They’re together virtually all the time. On the field. In meetings. In film study. In 1-on-1 sessions.
And when they’re not together, Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts are probably texting each other.
“Coach Sirianni, we’ve built a great relationship in just a short time and I’ve found out a lot about him as well as him about me,” Hurts said Wednesday. “We’re very similar in many ways. Very competitive. Have a sense of humor. Just cool people. He’s a good guy.”
No two people in a franchise are more closely linked than a head coach and a quarterback. Especially when that head coach is an offensive coach. They must be in total lockstep, and if they’re not, it’s going to be very difficult to have success.
Jaws and Dick Vermeil were together from 1977 through 1982. Four decades later, they’re still close. Donovan and Big Red came in together in 1999 and won the most games in the NFC and the second-most playoff games in the NFL in their 11 years together. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz came in together in 2016 and as their relationship grew strained so did Wentz’s performance and the team's performance.
Hurts and Sirianni didn’t quite come in together, but this is Sirianni’s first year as a head coach and Hurts’ first year as the opening-day starter, and both said their relationship transcends football.
“Part of you, with the quarterback, you have no choice but to grow closer,” Sirianni said Wednesday. “You get closer just because of the time you spend with them. And I joke about that, because I'm saying Jalen has to be close to me because I'm in the meetings with him all the time. … Quarterback meetings go longer. They start earlier, they go longer and that's just the way it is, and we're in there the whole time.
“And (there’s) other ways to do that. It's important that we don't just have a football relationship. That's important for me with every player on our team, that I have more than a surface-level relationship with our players. There is more to it. That's connecting on different things.”
There has to be a tremendous level of trust and communication and understanding between a coach and a quarterback as they navigate the complexities of a game plan, the playbook, the opposing defense, receivers and so on.
They have to be almost a single mind or the whole thing falls to pieces.
“I texted him after the Alabama game, I texted him after the Oklahoma game,” Sirianni said. “He's got two teams I can razz him about. You don't really get to razz him about Alabama too much. So it's finding different ways to connect. He's got a dad that's a high school football coach. I really am interested in how he's doing as a coach and how his team is doing because I know that's important to me with my brother as a coach.”
I wrote in June about Sirianni’s belief in the power of connecting and how he believes the closer coaches and athletes are with one other, the deeper their will to fight for each other becomes.
This is a fundamental tenet of Sirianni’s core values. The two most important things in the world to him are football and family, and they overlap to a great extent.
How does this translate into wins on Sundays?
That remains to be seen. But the deeper the connection between Hurts and Sirianni — or between any coach and quarterback — the greater the opportunity is going to be for them to function at a high level during the week and on game days.
Hurts doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but he smiled when asked about the value of his relationship with Sirianni going beyond football.
“It strengthens the relationship that much more,” he said. “That’s something you need. It’s core value No. 1 with us, it’s connecting. It’s something you need and it’s very important.”
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