Perhaps at some point in the months to come when he has a chance to exhale and look back on the 2021 season, his first as an NFL head coach, Nick Sirianni will reflect on the week that he and the Philadelphia Eagles just had, one rife with emotion, with adversity, and, ultimately, with two ultra-important victories that have the team in position to control their playoff hopes. It was a week that began with a schedule change that wrenched up every bit of the to-the-minute itinerary the team puts together days in advance and it ended with Sirianni walking out of Lincoln Financial Field in the seventh and final spot in the NFC postseason picture.
At the moment, he's very much living where his feet are, and those feet are entrenched in his NovaCare Complex office as the Eagles prepare for a very different Washington team than the one they played a week ago. That team was reeling from the COVID-19 spread and the roster that night for Washington was decimated. This Washington team is coming off a terrible loss on Sunday night to Dallas, so the WFT will be angry and looking for some redemption. But ... more on that game later in the week.
For Sirianni, coming out of what was an extraordinary week is something that has been a boon in the short term and will be a plus in the long term. The Eagles galvanized under adverse circumstances. Their rookie head coach didn't flinch in the face of a schedule change, and instead of ranting and raving about the NFL moving a 1 PM Sunday kickoff to Tuesday at 7 PM, he used those extra hours to prepare the practice script and the framework for the Giants game plan following the Washington contest.
After beating Washington, Sirianni went into the COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday and hunkered down at a nearby hotel, aided by the Eagles' video department that set him up to watch tape and pipe in virtually for meetings with his players and coaches. The coaching staff prepared for life without Sirianni on the sidelines, with Passing Game Coordinator Kevin Patullo prepared to make the game-management decisions, just in case.
Sirianni was cleared on Saturday morning, just in time to enjoy Christmas Day with his family and then he and the Eagles spent Saturday night at the team hotel as they usually do the night before a game.
"When you've got great leadership, you can make it through rocky times. There are going to be rocky times in the NFL," Sirianni said. "It's no secret that we've got great leadership and they've been a big part of this."
Safety Rodney McLeod spoke to the team before the Washington game. Center Jason Kelce spoke on Saturday night. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox will have the honors for the Saturday ahead. Sirianni had delivered the night-before message for 12 games and "the players heard enough from me and my message over and over and over again – different ways of saying it – but over and over and over again" and is turning the mic over to his leadership.
"It's great hearing the captains talk and delivering their message," Sirianni said.
The playoffs are something Sirianni really doesn't want to talk about, so when I asked him about it on Monday afternoon in our weekly one-on-one interview, he related a story about one "of my best friends in the world" who texts Sirianni constantly – as a friend and as an Eagles fan.
The dialogue goes something like this, said Sirianni.
"He texts and says, 'If this happens and this happens, we get in.' I always text him back and say, 'But it requires us winning, right?' And he says, 'Yeah, yeah, of course.' That's all we can control, right, is winning? We are focused on what we can do to put ourselves in position to win," Sirianni said. "That's the message. That's what we talk about. We don't think about anything else other than how we can go 1-0 this week."
To do that, the Eagles will have highly detailed meetings, by being full speed to the snap on at walkthroughs and bringing high intensity to their practice sessions. The Eagles have to win. They know it. They aren't looking around hoping for help here from that team and help there from that other team.
It's all in their hands – led by a rookie head coach and a second-year quarterback. For Eagles fans, well, step back and consider the big picture here. Every organization goes through down cycles and the Eagles certainly had a rough 2020. But they've turned the corner on this season and stand 8-7 with their playoff fate in their own hands and with three first-round draft picks secured and a healthy salary cap situation ahead in 2022. The present is promising. The future is bright.
And here is Sirianni, oblivious to any of that, thinking only about maximizing every minute of a week that must feel like a month after what the team went through in the last nine days. The message, though, doesn't change.
"Dawg mentality." "Get one percent better every day." "Rent's due."
You've heard all of those phrases from the day Sirianni arrived and he's not changing his tune now.
"When you have the leaders that we do, who carry that message every day, I think that's a good thing," Sirianni said. "That's what we've been this season and I think the team has achieved that mentality. We know it's one day at a time. That's what we're living here."
There is no time for reflection then, not with so much at stake on Sunday. The beat remains the same for an Eagles team that is on the march, one step at a time, one day at a time.