Nick Sirianni showed up pretty late for his scheduled Zoom call with reporters on Friday just after the Eagles wrapped up their voluntary spring practices.
The reason for the tardiness? Sirianni was busy losing to receiver Greg Ward Jr. in a three-point shooting contest.
“I’m not too happy about it,” Sirianni said.
The thing is that Sirianni was pretty happy about it. OK, maybe not about the part where he lost a game, but the part where it seems like his new players are at least embracing one of his main core values.
If you’re someone who rolled their eyes when you heard about Sirianni’s playing rock, paper, scissors with draft prospects, you might want to rest those extraocular muscles for training camp. Because Sirianni’s emphasis — borderline obsession — on competition isn’t going anywhere.
The reason for all this is pretty simple, according to the first-year head coach.
“If you practice competing, you're going to get better at competing,” Sirianni said.
This is going to be Sirianni’s mantra and so far it seems like the Eagles are buying in, which is the most important part. Now, will they feel like playing a rousing game of ping pong or Jenga in November if they’re coming off a three-game losing streak? Maybe not. Maybe this competition craze only gets the Eagles so far.
But Sirianni is trying to build a culture. And one of the main elements of that culture is that he wants his players competing in everything they do … because he thinks that mindset will pay off for the Eagles on the field.
We won’t know for a while if it’s going to work. But Sirianni isn’t backing down. This is something that’s important to him and it’s going to remain a staple of his coaching philosophy.
“It's all about the wins and losses,” Sirianni said. “And the games are tight, the parity is tight. So, all these games come down to one score. There's constantly a guy coming in for your job, so you're fending off a guy to take your job. Just like we practiced on offense inside zone or defense over cover 3, we've got to practice competing as well.
“I think about it, like, why am I competitive? I had two older brothers that beat the crap out of me all the time. I had to be competitive, and I wanted to be competitive, and my dad made me be competitive. There has to be something to that. I've always thought that.
“So, when you practice competing, just like you practice those plays, you're going to get better and better and better at it. That's the main philosophy behind it.”
And that competition takes a lot of forms. At Friday’s practice, it took center stage a few times. Sirianni at the beginning of practice and a few times throughout, called on a position group and made players face off against each other in games that required fundamentals.
For instance, DeVonta Smith and Travis Fulgham competed catching balls off some sort of football-tetherball contraptions and the defensive backs had backpedal races.
Then later, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell faced off on the Jugs machine and Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham raced in another fundamental drill.
And those are just the games on the field. Sirianni has his guys competing away from practice too.
There’s the three-point contests and Sirianni said that on Thursday, Dallas Goedert “whooped up on” Eric Wilson in ping pong. Sirianni also said kicker Jake Elliott seems to be the best at all these little games.
“Don't play him at ping pong,” Sirianni cautioned.
But there’s a chance as soon as he walked away, he called next game.
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