He inherited a four-win team that lost seven of its last eight games. A team whose one-time Pro Bowl quarterback was demanding a trade. A team whose veteran leaders were fiercely loyal to the Super Bowl-winning coach he was replacing.
His first appearance before the notoriously demanding Eagles fan base was a catastrophic press conference. Then came loss after blowout loss, and in late October the Eagles found themselves 2-5 after four lopsided losses in a five-week span.
Only four teams in the NFL had a worse record.
The play calling was disastrous. The run defense was terrible. The young quarterback was wildly inconsistent. The secondary was allowing quarterbacks to complete over 75 percent of their passes -- on pace for an NFL record they didn’t want.
It was bad.
The Eagles were a mess, and the outlook was bleak, and it was easy to lose hope. But there was one person who believed.
He saw what no one else saw.
Nick Sirianni preached positivity and patience, and his players responded. They never wavered in their work habits. They never lost faith in their coaches. They never stopped believing in themselves.
He kept insisting that as long as the players focused on the process, they’d be fine.
And here we are.
Over the last two months, the Eagles are 6-2, and don't look now, but the Chiefs are the only team with more wins during that span.
The Eagles are certifiably one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and Sirianni is certifiably one of the leading candidates for NFL Coach of the Year.
He’s been brilliant. The job he’s done not only keeping this team together but guiding them within reach of a playoff berth has been nothing less than phenomenal.
This team was dead.
And he’s navigated them through loss after loss. Through ugly turnovers and a league-high in penalties and ineffective first-round picks and an 0-4 start at the Linc and the uncertainty of COVID and the annual rash of offensive line injuries.
Sirianni has been masterful in every way. He’s gotten his players to share the same unfailingly positive mentality that’s the essence of his personality. He’s taught them how to focus on the moment and ignore all that came before or is yet to come. He’s gotten them to believe in each other and believe in themselves.
All those phrases he uses that are easy to roll your eyes at -- dawg mentality, connecting, accountability -- they mean an awful lot to these players.
To them, they’re not silly clichés. They’re a way of life.
And Sirianni has not only helped turn around a season that looked lost, he’s taken a franchise that had lost its way and got it pointed in the right direction.
Sirianni was a hire out of left field back in January, and it’s easy to understand why so many Eagles fans were skeptical or downright disgusted when Jeff Lurie introduced him as the 21st head coach in franchise history.
Duce Staley was the popular choice, and I still think he’ll be a fine head coach one day, and I believe he would have done a terrific job this year if he was the guy.
But sitting here 11 months after the Eagles introduced Sirianni as Doug Pederson’s replacement, it’s hard to imagine anybody doing a better job.
We throw words like “culture” and “leadership” around so much they tend to lose their meaning, but Sirianni eats this stuff up and his players are buying in.
They’ve stared adversity in the face and come out the other side looking every bit like a playoff team.
The growth we’ve seen from this team over the last two months is astonishing.
The offense has transformed from a sputtering, mistake-prone mess to an unstoppable machine. The defense has transformed from a passive unit that couldn’t stop the pass or the run to a group that pressures, covers and stuffs the run.
And orchestrating the whole thing is Sirianni, who’s helped turn a nightmare of a season into something with a whole lot of promise and a whole lot of excitement and a whole lot of hope.
If this is Dawg Mentality, then maybe it’s a good thing after all.
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