TEMPE, Ariz. – At his daily Super Bowl press conference Wednesday, Nick Sirianni was talking about the importance of getting into a routine and never straying from it.
He used his own high school free throw shooting as an example.
One bounce. Shoot. Same thing. Every time.
OK, fast forward to Thursday. Sirianni is back in the same huge conference room, standing at the same lectern, facing the same massive international media crowd, and he gets a question from NFL Network’s Stacey Dales, who happened to be a two-time basketball All-American at Oklahoma and WNBA All-Star before pursuing a career in broadcasting.
“Nick, Shane was telling me yesterday that --- “
Sirianni interrupts her.
Nick: “Stacey, did you hear my basketball analogy yesterday? Free throws? What was your routine?”
Stacey: “It was one bounce and let her rip.”
Nick: “I was one bounce too, because then I didn’t have to think about anything. One, shoot, let’s go.”
Then Sirianni cracks up standing up there in front of the world’s media and finally says, "Sorry, what was your question?"
It was an amusing little exchange between two people 20 years removed from their basketball careers, but what really struck me about it was just how comfortable Sirianni was in the moment.
This wasn’t an NFL head coach at a press conference addressing a media member. It was a guy comfortable in his own skin having fun and letting his personality show.
And that’s what all of Sirianni's media appearances have been like this week.
Sirianni has handled every question, every situation like a seasoned pro. He’s been funny and clever, thoughtful in his responses, relaxed and conversational. He’s been at ease with big-name national media, patient with international TV reporters asking questions in unfamiliar languages and clear and detailed in his responses to even the toughest questions.
On one level, it’s cool to see just how comfortable Sirianni is in the midst of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Really feels like he belongs here, like he was made for this moment. And you know he's going to coach Sunday the same way. Like he's done this before.
But on a deeper level, what’s really striking was the contract between this version of Nick Sirianni and the guy everyone saw on Jan. 29, 2021.
Sirianni was brutally and unfairly slammed for his performance in his introductory press conference – a Zoom call in an empty auditorium eight days after he was hired. By fans and media.
The whole premise that holding an awkward press conference somehow had some bearing on what kind of football coach Sirianni would be was absurd. One has nothing to do with the other, and it never did.
I wrote this that night: “Whether or not he can coach won’t be determined by a Zoom call. It’ll be determined in the meeting rooms and film rooms at the NovaCare Complex, on the grass practice fields alongside South Broad Street and on game days at the Linc and in stadiums across the NFL.”
And here we are.
At the Super Bowl.
In his two years with the Eagles, Sirianni has proven to be a brilliant leader of men, a first-rate X&O tactician, an elite offensive mind and an uncanny judge of assistant coaching talent. His teams are 23-6 in their last 29 meaningful games, and on Sunday the Eagles will play for the fifth championship in franchise history in his second year as a head coach on any level.
The Eagles are one of only seven teams to reach the postseason the last two years, and they're one win from immortality.
And as we've seen this week, Sirianni has also mastered the art of the press conference, and anybody who judged him 25 months ago based on that hastily arranged Zoom media availability should feel pretty foolish right about now.
So he fumbled around for some words, mispronounced a name, avoided a few challenging questions.
That’s not how you judge coaches. That's not how you judge people.
The irony is that Sirianni wasn’t prepared for that introductory press conference because he was so busy building a coaching staff.
A Super Bowl coaching staff.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast
Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube