epps has been in and out of the lineup all season and he knows what to expect. Greg Ward replaced an injured Jalen Reagor as the punt returner and had a nifty 12-yard return.
Things like that go a long way when you're establishing a football culture. You want everyone up. Everyone invested. Everyone alive. It's part of Sirianni's messaging that his players have embraced that they made so public last week.
"You want to see the fruits of your labor. You want to keep putting the work in. Whatever your messaging is, you want to keep driving it home so the roots grow and spread out and everything can spring up," Sirianni said. "That's everything. That's always satisfying in coaching when you're driving points home and it's getting through to your guys. The only reason you do that is to put the guys in the best position to succeed and help them succeed. That's what we're here for as coaches, to support our players and to help them succeed in any way we can."
The Story Man now has some new material, coming down the line – perhaps – in the NovaCare Complex in the not-too-distant future.