Eagles’ Nick Sirianni details his anecdotal approach to coaching

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Sirianni details his anecdotal approach to coaching originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

If you ever see Nick Sirianni walking down the street near his South Jersey home and think he looks like he’s in another world, know that he is.

The Eagles’ second-year head coach is always pondering ways to deliver messages to his players.

“That’s what I’m thinking about,” Sirianni said in June. “I’m thinking about, ‘How can I tell this story a little bit different?’”

When he walks, he’s transported to the NovaCare Complex, trying to come up with new ideas to deliver his basic philosophies in different ways. During his first year at the helm in Philly, his players really enjoyed that anecdotal style. Even when folks around the city ragged on him because of the flower roots anecdote, his players took something from it. That’s all Sirianni cares about.

Sirianni, 41, has a story for everything.

His penchant for telling a good story, often with visuals, got through to his players in 2021.

“It’s definitely meaningful,” cornerback Avonte Maddox said during last season. “He has meaningful ways how he tells his stories and the way he tells them, they resonate for a longer time. You always know when you listen to them in football terms, but he just gives it to you in a different way. ‘Oh I never looked at it that way.’

“So it’s good for us to hear things in different ways because it sits on your mind a little bit longer and the more you think about it, ‘Oh yeah, it does kind of make sense.’ He always has his ways in doing things and the main thing is we’re still here, we’re still working together, we still trust him and he still trusts us. The way he tells us stories, they’re definitely meaningful in different ways.”

But those stories don’t just come to Sirianni. He puts real time into crafting those messages. And he realizes a story won’t be as impactful the second time around.

“I think you find ways to make it fresh and different but the core values are still the core values. That’s not changing,” Sirianni said. “That’s what we build our whole thing on. And then I think about the other side messaging things. OK, you have your core values and then we have our Dawg Mentality.”

One of Sirianni’s favorite stories that he shared with his players last year was a personal one he delivered during the middle of the season about how to respond to adversity and, yes, their Dawg Mentality.

In addition to playing football at Southwestern Central High School in Jamestown, New York, Sirianni was also a pretty good basketball player. As a junior, he recalls being the fourth option for the Trojans but that changed when some of the other star players from his basketball team graduated.

Going into his senior high school season, Sirianni was the guy. And so in the first game of the season, Sirianni was tasked with taking the last shot of the game. It was a fadeaway as time expired. As the shot left Sirianni’s hand it looked good — even “pretty.” The ball was rotating toward the net. You can almost picture it in slow motion.

Swoosh, right?


The ball got stuck between the backboard and the rim. In the video of the play, the same one Sirianni showed to his players during the 2021 season, the camera zooms in on the ball lodged in place as time expired.

His message to the Eagles?

“OK guys, this was an embarrassing moment,” Sirianni recalled. “Here was my next game. I had 26 points my next game. So we came back I didn’t think about that.”

Even this offseason, Sirianni has been preparing some stories for the upcoming year. He shared one with a few reporters this spring. Sirianni was recently watching the ESPN 30-for-30 episode about The Tuck Rule game from the AFC divisional round game between the Patriots and Raiders in the 2001 playoffs and found an important message worthy of delivering to his players.

The ruling of a non-fumble in that game is infamous and still gets talked about a couple decades later. Sirianni’s message to the Eagles won’t be about wacky NFL rules; it’ll be about responding to adversity.

“[The documentary] was all about how the Raiders could not overcome the fact that the referees messed the call up in their minds,” Sirianni’s aid. “And then you hear the Patriot players saying, ‘Well if that would have happened to us as the Patriots, Belichick would have said, ‘Get that out of your head and play.’ He said all they could think about was that. They still had to drive down the field and make a play. (Adam) Vinatieri still had to make a kick and all these things. So that will be my messaging with that.”

The themes of Sirianni’s messages don’t really change. He has tenets he believes in. You’ve probably heard a lot about Sirianni’s five core values: Connecting, competition, accountability, intelligence and fundamentals.

Those core values haven’t changed and most of Sirianni’s stories are meant to enforce them. But having been a player forced to sit in meetings earlier in his life, Sirianni knows a good story can make his points hit home. And he knows a repeat story loses luster. So even when he’s not in the office, he’s thinking of ways to get through to his players.

Back in June, Sirianni said fans were beginning to recognize him on his walks. He even had a runner cruise past him and yell, “Coach!” on his way. And then a couple days later, Sirianni was on one of his walkabouts when a car pulled up and he heard a voice yell, “What’s up coach?!” This time it wasn’t a fan. It was Eagles defensive assistant Tyler Scudder, who was Sirianni’s assistant in 2021. Scudder was just having some fun, but then he drove off.

And Sirianni went back to thinking. There’s still a season of stories to prepare.

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