Jay Sirianni was trying to teach his U.S. History class to the best of his ability on Thursday afternoon but he was a little distracted.
And he even committed an offense that ought to land him in detention.
“My principal might not be happy about this,” Sirianni said, “but I had my phone out as I’m teaching.”
Hopefully, he’ll be forgiven. Because Thursday was no ordinary day and this has been no ordinary week for the Sirianni family as they waited to hear whether or not Nick, the youngest of three boys, would be named the Eagles’ new head coach. Earlier in the day, Jay had spoken to Nick, who still didn’t know if he was going to get the job.
Sirianni had just one request for his younger brother: “I don’t want to hear it either way from Schefter.”
Guess how Sirianni found out?
Yup. The same way as the rest of the world. An Adam Schefter tweet at 1:59 p.m.
“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Nick come on!’”
Meanwhile, 167 miles southwest, Mike Sirianni was in a recruiting meeting when one of his assistants broke the news to him. Finally, Nick, the youngest brother in the family, was a head coach.
See, Mike and Jay used to tease Nick for that missing element on his resume. While Nick has been rising through the coaching ranks, Mike has been the longtime head coach at Washington & Jefferson University and Jay had a very successful run as the head coach at Southwestern High School before stepping away a few years ago, so they used to give Nick grief about never being a head coach.
“Can’t do that anymore,” Jay said with a chuckle. “It’s funny. I was just so stinking proud. Just so proud of him. We’ve all been head coaches before but he’s at the top right now. I’m still at a loss of words. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Just so proud of him.”
A football family
Nick Sirianni, 39, is the youngest of three boys who have all become football coaches, just like their father. Fran Sirianni is a coaching legend in upstate New York and a member of the Chautauqua (County) Hall of Fame for his incredible career as a head coach at Southwestern.
The boys grew up in a football household and there was always competition. But Nick was younger than Jay by 6 years and Mike by 9, so he bore the brunt of the physical competition.
“We used to beat the crap out of him when he was younger,” Mike said.
Whether they were racing to the family car or playing PIG in the backyard, they were always competitive. That lasts to this day. Jay said that competition shows up in other places, like if they play the game Kan Jam. Mike remembers a particularly heated argument over a bocce game on the beach a few years ago. He says Nick claims to have won the bocce game, but he won the wrestling match that followed.
Growing up as the youngest of three boys made it so Nick had to compete and learn to take a beating. His brothers think that helped him have success later in life.
All three brothers have become very successful as football coaches, just like their dad. Mike has been the head coach at Washington & Jefferson University (a Division 3 school in Western Pennsylvania) since 2003 and has amassed an incredible 156-36 record. Jay Sirianni spent 12 years coaching their hometown program, putting up a 101-26 record and two state titles. And Nick has risen through the coaching ranks, beginning in college before jumping to the NFL in 2009 and beginning his latest climb.
When the three brothers get together these days, they talk about more than football. It’s not like they always sit around and talk X’s and O’s. All three have families. But, yes, football comes up. And they’ll sometimes ask each other for advice.
“Believe me, [Nick is] not going to call me and ask me what I think he should do on 3rd-and-10,” Mike said.
But Nick will ask for other kinds of advice. A few years ago, tragedy struck at W&J, when a star member of the team was robbed and killed. Nick wanted to know how his older brother handled that awful situation.
“I tell him all the time, ‘I know it’s Division 3 football but this is what I think,’” Mike said. “‘This is what we have done in the past.’ I hope he takes that advice, I can’t say that he does, but I hope he does at least.”
Nick Sirianni probably wouldn’t be the Eagles’ head coach right now had Mike not gone to the University of Mount Union. And Mike wouldn’t have gone to Mount Union had his mother, Amy, not suggested it.
Growing up in New York, Mount Union (in Alliance, Ohio) wasn’t even on his radar until his mom suggested it. But they recruited him for football and track and it led to all three brothers attending the Division 3 powerhouse. Eventually, Mike and Nick coached there too.
“I think the Mount Union thing really had a lot of influence on him and myself,” Mike said. “I think we wanted to be football coaches after our experiences there.”
All three brothers played under legendary head coach Larry Kehres. Kehres was the head coach at Mount Union for 27 seasons and retired with a career record of 332-24-3 with 11 national titles and 23 conference championships. His winning percentage of .929 is the highest in college football history.
“There was just a level of consistency. [Kehres] wanted to win every day,” Mike said. “I think that was a big influence on everyone. Not just myself and him. Everyone who coached at Mount Union, just that consistency to treat every day the same and every opponent with the same respect. I think that’s huge to becoming a football coach.”
Nick’s first coaching job was with Mount Union in 2004-05 when he coached defensive backs before moving on to IUP to coach receivers for three seasons.
But there’s a great story about a time when Sirianni was interviewing for the OC job at Mount Union. According to CantonRep.com, Kehres asked Sirianni what type of offense he wanted to run. And when Sirianni actually answered with specifics, Kehres pounded on the table and told him, “You don’t even know what players we’ll have.”
That’s a lesson Sirianni has carried with him throughout his coaching career.
Making the jump
How’s this for coincidence? Nick Sirianni was in Southern Florida this week before the Eagles even called. After the Colts’ season ended, Sirianni took his family to Florida on vacation to visit his sister-in-law in Fort Lauderdale. When the Eagles requested to interview him, he was just a short drive away. That interview went exceptionally well.
But Jay wasn’t the least bit surprised that Nick blew the Eagles away.
“He’s just personable,” Jay said. “He’s outgoing, he treats people with respect and he sees value in everybody because everybody has value, right? That’s how we were raised. He’s a likable guy and that’s coming from his brother.”
Mike and Jay woke up on Thursday knowing there was a good chance their younger brother was going to end up as the Eagles’ head coach but even hours after the news broke, it still felt surreal.
Jay didn’t get to speak to his brother until around 4 p.m. and even then it was a short conversation of just 4 or 5 minutes. When Jay got home from school, he took his son skiing and got back to his phone to find over 100 text messages. Jay said he’d spend the evening answering each one.
Both brothers are incredibly proud of the youngest, who has risen from a football family to the pinnacle of the game. But … they are still brothers.
Said Mike: “I’ve still won 160 more games than he has.”
Nick better get to work.
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