It doesn't take long to realize that new Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni absolutely loves the game of football.
In a very short period of time, Eagles Everywhere have gotten to see Sirianni excited on multiple occasions when talking about virtually any aspect of the game (banana routes, anyone?). To say that he wears his passion for the game on his sleeve would be an understatement.
And with the 2021 NFL Draft looming, Sirianni did not understate that he is looking for prospects who share his level of enthusiasm for the game.
Sirianni made it clear that talent is the top priority. But combining talent with football IQ and a deep burning passion for the game means that it is easier for Sirianni and his staff to maximize said player's ability.
"Yes, we're looking for certain skill sets and we're trying to explain when we're looking for these skill sets how we would use them and then what's inside of that player. What does he have in here," Sirianni said while pointing to his heart during a press conference Wednesday. "That's huge. That's huge, because that player is – again, I know I said it three times, I'm going to say it four times, that player is going to maximize his skill and his development."
In an effort to find those prospects, Sirianni has been working throughout the offseason with Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman and Vice President of Player Personnel Andy Weidl – who joined Sirianni on the dais Wednesday – to identify which players fit the coach's program.
Sirianni and his coaching staff intricately communicated what they were looking for from prospects, which made adjusting to a new regime very easy for Weidl and his scouts.
"We had an excellent week of meetings last week where you saw the chemistry between the coaching staff and the scouts develop and really evolve, and I think we're building on that, and I think what's even more exciting is that we're going to get all our scouts in here next week in person, and we're going to have that connection, and that chemistry is going to continue to build," Weidl said.
Being a head coach during the draft process was an adjustment in itself for Sirianni, as he now looks at the entire class as opposed to just one side of the ball. When Sirianni watched defensive ends in this year's class, for example, he evaluated them with his mind on how he would game plan against said player. He said Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon has done the same when it comes to offensive players.
"I love the process of being able to watch everybody," Sirianni said. "Shoot, I wish I would have been doing that for a long time as an offensive coach, because it really did help me not only give the perspective to the defense but also of what I thought further on the offensive players."
But the biggest adjustment all 32 NFL teams had to make was scouting from afar due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the pandemic forced the 2020 NFL Draft itself to be all virtual, the Scouting Combine took place before shutdowns were implemented across the country. With no Scouting Combine in 2021, the Eagles put an extra emphasis on the Senior Bowl, as it would be one of the few times they would see a lot of prospects outside of Pro Days.
According to Weidl, the Eagles typically interview about 15 or 16 players at the Senior Bowl. This year, they interviewed every player there, which amounted to about 128 interviews. That information was relayed back to Roseman and Sirianni, which led to follow-up virtual interviews with players who did not have the time constraints that are usually in place at the Combine.
According to Sirianni, the interviews allowed the Eagles to gather even more information than usual during a normal offseason. In essence, the Eagles were able to bring the Combine to Philadelphia.
"Our coaches did an unbelievable job of taking all the guys that we would have interviewed at the Combine in Indianapolis and would have had here in Philadelphia and interviewing all of those guys," Roseman said.
"So just really appreciative of coach and his staff to take all the time to do that, and we continue to do the other things that we do, the psychological reports, and put ourselves in the best possible situation for next week," Roseman added.
Next week is the culmination of all the work that Sirianni, Roseman, Weidl, and many others have been putting in for an entire year. Next week is the 2021 NFL Draft.
With everyone seemingly in lockstep heading into it, the only thing left to do is call up the prospects who best exemplify what it means to be a member of the Eagles and welcome them into the family.
"We're an extension of the coaching staff ultimately, the scouts, and we want to go out and find the players that best fit this program that are going to come in and hit the ground and go," Weidl said.
"I think when you have alignment between that and, like we had last week, you had a bunch of people talking about players, how they saw them, their viewpoint, and there's no ego involved. You're just trying to get the player right, and ultimately that's what we're trying to do is get the player right for the Philadelphia Eagles," he added. "When you have that alignment, and everybody is in sync, great things are possible."