PHILADELPHIA — Nick Sirianni is getting his flowers figuratively instead of thrown at his face.
The chest-bumping, sideline-prancing, expletive-tossing head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles has won over a tough city that questioned his credentials and mocked his introductory news conference when he was hired two years ago.
Sirianni has the Eagles in the NFC championship game and now he’s becoming more popular than Rocky Balboa in the city of cheesesteaks and Liberty Bell.
The Eagles (15-3) will host the San Francisco 49ers (15-4) on Sunday with a chance to reach the Super Bowl for the fourth time in franchise history and second time in six seasons.
Sirianni is leading the way with his swagger and an offensive system labeled “unstoppable” by CBS analyst Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback.
Things didn’t start out so well for Sirianni, however.
He made a poor first impression on people more concerned with style than substance. Sirianni came across as nervous, rambling and overmatched in a video conference. The former offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts wasn’t used to a media contingent like the one that greeted him in Philadelphia. Also, the video setup made it difficult for him to be comfortable because he didn’t see the reporters asking the questions.
Philly, as it’s known to do, piled on unfairly.
Sirianni, who isn’t afraid to admit mistakes, was ticked about his performance. He told players in his first full-team meeting that he messed up and had to do better. It set the tone for a team goal to see daily improvement from the coaching staff and the players.
Still, the worst moment came later in his first season.
After the Eagles started 2-5, Sirianni used a flower analogy that sent Philly into a frenzy and had some fans and media calling for his job.
“This is what I said to the team. ... the results aren’t there right now, but what’s going on here is that there’s growth under the soil,” Sirianni said on Oct. 27, 2021. “I put a picture of a flower up, and it’s coming through the ground, and the roots are growing out. The roots are continuing to grow out. Everybody wants to see results. Shoot, nobody wants to see results more than us, right? We want to see results, too.
“But it’s really important that the foundation is being built and that the roots are growing out. And the only way the roots grow out every single day and they grow stronger and they grow better is if we all water, we all fertilize, we all do our part, each individual, each individual coach, each individual player, everybody in the building, that we do our part to water to make sure that, when it does pop out, it really pops out and it grows. ... But just keep doing what we’re doing, keep watering, and look at yourself first and know are you watering and are you fertilizing every day? So, when it’s time to pop, it will pop.”
The Eagles beat the Lions on the road in their next game but lost at home to the Chargers on Nov. 7, 2021. As Sirianni was leaving the field after that loss, a fan threw a bouquet of flowers at him. He stopped, looked up and said a few words before being escorted under the tunnel.
The Eagles went 6-2 the rest of the way and earned a wild-card berth. They were blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs but opened this season 8-0 and were 13-1 before Jalen Hurts missed two games with a shoulder injury.
Sirianni has helped develop Hurts into a finalist for AP NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. He’s designed an offense that can dominate opponents on the ground or in the air.
And, Sirianni is still talking. From cursing at officials to screaming at opposing coaches to loving on his players, Sirianni is a quote machine. He compared Hurts to Michael Jordan after the Eagles whipped the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round.
The Eagles have responded to Sirianni’s “dawg mentality” and blossomed into championship contenders.
As for those fickle Philly fans, they’re angry he wasn’t a finalist for AP NFL Coach of the Year. They’ve got his back now. Well, until he loses or mentions gardening again.