How will Eagles respond to astronomical expectations?

·5 min read

How will Eagles respond to astronomical expectations? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Pro Football Focus ranked their roster 7th-best in the entire NFL. ESPN declared that they had the 2nd-best offseason in the league. NFL.com called them one of the six most-improved teams in the league. When league officials sat down to dole out prime-time games, nobody got more.

Things have changed around here.

Expectations for the Eagles are astronomical this year, and that’s an entirely new position for a team that snuck up on the rest of the NFL the second half of last year.

The Eagles were one of the NFL’s surprise teams in 2021. They were projected to win 6 ½ games and finish last in the NFC East, and they won nine games and reached the playoffs under a rookie head coach and a 1st-year full-time starting quarterback.

Only three teams, all in the AFC, had a larger differential between projected 2021 wins and regular-season wins: The Bengals (6 ½, won 10) Raiders (7, won 10) and Titans (9, won 12).

This year, the Eagles aren’t going to sneak up on anybody.

They’re now considered by everybody a threat in the NFC, and living up to lofty expectations never seems as easy as coming out of nowhere and surprising people.

This is one of the biggest challenges facing Nick Sirianni this year. To get his team to ignore the hype. To get his team to ignore all the praise. To get his team to continue doing all the things that made them a playoff team in the first place.

And he knows it.

“I think the message is exactly the same as far as how we prepare and everything like that,” Sirianni said in a recent interview. “It’s just noticing the fact that, ‘Hey, there’s going to be a lot of people telling you how good you are.’ Probably more so. How good you could be.

“But it’s still ‘could be.’ The same amount of work is going to be required regardless if you have high expectations or low expectations. You have to work. How many times have we seen the team that starts off really hot, then maybe buys into the hype? I’m very conscious of that.”

Sirianni is keenly aware of the changing circumstances surrounding his team, and this is going to be a big part of his messaging to his players this year.

That they need to keep that same hunger and that same work ethic that got them to the playoffs against all expectations last year.

We’ve all seen what happens when a team starts believing the hype.

“I think the message is exactly the same as far as how we prepare and everything like that,” Sirianni said. “It is just noticing the fact that there are going to be a lot of people telling you how good you are, or probably moreso, how good you could be — but that is still ‘could be.’ So the same amount of work is going to be required regardless of if you have high expectations or low expectations. You have to work.”

Think about some of the most disappointing Eagles teams of recent years.

The 2005 team, coming off the Super Bowl season, was projected to win 11 ½ games, according to the Vegas sportsbooks. They went 6-10 under the weight of the Terrell Owens drama.

The over-under for the 2011 Dream Team was 10 ½ wins, and they went 8-8 after a 4-8 start, and a year later the Eagles were picked to win 10 games, and they went 4-12.

That was Andy Reid’s last season, and the same thing happened in 2015 with Chip Kelly’s last team. Projected to go 10-6 and went 7-9 – although he was fired before that seventh win.

Just two years ago the Vegas oddsmakers set the over-under at 9 ½, and the Eagles went 4-11-1.

Being picked to do this and that is no guarantee it’s going to happen. In fact, it makes it even harder.

There were different reasons for all those unexpected collapses, but one common theme for most underachieving teams is that they start to believe their press clippings.

Sirianni’s biggest job this year is making sure that doesn’t happen.

“How many times have we seen a team start off really hot and then maybe buy into the hype?” he said. “I am very conscious of that. I know what some of these guy are hearing and what they are hearing from outside noise. Whether it is media, whether it is friends, whether it is family members. So the message is, ‘Well, if we want to do what we want to do, and you want to win the first game and then move on from that, then we have to be committed to the process of how we work again.’

“And that is high-detail meetings. It isn’t just a plan of, ‘Hey we have to work.’ We have a very specific plan, like high-detail meetings, starting with the coaches. Scripting the job description clear every single time. High detail on them as well. Full speed to the snap in walkthrough. High intensity at practice. And a commitment to how we get better at the core values every single day.”

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube