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The latest on the Birds: The final word from Nick Sirianni

Nick Sirianni
Nick Sirianni

The final word from Nick Sirianni

The week of practice is in the books. The Eagles will have a walkthrough and a mock game on Saturday and then the final countdown is on to Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

Head Coach Nick Sirianni addressed the media for the third time this week on Friday. Here are three key takeaways from the media session that included a reporter from Germany asking about the infamous Santa Claus snowball incident.

1. What happens if the Eagles win the coin toss?

The Eagles lost the coin toss to the Giants in the Divisional Round. The Giants allowed the Eagles to have the ball first on offense and deferred to the second half. What did the Eagles do? They marched down the field 75 yards in eight plays for a touchdown and never looked back.

When the Eagles have won the coin toss this season, they have deferred each time. Would that trend continue on Sunday?

"That doesn't necessarily mean that's always what our thought process is, depending on if they win and they decide that they are taking the ball, you don't really know what we are going to do at that point," Sirianni said.

"But we talk about that as well. We have philosophies for that and what we want to do. It doesn't mean that it's the same every game depending on who you play, depending on the weather. There's a lot of things that go into it, but yeah, that's always discussed as well."

2. Sirianni is proud of his team's toughness

The Eagles have handled every hurdle placed in front of their path this season.

They were the last undefeated team in the NFL and finished with the most wins in franchise history. They overcame injuries at key positions, as players like Jack Driscoll and Reed Blankenship stepped up in critical moments. They rallied back from deficits on the road against stout competition from teams like Houston, Indianapolis, and Chicago. With a bye week to prepare for the Divisional Round matchup with the Giants, they responded with a 31-point victory.

Over the past two years, Head Coach Nick Sirianni has preached the importance of instilling toughness in his team – both physical and mental. When the final seconds tick down in the fourth quarter, Sirianni wants a team that is going to be the toughest the longest.

"In my two years here, I've seen that with our guys of how physically and mentally tough they are. I say physically because you see that. You see them block well. You see them tackle well. You see them get off blocks well. You see them come after the football or protect the football with physicality and with toughness. So we know we're physically tough because they just keep showing it. It's not just something that we say we are. We see our guys do it over and over and over again with those particular things that we mentioned, and that's obviously always important in football," Sirianni said.

Shoot, that's important in every sport. I know that's the first thing I say to my kids is, hey, have fun, play hard, be physical. That's what I say to them before any sporting event that they play in because I know any sport the play physical part is very important. And then the mental toughness. The grind of what you go through in the season, and just sticking true to the process over and over again no matter how many weeks into this you are, how short you are into it, how long you're into it, just that mental grind, and I know all of our players have been through different things in their lives that have prepared them not only for life ahead but also football games, and through some of the things that we have all been through."

3. How will the Eagles handle the big stage?

This is the 49ers' third trip to the NFC Championship in four seasons. This is the first go-around for the vast majority of players on the roster, but that doesn't mean the young Eagles have never been in the spotlight – just not in the NFL.

"I talk about that all the time with dawg mentality," Sirianni said. "Like the best players, the best teams that I've been around, best coaches I've been around can be able to lock themselves into the moment they are in and focus on the task at hand only.

"I think the cream rises to the top at the biggest moments, and so it's the work that they put in. There's no doubt it's the talent that they have, the work that they put in for it, but it's also their mentality of, 'Hey, I'm here, but I'm not treating this game like any differently than I treated the last game. I'm treating this game with everything like I treated the last game and everything like I got treated the game before that. I'm completely locked in the moment and I'm not thinking about anything but how to do my job and how to make plays. I'm not thinking about the magnitude of the game, the magnitude of the moment, what happened to me the play before, what's going to happen to me after this.' They are just locked in." – Chris McPherson, 6:04 PM, January 27, 2023

Trey Sermon
Trey Sermon

Trey Sermon started the season with the 49ers

Is this a story-comes-full-circle kind of story? In a way, it is. Trey Sermon joined the Eagles just before the start of this 2022 regular season after he was waived by the San Francisco 49ers, a team that used a third-round draft pick on Sermon a year earlier. With the 49ers coming to Lincoln Financial Field for Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Sermon has an interesting perspective on the whole situation.

"I'm not surprised that we're playing them in this game," said Sermon, who has been active for two games this season and has two carries for 19 yards. "I knew they would be a good team when I was there, and once I got here and saw what we had, I knew right away what kind of team this could be. So, no, I'm not surprised at all. This is a good matchup, the two best teams in the conference."

San Francisco has long had an effective run game, and Sermon, who had 41 carries for 167 yards and a touchdown in 2021 for the Niners after a dominating career at Oklahoma and Ohio State, says the dedication to the run game and the way the 49ers execute is the reason why.

"I feel like they're very efficient when they run the ball," Sermon said. "They love to run it and they love to get their guys in space. They have a lot of playmakers and they are successful."

Sermon says this year has been "a learning experience." He had to digest the offense on the go and he's done that, and the Eagles have stayed healthy at the running back position, so Sermon has been inactive for all but two games. He had two carries for 19 yards against the Jaguars and then was active and played three offensive snaps the following week at Arizona.

Otherwise, Sermon has watched from the sidelines on gamedays.

"I just take everything one day at a time and the opportunities that I get, I take advantage of them. It's been about working on my craft and staying ready for when they call my number," he said. "It hasn't been hard to stay focused and keep working hard. Honestly, I could have learned that approach last year and it would have been good for me. I know that I have to stay ready, so it hasn't been too hard for me to stay focused. I know that I'm a good player and that I can be a great running back in this league, so I continue to work on my craft and be ready." – Dave Spadaro, 2:31 PM, January 27, 2023

Nick Sirianni
Nick Sirianni

Nick Sirianni has a message for the fans

There is always a message, and Head Coach Nick Sirianni thinks long and hard and plans out what he's going to say to his team and how he is going to deliver it every day. The Eagles have certainly followed his lead through two seasons, and the results are impressive: The Eagles are in the NFC Championship Game in Sirianni's second season and have been in the postseason in both years he's been here.

He has another message, and this time it's for the fans. And it's very similar to the one he had last week for quarterback Jalen Hurts.

"Somebody asked me last week what my message was to Jalen going into this game. It's his second playoff game, what's your message to Jalen? Be you. That would be my same message to our great fans, our great city is just be you," Sirianni said on Thursday. "The reputation of having to come into Philadelphia and play is the reputation that we have because it is intimidating and it's loud and it's hype. They are passionate fans; we have great passionate fans. Be who you have been for the entire time the Eagles have been here.

"(Defensive Coordinator) Jonathan Gannon always jokes around about when he was in 2017, when he was with the Vikings and they came into Lincoln Financial Field in the NFC Championship Game. Every time he talks about it, he's like, 'Woah, that was intense.' We were talking about that. Make the other team, right – where are the cameras (Sirianni looks at the cameras lined up in the NovaCare Complex auditorium for his press conference) – make the other team say, 'Whoa,' like Jonathan Gannon did.

"So that would be my message."

Fans, bring your "A" game on Sunday against San Francisco, just like you always do, and make it a true home-field advantage. – Dave Spadaro, 9:04 PM, January 26, 2023

T.J. Edwards
T.J. Edwards

T.J. Edwards knows all about being overlooked in the draft

The San Francisco 49ers, led by the 262nd and final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, are the only team standing between the Eagles and a trip to Arizona to play in Super Bowl LVII.

Despite his seven-game win streak as a starter, quarterback Brock Purdy is commonly referred to as "Mr. Irrelevant." But on Thursday, linebacker T.J. Edwards reminded reporters that a player's draft status means naught on the field.

"He's shown – really well, that he's capable of winning big-time games. He extends plays while he's making the right decisions. He's got a great offense with him to manage that as well. So he's done all the right decisions so far," he said.

Edwards knows what it's like to be overlooked. Unlike Purdy, Edwards didn't hear his name called at all during the 2019 draft – the Eagles signed him as an undrafted rookie.

But Edwards persevered, proving his capability in the league as early as his first Training Camp. He was one of only two rookie free agents to earn a spot on the Eagles' 2019 opening-day roster.

"I know about people pegging people at certain things in terms of the draft and all that," Edwards said.

Since then, his stock has only risen – Edwards has started all but two games he's played in since his sophomore campaign. His fourth season as an Eagle has been his best yet, Edwards had the second-highest solo tackle total of all linebackers in the NFL this season. His 159 total tackles are the second most in franchise history, trailing Byron Evans in 1992 (175).

"I came in just wanting to get better at every part of my game. I think being a part of the scheme last year kind of gave me confidence. It's easy to go out there and say you want to do all these things, but once you show yourself that you can do it, it gives you that confidence that you can go out there every week and do it and that's where I feel like I'm at right now," said Edwards.

"I just want to come in, keep being me, keep getting better, keep doing my job. There are so many great players around me that if we all just do our jobs, good things will happen."

And good things have happened. His first NFC Championship Game is in sight, and in just four seasons, he's transformed from a rookie fighting for a spot to a defensive leader in both statistics and the locker room.

Alongside Kyzir White and Haason Reddick, Edwards has committed to guiding the young linebackers' room toward success, just like others did for him.

"I've had guys here for a long time, who showed me the way, showed me how to approach this, this business, this media, and understand that this building is a special place. It's got great people here. I just had to embrace it all, I don't want to do be anything that I'm not," Edwards said.

"I've had some really good leaders that have been here and are still here, that have really helped me a lot. So, it's a blessing, and it's an honor."

As Sunday approaches, his role is more important than ever – at the NovaCare Complex, he's continued to emphasize Head Coach Nick Sirianni's messaging to the young contingent.

"I definitely try to use my voice as much as I can try to show everyone that, we're calm, we're all in place, and we're all gonna be just fine." – Sage Hurley, 7:34 PM, January 26, 2023

Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox

Fletcher Cox embraces D-line depth

The idea all along was to build a deep and interchangeable defensive line that would move pieces on and off the field and keep everyone fresh. At no time, not when the Eagles used a first-round draft pick on Jordan Davis and not when they signed veterans Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh during the season, did Fletcher Cox feel compromised. Quite the opposite, really.

Having more talent around him helped Cox play outstanding football throughout 2022 – he registered 7 quarterback sacks, 43 total tackles, and 14 quarterback hits, his best numbers in those categories since the 2018 season – and he is fresh and ready to get after it on Sunday against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Cox played 65 percent of the defensive snaps this season both at tackle and at the end position, he stayed healthy throughout the season, and he is part of a strong defensive line group that has worked smoothly.

"I feel great. I think Howie (Roseman) did a really good job of bringing in guys that can ball," Cox said. "(Ndamukong) Suh and Linval (Joseph) and Jordan (Davis) playing a different position than he did earlier in the year, still playing some nose. Milton (Williams), I mean, all those guys. To me, it's not a 'starter' group. To me, it's 1A and 1B because there's not a drop off. We hold each other accountable. We know what that guy's job is to do and in order for us to be really, really good, which we talked about early in the season, there can't be a drop off and I think guys stood up to it." – Dave Spadaro, 5:31 PM, January 26, 2023

Howie Roseman
Howie Roseman

Howie Roseman named Executive of the Year

The Pro Football Writers Association named Howie Roseman as the Executive of the Year on Thursday. Since the honor was established in 1993, Roseman is just the fourth general manager to win it multiple times. He also won the award in 2017 when the Eagles went from last place in the NFC East to Super Bowl Champions.

In 2022, Roseman shaped a roster that All-Pro center Jason Kelce said on Thursday had "really good depth, we got some old guys, we got some young guys," as the Eagles won five more games than the 2021 squad, as well as their first playoff game since the 2018 season.

Armed with three first-round picks entering the offseason, Roseman made a bold move with the New Orleans Saints that allowed the Eagles to keep two first-round picks while earning premier draft capital over the next two seasons.

While the offensive side of the ball remained largely intact from the previous year, Roseman pulled off a blockbuster trade on the first night of the draft to acquire Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans. In his debut year, Brown set the franchise record for most receiving yards in a season, while earning second-team All-Pro honors.

Roseman's staff reconfigured the defense with moves in the draft (All-Rookie Team selection Jordan Davis), free agency (All-Pro cornerback James Bradberry, All-Pro edge rusher Haason Reddick, key starter Kyzir White), trades (league-leader in interceptions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson), and in-season additions (defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh). The Eagles set franchise records with a league-best 70 sacks, 477 points scored, and 59 touchdowns. The team was also highly ranked in the NFL in a slew of primary statistical categories on both sides of the ball.

Under Roseman, the Eagles have balanced the present and the future as the team will have multiple first-round picks and three total picks in the first two days of the 2023 NFL Draft, and have salary-cap flexibility to extend players or acquire veterans in free agency. – Chris McPherson, 5:00 PM, January 26, 2023

Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham

Brandon Graham's wisdom, veteran experience just as critical as his play

The NFC Championship backdrop is up and Head Coach Nick Sirianni noted the lights in the NovaCare Complex auditorium seemed to shine a bit brighter.

There are only four remaining teams in the NFL playoffs – as the focus is locked on Philadelphia, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Cincinnati. Four days out from Sunday's all-important 49ers vs. Eagles game, the grandeur of the moment is sinking in.

But still, as it's been all season, the team's collective mindset hasn't changed. Leadership is woven within the identity of the locker room and staff, and because of that, the Eagles are unflappable.

"We treat it like a regular week, you stay consistent on your regimen and do what you do. We know what's out there. We know we're one game away, but it's no pressure. We've been working our butt off for this moment. All we got to do is stay consistent with what we've been doing," said defensive end Brandon Graham.

In his 13th year as an Eagle, Graham knows what it takes to make it this far. He knows what it takes to push even further.

He arrives at the NovaCare Complex before 7:30 AM each day, blocking time into his schedule to heal his body in the steam room and sauna. His commitment to staying in peak condition is paramount – he spent the offseason diligently attacking rehab, persevering through a ruptured Achilles last season. He wanted to ensure he'd be able to contribute in a big way this year.

That's why, at 34 years old, he recorded a career-high 11 sacks and he's not slowing down.

"I do feel like I'm still pass-rushing the same. Still being able be dominant in the run game. And just, really just enjoying being a leader for the guys," said Graham.

"Coming off the bench, man, I can see a lot. I can see a lot to help Haas (Haason Reddick) and Sweaty (Josh Sweat). We all be talking about what we see out there. I try to be that shining light for them guys, as far as you know, trying to make sure that they keep on elevating their game and make sure that they know what we see on the sideline."

Graham has embraced his role in this season's scheme, supplementing the Eagles' defensive line with fresh energy off the bench. But his greatest contribution, perhaps, is his role as a team leader in the Eagles locker room.

Alongside fellow long-tenured career Eagles, Fletcher Cox (11th year), Lane Johnson (10th year) and Jason Kelce (12th year), Graham is guiding young players toward the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in football. There's just one game ahead of them.

"When I first got the job here, I said I wasn't like other first-year head coaches. Why do I say that? Because I had these unbelievable players that have been to the mountaintop that have played in this league for 10-plus years – two on the offensive line, two on the defensive line – and that's a huge, huge advantage to have those leaders on your football team," said Sirianni.

"We have great people on this football team and we have great leaders on this team, and so to have those guys that have been to the top of the mountain and know what it takes, we've got great leaders and they lead the way with how you practice, with how you prepare, how you play in any game, and they've been in this game."

As the spotlight settles on Philadelphia, Graham, drawing on his own experiences, is committed to making certain his team is ready to get the job done.

"I just tell the guys to just stay focused on your details on what it is that got us to this point. Don't let those little details slip because of the moment. Don't get caught up in the hype," Graham said. – Sage Hurley, 5:50 AM, January 26, 2023

Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen
Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen

Jalen Hurts, Shane Steichen named finalists for NFL Honors

On Wednesday, the Associated Press announced that quarterback Jalen Hurts is one of three finalists for the 2022 NFL Most Valuable Player Award and one of five finalists for the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.

His trusted play-caller, Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen, is a finalist for Assistant Coach of the Year.

The honors are well-deserved, considering the mounting successes the Eagles have claimed this year, particularly when the ball's been in their possession. The Eagles' offenses' robust 2022 resume is due in large part to Hurts' and Steichen's efforts – here's a glimpse of what the Eagles have accomplished:

• Scored a franchise-record 477 points in 2022, including team records in total TDs (59), scrimmage TDs (57), and rushing TDs (32). The Eagles' 32 rushing TDs tied for the 3rd-most in league history.

• Became just the fifth NFL team since 1970 to rush for 25+ TDs in consecutive seasons.

• Finished the regular season with franchise records in third-down conversion rate (45.9%, previously 45.7% in 2021) and red zone TD efficiency (67.8%, previously 66.7% in 2019).

Hurts' impact on the outcome of Eagles games is incomparable. In just his third NFL campaign – his second as a full-time starter – Hurts led the team to a 14-1 record. That's a .933 winning percentage.

Always focused and never boastful, Hurts' regular season stat sheet speaks for itself.

• Completed 306-of-460 attempts (66.5 percent) for 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions.

• Rushed for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns.

• Tied the Eagles' single-season record with 35 total TDs.

• Became the fourth NFL QB since 2000 to lead his team to 14+ wins while registering 35+ total TDs and 8-or-fewer giveaways, joining Patrick Mahomes (2020), Aaron Rodgers (2011), and Tom Brady (2010).

The Eagles rely on him as much for his powerful arm and propelling legs as they do for his unnerved attitude and desire to win. He guides them through the intensity of gamedays and the monotony of weekdays.

Hurts' leadership has paid off in huge dividends, to the tune of an NFC Championship berth.

"I mean, I think he should win it. I think he's been the biggest piece of what we've done this year," said tight end Dallas Goedert.

"I think he's been incredible all year. It's obviously an incredible thing for him, an incredible achievement to be up there."

Unsurprisingly, Hurts was not aware of his recognition until it was referenced by a reporter during his weekly media availability.

"I am at a loss for words," Hurts said. It was all he had to offer.

Sirianni, on the other hand, hasn't stopped singing his praises.

"He's always here. He's always here. And he grew up in a football family. His dad (Averion) is a football coach. Speaking from another guy whose dad is a football coach, you don't leave that building and his DNA – it's in his DNA to be here at all times working on his craft. Whether that's in the weight room, whether that's in the training room, whether that's in the film room, this guy is obsessed with getting better. He's obsessed with getting better," said Sirianni.

"The thing I really admire about that is that he doesn't allow – again, the season can go like this (motioning up and down), right, and it does that and that's just the nature of the season, but he doesn't allow the highs or the lows of the season dictate his next move. He is so even-keeled and so locked in. That will to win. Again, it's all that, it's all him being here, him leading his teammates, him connecting with his teammates, all those different things."

While excited for their teammates, the NovaCare Complex was abuzz with talk of Eagles whose names weren't on this list of finalists, but probably should've been.

Sirianni guided the Eagles to a franchise-record 14 wins, a five-game improvement over 2021, while capturing the No. 1 seed and the NFC East crown in a division that featured three playoff teams and none with a losing record.

Defensive end Brandon Graham was well deserving of Comeback Player of the Year honors. At 34 years old, Graham is the oldest player with 11+ sacks since Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs in 2017 – and he did it all months after suffering a ruptured Achilles that ended his 2021 season early.

"I'm not really worried. I'm just happy that I'm on a winning team this year. I'm happy the way our team, bounced back from last year and for me, bouncing back from an injury that a lot of people don't normally come back from," said Graham.

"In my mind, I came back from it, I'm thankful for it. I'm just trying to make sure I finish out the deal by giving everything I got, then we can talk about it after the season's over with."

Despite Graham's positive outlook, right tackle Lane Johnson took to Twitter to express his disapproval.

So did Haason Reddick, whose edge-rushing prowess dominated opposing quarterbacks all season long. He excelled across the board – tied for second in the league with 16 sacks, knotted at first in forced fumbles with five. He even became the first player to record 10+ sacks in three years on three different teams. Still, his name wasn't listed. Nick Bosa, who did make the cut as a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, will line up at defensive end for the 49ers on Sunday. – Sage Hurley, 5:50 AM, January 25, 2023

Jalen Hurts
Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts says the Eagles have not arrived

Jalen Hurts met the media on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex and was informed, as he sat in front of the NFC Championship Game banner and with more national media in attendance than at any other time this season, that he was a finalist for the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player Award.

"I put the work in. I think it's a cool honor," Hurts said. "I really don't have much to say about it. I'm at a loss for words for it, to be honest."

Hurts also reminisced about the 2019 meeting against quarterback Brock Purdy, now with the 49ers, when the two were in college – Purdy at Iowa State and Hurts at Oklahoma, won by the Sooners in a shootout – before talking about his competitive fire and looking forward to Sunday's game against San Francisco.

"I think I just have the desire to win," he said. "I put the work in for it. I try to be diligent with everything. I try to be the best teammate and leader that I can be and ultimately try to set the pace and set the temperature of the room. I think the thing about leadership, and I say it all the time, is people lead because their peers let them lead and that takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of sacrifice. It takes a lot of trust, and ultimately all of those things bring respect.

"I think as a team, we've come a very long way and the beautiful thing about everything is that we've continued to just try and climb. I tell them (teammates) all the time, 'There is no point when you have arrived, there's only the journey,' and we just want to continue to live on that journey, definitely taking steps in the right direction, making daily deposits, and putting the work in every day, staying true to ourselves and our process."

Hurts has been consistent with his message and, with that, his performance, as the Eagles have marched through the season. He and the offense now face their biggest challenge: San Francisco's defense is ranked No. 1 in the league and has no apparent weaknesses. He says he is "enjoying the moment," along with his teammates and they are working to probe for holes in the 49ers' unit.

They are hard to find. This is a top-notch defense but, of course, the Eagles have an offense that they believe in very, very much.

"They're really good all across the board and I think it starts off with their front seven and then having a really good defensive back group," Hurts said. "They fly to the ball, they're disruptive at every position. They're well-coached, so we have a task in front of us. We have a really big challenge in front of us, so as always, we just want to go out there and execute and try and be efficient." – Dave Spadaro, 6:18 PM, January 25, 2023

A.J. Brown
A.J. Brown

A.J. Brown 'good to go' for Sunday's NFC Championship Game

There is nothing to see here, wide receiver A.J. Brown said on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex, cameramen and reporters waiting breathlessly on every word after he was seen a bit frustrated and sore late in Saturday's 38-7 win over the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game.

He's ready to play. Full strength. No looking back. Ready to be A.J. Brown.

"I'm good to go. That's all you need to know," Brown said, smiling. "It's a new week. We're in the NFC Championship and we're moving forward. It wasn't nothing serious, and I'm moving forward. I know I've got a big week ahead of me, so that's the only thing I'm worrying about. I'm not worried about that (late in game Saturday), and I don't think nobody should, because it's nothing to worry about.

"That's it."

So we're moving on, and Brown figures to be a huge part of the Eagles' offense on Sunday against San Francisco's defense. He's been a star all season, so there is no reason to think he will be anything otherwise on Sunday. Brown played in the AFC Championship Game with Tennessee two seasons ago at Kansas City, so he's accustomed to the stage.

Brown has tremendous respect for what the 49ers do defensively.

"I think it comes down to making plays, making every drive count. The most physical team will win," said Brown, who said he has no injury of any kind, so that is not the least bit of a concern. "They're very physical. Fly around. Communicate real well. Gotta make plays." – Dave Spadaro, 6:14 PM, January 25, 2023

Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts to be honored by Maxwell Football Club

On Wednesday, Maxwell Football Club Director, Mark Wolpert announced that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has been selected as the winner of the 64th Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year Award, and that Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has been chosen as the winner of the 34th Greasy Neale Professional Coach of the Year Award.

In only his 3rd NFL season, Hurts exploded into one of the league's most dangerous offensive weapons accumulating 3701 passing yards, and 22 touchdowns, and adding an additional 760 yards and 13 scores on the ground. Hurts set an all-time Eagles record with 35 total regular season touchdowns this season while leading the Eagles to a 15-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship game vs the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. In addition to his Bert Bell honor, he was named to the Pro Bowl and also selected as a 2nd team All-Pro by the Associated Press.

Hurts joins an elite list of Eagles players including; Norm Van Brocklin (1960), Pete Retzlaff (1965), Ron Jaworski (1980), Randall Cunningham (1988-1990-1998), Michael Vick (2010) and Carson Wentz (2017) to win the Bert Bell Award.

In his 2nd season as head coach, Nick Sirianni has led the Eagles to a 15-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship game, punctuated by a dominating 38-7 win over the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. Along the way, the Eagles won the NFC East championship and shattered numerous team records including: most wins in a regular season (14), most points scored in a season (447) and most sacks in a season (70). The Eagles have been dominant on both sides of the ball with a smothering defense and an innovative offense which deploys weapons that are virtually impossible to defend. Prior to being named as the Eagles head coach, Sirianni was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts.

Sirianni joins former Eagles Coaches, Ray Rhodes (1995), Andy Reid (2000-2002-2010), Chip Kelly (2013), and Doug Pederson (2017) as winners of the Greasy Neale Coach of the Year Award.

Hurts and Sirianni will be honored Thursday March 9, 2023 at the 86th Maxwell Football Club National Awards Gala which will be held at the Mohegan Pennsylvania Resort. – Per Maxwell Football Club Press Release, 10 AM, January 25, 2023

The fans will get after the 49ers on Sunday.
The fans will get after the 49ers on Sunday.

'I can only imagine what it's going to be like on Sunday'

Big Play Slay says it's "magnificent." Jalen Hurts calls it "beautiful." Brandon Graham describes the "roar."

"To go into Philly, which is a fantastic atmosphere, I don't know if there's ... You could say ..."

49ers tight end George Kittle paused. He, like most players and coaches across the league, knows the lore of Eagles fans and their fervor for football. He can only imagine what's in store for his team as they prepare to enter a city lit up green.

"It's going to be cold and violent. It's going to be a blast."

Atmosphere is everything, and year after year, home-field advantage has proved its influence over the outcomes of Eagles games at Lincoln Financial Field. This Sunday will be no different – tickets on Tuesday morning sold out in minutes for the 3 PM showdown in South Philadelphia.

Last weekend's raucous crowd is expected to roar even louder than before as the Eagles have the opportunity to advance to the Super Bowl with a win against San Francisco.

"You could feel the energy, and it's awesome. This is one of the best atmospheres that you're going to get in the National Football League, and obviously being the Championship Game, it'll be heightened," Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.

Gannon knows how it feels to be on the other side of it. On Tuesday, he recalled the last NFC Championship Game Philadelphia hosted five years ago – the Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 to advance to the Super Bowl. He was an Assistant Defensive Backs/Quality Control Coach on the Vikings' staff that year.

"Final Four at the Linc. Expect it to be electric in there. I was here for a Final Four game, and it was electric, best environment I've ever been at or a part of. We're excited," Gannon said.

Philadelphia hosted the Vikings a week after the Minneapolis Miracle walk-off win to beat the Saints. At the time, Gannon didn't think anything could compare to what he witnessed that day. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, he realized he was wrong.

He says the environment at Lincoln Financial Field absolutely steered the game in favor of the Eagles.

"I did. I really did. In warmups, a guy that I was coaching, he looked at me with a look in his eye like, whoa. (Vikings safety) Harrison Smith. I said, whoa, back. You could feel the energy, and it's awesome," Gannon recounted.

Gannon said he often jokes with Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman about his early-career aspirations to make it to Philadelphia, so he'd get to be with the home team for playoff games at Lincoln Financial Field. This year, his hopes came to fruition.

For Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen, his inaugural gameday at the Linc was the Eagles' 2021 home opener against this week's opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. He'd heard the stories of Philadelphia fans, but still, the crowd exceeded his expectations.

"Without a question. I think it's one of the best venues. Not one of, I think it is the best venue in the NFL," said Steichen.

Last Saturday's playoff game against the Giants only solidified his stance.

"It was incredible," Steichen said. "I can only imagine what it's going to be like on Sunday. I'm fired up for the Linc to be rocking, I know that."

The parking lots will be packed with green, the seats will be filled, and the stadium will shake when the team emerges from the tunnel on Sunday afternoon. It sounds predictable, but Philadelphia fans never fail to send a shock to opposing teams. - Sage Hurley, 8:02 PM, January 24, 2023

Magnificent. Roaring. Beautiful. Those are the words that Eagles' players used to describe Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night. Here are some of the best photos from the team's win, featuring fans who make home games so special.

Nick Sirianni
Nick Sirianni

Youth is served at the quarterback position

A relaxed and eager – and always entertaining – Nick Sirianni met the media via teleconference on Monday afternoon from the NovaCare Complex and addressed a variety of topics as the Eagles dig into their preparation for Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. Here is what Sirianni had to say ...

1. On injuries

The picture is a good one for the Eagles. Sirianni said he is "excited about the health of our football team," and that's a great feeling to have to start the week. Cornerback Avonte Maddox, out since suffering a toe injury in the Christmas Eve game against Dallas, will run around and go through some drills this week as the Eagles evaluate his chances to play against San Francisco. Sirianni said he was "hopeful" about Maddox, but that the talented cornerback had to show where he was physically before a more specific determination could be made. Wide receiver A.J. Brown "was going through a little something with his body that was hurting him" at the end of the win over the Giants, but the Eagles feel like he will be ready to go for the 49ers. And there was no mention of right tackle Lane Johnson, who played at a high level on Saturday as he returned from the groin injury that sidelined him, so that's a great thing. Johnson is set to go. The roster is healthy. Excellent news.

2. On the young quarterbacks

Jalen Hurts, in his third season, and Brock Purdy, the rookie sensation for San Francisco, take center stage in this one and their combined ages – 47 years, 203 days – make them the youngest starting combination in conference championship history. They actually met in the 2019 season – Hurts' Oklahoma Sooners beat Purdy's Iowa State Cyclones 42-41 as Purdy threw five touchdown passes in a comeback effort and Hurts had three touchdown passes and two touchdown runs – and Sirianni feels very strongly that Hurts, in his first NFC Championship Game, will seize the moment with his usual poise and approach to the game.

"Just because the moment is big doesn't mean (Jalen is) all of a sudden going to change who he's been for the past three years that he's been in Philadelphia. He's going to have that same demeanor. You just don't all of a sudden change just because the situation changes," Sirianni said. "That's what we think as a team, and I know Jalen, he's going to be locked in, and he's going to work and prepare every day to be ready for this game, and he's going to be ready to go. I know that. He's going to be that same calm, steady person that he is each and every week. You just don't automatically change. That's obviously a really important trait to have as your leader, as your quarterback, somebody that doesn't ride the waves of the season, doesn't ride the waves of a game. He stays steady and is truly in the moment of the next play."

As for Purdy, Sirianni is well aware of him since he played at Iowa State. Sirianni is friends with Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell, Sirianni's teammate at Mount Union College when the two played collegiately there.

"Just that he's a winner," Sirianni said of Purdy. "Obviously, I always follow Iowa State and their program because I have so many college teammates and roommates that coach there. Since Matt became the head coach at Iowa State, I've always followed them, and obviously stay in touch with Matt. But you saw what he did for that program, right. Matt is obviously a great head coach, but he got a great quarterback in Brock Purdy, and you saw what he did for that program. And all the things he did for them.

"I checked the score, Purdy had an awesome game, and they won again. That's what I notice with him, that he's a winner. Obviously when you're close with other coaches like that and you have conversations back and forth, this is going back to when Brock was at Iowa State, like, 'Hey, what are you guys doing on the tape right here, this looked good, this and that.' The common theme always from them is, 'Hey, we've got a quarterback that can lead the way and find the right place to go with the football consistently, who's just a playmaker.'"

3. On the San Francisco defensive scheme

Sirianni noted that the NFL's No. 1 (San Francisco) and 2 (Philadelphia) defenses, units that don't rely on a lot of blitzes or man-to-man coverage, are playing in the NFC Championship Game, likely making a reference to those who have been critical of the Eagles' defensive approach.

Sirianni understands that the 49ers are loaded with talent and coordinator DeMeco Ryans, the former Eagles linebacker and a candidate to be hired in a head coaching role in the weeks ahead, has the 49ers playing hard and very, very well.

"This is a talented team. Obviously, you mentioned those two guys (linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw), and I have a lot of respect for them," Sirianni said. "Then they have good players all across the defensive line headlined by (Nick) Bosa and (Arik) Armstead. Their corners, they have the guy from Kansas City (Charvarius Ward) that I thought was a really good player there last year as we were watching guys that were free agents. The safeties can really cause havoc in there." – Dave Spadaro, 7:57 PM, January 23, 2023

Jalen Hurts
Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts' transcendent performance has the Eagles within one win of Super Bowl

When describing Jalen Hurts' performance in the quarterback's first playoff win, Head Coach Nick Sirianni went to another sport.

Sirianni asked the media to name the greatest point guard in Sixers history and was told it is Hall of Famer Mo Cheeks. Sirianni cited how Hurts' ability to efficiently run an offense that scored 28 points in the first half, totaled 416 yards, amassed 26 first downs, converted a franchise-playoff-record-tying 71.4 percent of third downs, went 4-of-5 in the red zone, and not turn the ball over was like a point guard.

Sirianni then couldn't contain himself when explaining the intangibles Hurts brings to the table, evoking the name of the all-time great Michael Jordan.

"To have him out there is like – I know this is high praise, but to have him out there is like having – I shouldn't even go there – it's like having Michael Jordan out there. He's your leader. He's your guy," Sirianni said.

"Hopefully that's the biggest respect I can pay to him, comparing his ability to being on the field to a Michael Jordan type. This guy leads. He brings this calmness to the entire team. He plays great football. He's as tough as they come."

A prime contender for the league's MVP award, the 24-year-old Hurts compiled a 112.2 passer rating, the third-highest in Eagles playoff history. He became just the second quarterback in Eagles playoff history (Donovan McNabb) to throw for two touchdowns and run for another.

Hurts and the offense set the tone immediately. On the second play from scrimmage, Hurts loosened up the Giants' defense with a pinpoint accurate throw on a deep over route to DeVonta Smith. Hurts later converted a third-down play with a throw to wide receiver A.J. Brown and capped off the drive with a touchdown toss to tight end Dallas Goedert, who made a spectacular one-handed grab on the run.

The Eagles were up 7-0 and never looked back.

"I think it was very important for us to come out and start fast," Hurts said. "As a football team, we just came out and played with a lot of energy. We prepared really well throughout the week, and you're always talking about challenging everybody to play their best ball.

"I truly never put a limit on myself and I never put a limit on what this team can do, so there's always more out there for us to get. To come out there and play the way that we did tonight, I'm proud of this group, I'm proud of this team, and I'm proud of the preparation that we put into getting to where we are. There is a lot to be grateful for, but it was earned during the week. I'm excited to have another opportunity to play for something big again."

The last time Eagles fans were treated to the full Jalen Hurts experience was over a month ago, as the All-Pro quarterback suffered a shoulder injury in the December 18 win at Chicago. Hurts missed two games and battled through the injury to do just enough in the Week 18 win over the Giants to secure home-field advantage. The bye week allowed Hurts to get to a point where he wasn't even listed on the injury report for this week, but would he be the player who took the league by storm this season?

No wonder Sirianni couldn't hold back the lavish praise following the 38-7 win.

"You work really hard for these opportunities. They're not a dime a dozen," Hurts said. "You work really hard for them, and I'm just very eager to continue to grow. I'm eager to go through anything and everything with this group.

"It's a special thing, it's a special feeling, and it's a special type of togetherness that we have, and I don't think it's something that I've experienced quite like this for sure on the NFL level. We just want to continue to grow together, hold each other accountable, and believe in one another. I think we just came out hungry. That's what it was." – Chris McPherson, 4:30 PM, January 22, 2023

Kenneth Gainwell
Kenneth Gainwell

Kenny G makes sweet music in his first 100-yard performance

Name the Eagles' leading rusher on Saturday night.

Miles Sanders? Good guess, 90 yards on 17 carries to the tune of 5.3 yards per run. But guess again.

Boston Scott, Giant slayer? He had a touchdown – the 11th of his career against New York, including playoffs. But not him.

Jalen Hurts? Sure, he scored a rushing touchdown, but maybe the fourth time's the charm?

The Eagles' 268-yard rushing output, second most in franchise playoff history and 41 more yards than the Giants had accumulated the entire game offensively, was led by second-year running back Kenneth Gainwell. The third-down specialist had his first 100-yard performance, churning out 112 yards on 12 carries (9.3 yards per pop) and putting an exclamation point on the win with a 35-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, keyed by an outstanding block by wide receiver Zach Pascal.

"I'm extremely happy for him," Sanders said. "First 100-yard rushing game in a playoff game is big and I don't think he knows how big that is, but I'm going to make sure he does, but I'm proud of him. He runs hard, catches the ball well, and he's helping us be better all around too."

Prior to Saturday night, Gainwell's career best was a 78-yard outing in the regular-season finale of his rookie season against Dallas. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Gainwell had 240 rushing yards and four touchdowns this year on 53 carries.

"I can't thank the O-line enough," Gainwell said.

The Eagles piled on 253 yards on the ground back in the Week 14 meeting against the Giants and kept at it on Saturday night with New York – 27th in run defense during the season – unable to stop it.

After getting an early 7-0 on the game's opening drive, the Eagles dominated the ground game behind its all-star offensive line and "1-2-3 punch," as Gainwell calls it, at running back.

Second drive (TD): 3 runs to open drive, 6 total in 8 plays

Fourth drive (TD): 7 runs to open drive, 8 in 8 plays

Fifth drive (TD): 4 runs to open drive, 7 in 14 plays

By this point, it was 28-0 at halftime.

"It's just a mentality," Sanders said. "When we know we're going to get a chance to run the ball, the whole line and running backs, we take it upon ourselves to just make a statement every time. It was a great job all across the board." – Chris McPherson, 1:30 PM, January 22, 2023

Lane Johnson
Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson 'a warrior' in his return to the field

Lane Johnson was the only right tackle who did not allow a quarterback hit or a sack all season.

After missing the final two-plus games of the regular season with a groin injury, Johnson may not have been 100 percent, but he played at an elite level as the Eagles amassed 416 yards of total offense, 268 yards on the ground (second most in franchise playoff history), 26 first downs in Saturday night's win.

Oh, and for the record, Johnson had a clean stat sheet, not allowing so much as a quarterback pressure in 27 pass protection snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

"He's a warrior," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "He's a true warrior and a very important piece of this team. He's been doing great things for a very long time, and I'm very grateful to have him. We're grateful to have him and I'm happy that he's kind of coming out of this thing clean."

Defensive end Brandon Graham, a fellow captain who has battled the three-time All-Pro tackle in practice since Johnson was the No. 4 overall pick in 2013, admired watching his teammate from the sideline.

"I got so much respect for Lane. I love Lane," Graham said. "If anything, you see how tough he is because that ain't easy and I saw him out there today looking like Lane. I was like, 'Boy, I know he hurting.' He put on a smile through it and he did a great job today. I can't wait to watch the film to see what I missed on certain stuff that I didn't see." – Chris McPherson, 11:30 AM, January 22, 2023

A.J. Brown
A.J. Brown

Which jersey will the Eagles wear on Saturday night?

The Eagles will wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants for Saturday night's NFC Divisional Round showdown against the New York Giants.

Milton Williams
Milton Williams

Looking for an X-factor on Saturday? Consider DT Milton Williams

Maybe it's because he's healthy. Or that he's gained some knowledge, confidence, and more of an edge since the Eagles add some veterans at his position. Could be that it has just clicked for second-year defensive tackle Milton Williams, who has taken advantage of his reps in the deep and talented rotation in the middle of Philadelphia's defense.

"I know this," he said on Thursday at his NovaCare Complex locker, "I feel good out there. I can't wait to get on the field and make something happen."

Williams has played some of his best football since the bye week in mid-October, with has 4 quarterback sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hits, and 29 combined tackles in those 11 games. Even with the additions of Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh, Williams has continued to be a presence with his quickness off the ball and his strength and technique in winning his one-on-one battles.

If you're looking for an under-the-radar factor for Saturday's NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New York Giants, consider Williams. He has played 36 percent of the defensive snaps this season, his second after the Eagles made him a third-round draft choice in 2021, and going against a New York offense that wants to establish the running game, Williams could be a key factor.

"Man, you know I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunities and make people notice when I'm on the field," Williams said. "Just trying to make a splash play whenever I'm out there. Everything is kind of clicking for me. I feel it when I'm out there and it's a great feeling. I've been picking up a lot in the film room, looking for tendencies and then when I go out on the field, I try to hit them and win my matchup."

Adding Joseph and Suh to the defensive line room has helped everybody because the two veterans have seen it all, and the way they work brings a new dimension and perspective to the room. Perhaps some expected Williams to fade into the background when those two players arrived to give the Eagles six defensive tackles on the 53-man roster, but Williams has continued to shine.

It's all part of the growth process in this league.

"Sometimes it's just instincts. You're out there and you just make a play and you realize that it's years and years of playing football and you understand why it happens," he said. "Having Linval and Suh here, I'm learning all the time. Them coming here, I know people on the outside said that it would mean less for me, but I took it as a chance to work even harder on me, on my technique, everything that comes with me being on the field. It's paid off. It's helped me take that next step.

"Now it's the playoffs and we know New York. They looked good last week. This week, it's a new ballgame, a new opponent. I know we will be ready for what they do, the challenge they bring." – Dave Spadaro, January 19 at 1:40 PM

DeVonta Smith
DeVonta Smith

DeVonta Smith wants to 'step it up' in the postseason

In his first playoff appearance, wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught 4 passes for 60 yards in the loss last season to Tampa Bay and he came away hungry for more. A National Champion at the University of Alabama, Smith made a smooth transition to the NFL in 2021 and he's taken it a step beyond in 2022.

He wants to do the same on Saturday night and throughout this postseason.

"It helps a lot, just learning from the mistakes we made last year, not being on the same page and things like that," Smith said. "So, going into this game, it's important that we're on the same page and not having any miscommunications and playing our game."

Smith admitted that the playoff stage is different and that it takes a minute to get used to because of the way the NFL adapts and adjusts, but that isn't a problem any longer. He knows what to expect. And he knows what it takes to have success.

"The speed and the tempo and things are the same, it's just that the opponents are better and they've found their identities. Teams do different things, whatever helps them be successful," Smith said. "If you played a team early in the season, it's not going to be the same team when you play them again. You've got to be ready to step it up."

Smith watched "the majority" of the first weekend of playoff football, seeking out friends from around the league he could root for and also, as a football player, how he would handle certain situations.

"As a football player, when situations come up, you think, 'What would you do?'" he said. "That's how I watched the games. It was a combination of watching friends and watching for different situations." – Dave Spadaro, January 18 at 5:45 PM

James Bradberry 'not surprised' by Daniel Jones' success

For two seasons with the Giants, cornerback James Bradberry shared in the frustration of a franchise that had not reached the postseason since 2016 campaign and he watched the maturation of quarterback Daniel Jones who, Bradberry said on Wednesday, was always diligent in the way he prepared even during some very tough times.

"There were injuries along the offensive line and in the receiving corps and when you don't have a healthy O-line for a quarterback, it's hard to get settled and get comfortable back there," Bradberry said. "Now, he looks like a very, very good quarterback who takes care of the ball. I know that in the past, he had issues with turnovers and whatnot. And the fact that he's not turning over the ball, he's making plays with his legs, too, that's a recipe for winning and that's what they've been doing."

Bradberry said he "had a lot of respect" for Jones and the way the Giants' No. 1 draft pick in 2019 draft pick handled the beatings he was taking, the injuries he incurred, and the losses and boos that mounted.

"He came, week in and week out, no matter if we won or lost, he came with the same mindset," Bradberry said. "He was sitting in the front of the room, he was always taking notes, and he was always paying attention. That was one thing I noticed about him. He didn't always say a whole lot, but he definitely works hard throughout practice. You could just tell. He really, really tries. And that's all you can ask for from any player. He gives you his best effort.

"You're supposed to be talented, and when you're the quarterback of a franchise, you're supposed to be the guy and whatnot, but sometimes it doesn't always go your way. But as long as you come in and do your best, you can't control the outside variables. I'm not surprised by what he's doing. I knew he was always capable of it. It was about getting all the pieces together and working." – Dave Spadaro, January 18 at 5:45 PM

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