PHOENIX – Nick Sirianni wakes up and goes. That's the life he leads, the life he loves as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and here at the NFL Annual Meeting, that's the agenda. He sits for 30 minutes with reporters and answers questions ranging from the composition of his coaching staff to the new players on the roster, to a new rule proposed to allow tenths of a second to be shown on the game clock with under one minute remaining in a half and the game.
Then he's off to a meeting with league owners, and on his way there, he's talking with a microphone in his face.
"You're always moving in this business," he says. "You never stop. You keep moving forward."
That's what he aims to do with the 2023 Eagles, understanding it is a new year and a new team with new challenges. The incredible run to Super Bowl LVII is in the past and, as Sirianni tells the reporters, you just don't look in the past in this business because each season is unique. The Eagles played into February, fell in a heartbreaking manner to Kansas City, and, hey, you rebound and press forward and you don't make excuses for a thing.
This is a football team that has so many great things going for it and Sirianni is on top of it all. He has new coordinators in Brian Johnson (offense) and Sean Desai (defense). The roster has new pieces, as is always the case. Free agency continues, with the Eagles adding pieces. The NFL Draft is a month away and two first-round picks are at the top of the order.
And his quarterback, Jalen Hurts, enters his fourth season as a premier player in what will be his third season in the same system. Remember how much the Eagles credited Hurts' development last season on the fact that it was the first time since high school he had been in the same system for a second consecutive year? Now it's Year 3 for Hurts and the Eagles.
"Even better, right? Even better," Sirianni said, smiling. "He just continues to get more familiar with the plays that we're running and he continues to make good, quick decisions and we'll build on that because he's got three years in the system."
The Eagles have brought in a handful of players who fit what Sirianni demands: Players who are talented, who are tough, who love football, who have character, and who share his core values. Sirianni lauds Desai for his organizational skills, for a scheme that has similarities to what Jonathan Gannon ran here, for his work ethic and thought process. Johnson has been here since Sirianni became head coach and helped develop Hurts, so the transition is a natural one. The new quarterbacks coach is Alex Tanney, a former NFL signal-caller who has been with the team for three years now and who has "killed it" with every responsibility, including assistant quarterbacks coach in 2022. See, the Eagles knew there would be a succession in a coaching staff and so the plan was carefully in place that Johnson would move to coordinator and Tanney would become the quarterbacks coach once former coordinator Shane Steichen moved on to become a head coach (he's now with Indianapolis).
"We have a lot of confidence and we know he can do the job and do the work," Sirianni said of Tanney. "Brian, he's ready to do this job. He's done this job as a coordinator in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) at Florida. No doubt he will excel at this job as well."
The NFL Annual Meeting ends on Wednesday and then Sirianni will return to the NovaCare Complex and the coaching staff and personnel team will dig in for the home stretch for the April 27-29 NFL Draft and the start of the team's offseason conditioning program. The Eagles are keeping their offseason program the same – there is a Rookie Minicamp the week after the Draft – and six selected Organized Team Activity days and an emphasis will be made, as it always is, on keeping the players healthy and fresh, especially after such a long 2022.
Having the players on the field is important, of course, but Sirianni and his staff made sure the importance of detailing every bit of the work along the way – in the classroom, in walkthrough practices – is accomplished.
"Everything. The way you approach everything. When you are out on the field, the way you practice. When you are in walkthroughs, going full speed to the snap. High, high detail in the meetings. We talk about that all the time," Sirianni said. "We'll continue that process and we'll continue to excel in those areas."
Some takeaways from what Sirianni told the reporters:
1. There is no "leader in the clubhouse" to replace Isaac Seumalo at right guard. The Eagles are extremely high on Cam Jurgens, who cross-trained at center and guard as a rookie. "We'll see where we go with him and we're excited that he's on our team and he adds major depth to our team," Sirianni said. "We feel good that he can play multiple positions." Jurgens is slated to step in when Jason Kelce is finished playing and, obviously, Kelce is returning for 2023. Jurgens and Jack Driscoll are those kinds of players to play multiple spots on the offensive line.
2. On the cornerback position with both Darius Slay and James Bradberry returning, Sirianni said, "It's huge to have them both back."
3. Sirianni praised wide receiver Quez Watkins for his ability to stretch the field with his speed and open up the underneath routes that A.J. Brown dominated in 2022. "Quez did a lot of things that really affected the game that don't show up in the stat sheet," Sirianni said. "The difference between last year (2021 43 receptions, 647 yards, one touchdown) and this year (2022 33-354-3) was opportunity. He didn't have as many opportunities."
4. On the safety depth chart, Sirianni said of second-year man Reed Blankenship: "Reed did a nice job last year of playing a lot of meaningful plays and starting games. No doubt we have confidence in him. We had confidence on a 16-4 team last year in him so we have a lot of confidence that he can do the same thing this year."
5. Sirianni likes the look of the team's running back room with Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, and Trey Sermon on board: "Love the addition of Rashaad and wanted to coach him for a long time. ... We all saw Kenny Gainwell have a really good playoff run and it seems like anytime Kenny is in the game, he makes plays. Boston (Scott) being back, that's huge. He's a guy you always want on your team.
6. Sirianni said the offense will "do what it has to do to win football games" and will use Hurts the same way as last year, with some wrinkles. "We have a special quarterback with special abilities," Sirianni said. As for adding Marcus Mariota as the backup, Sirianni said, "I've been wanting to coach him for a long time. Frank (Reich) and I worked him out in 2014 at Oregon in a private workout and we just thought the world of him as a person and obviously his play spoke for itself. He's very talented in a lot of different things he can do, he's played good football in the NFL."
Having two quarterbacks with mobility helps, Sirianni said, but that isn't the main reason Mariota is here. "We're excited to have him on this team," Sirianni said. Tanney and Mariota played together with the Titans and assistant coaches Jason Michael (Eagles tight ends coach) and Kevin Patullo (Eagles passing game coordinator) worked with Mariota in Tennessee – Michael was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach there and Patullo was an assistant wide receivers coach there.