PHOENIX — For about an hour on Monday night, Nick Sirianni sat behind a Super Bowl Opening Night podium and answered questions.
They came in rapid fire, from local Philly TV morning anchors and reporters all the way from the Middle East. There were nuts and bolts football queries, and awkward attempts at creating a viral moment.
Sirianni handled them all with ease and insight, and it isn’t simple shifting from, say, the lessons learned by once getting fired by his Super Bowl counterpart Andy Reid to, well, who knows … This is a uniquely strange environment where “personalities” have donned wedding dresses, brought puppets to ask questions or tried to trick coaches and players in all sorts of ways.
What’s the one guy you wouldn’t let your daughter date on the team, Sirianni was asked at one point.
“My daughter is 5,” he said.
It was a strong, controlled performance and one that was, perhaps, a surprise considering two years ago Sirianni, then an anonymous 39-year-old, bombed his introductory news conference as the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
At that one, he struggled to coherently express thoughts or goals, stumbled over his words and turned social media into a vicious cycle of negativity. Plenty of people immediately concluded he’d fail in Philly.
“It would be safe to say my opening press conference wasn’t flattering to who I am as a person or as a coach,” Sirianni said Monday.
He could manage a laugh about it now, of course. His Eagles went 14-3 this season and have roared into the Super Bowl Sunday against Kansas City without trailing for a single second of these playoffs.
At 41, he has gone from bumbling young coach to a confident, bordering on cocky persona that is immensely popular in Philadelphia. He can shrug the start off.
“It’s always about sticking with your plan and trying to win football games,” Sirianni said.
If only he’d been able to succinctly express that back in 2021.
“It’s very important we build a smart football team,” Sirianni said then. “The first part of being smart is knowing what to do. We’re going to … [pause] … we’re going to know … [pause] … we’re going to have systems in place that are easier to learn.”
Or later: “When we can learn our system and we can get good at our system, then our talent can take over. Less thinking equals talent takeover, but we need to have systems in place and we will have systems in place to do so.”
None of what Sirianni said was wrong, per se, it was more how he said it. Social media went wild. Philly fans, always suspicious, did as well. It was just a news conference, but Siranni was under a cloud of doubt from Day 1.
He laughed Monday about how, despite a consensus that the 2021 season would be a rebuilding year, the team was heckled at halftime of its second preseason game. After the game, Sirianni drove home with his wife, Brett.
“We are in the second preseason game, what are they booing us about?” he asked.
“Well, what did you give them to cheer about?” Brett said.
After starting his tenure 2-5, the Eagles are 21-6 in the regular season. No one is laughing or doubting Sirianni any longer. He deflects some of it, noting that as a young, rookie head coach, he was blessed with veterans such as Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce and a fast rising quarterback in Jalen Hurts.
“You want to know the secret to really good coaching? Get good players,” Sirianni said.
Now he represents his aggressive club. The Eagles relentlessly go for it on fourth down, attack the red zone with no fear and their head coach isn’t afraid to interact with the sideline cameras or carry himself with the certainty of a championship contender.
“Our team has a lot of confidence and I feed off of that. I am confident because we have really good players and they execute at a very high level,” Sirianni said.
The players love it.
“You see the emotion he coaches with,” Hurts said. “You see the swag he has out there. You see him mugging and nodding to the camera. We joke on him about it, but that’s who he is. We embrace him.”
Sirianni can only look back on his initial news conference stumbles and realize it was a learning opportunity. In all his focus on becoming an NFL head coach, he never considered dealing with the media. As the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, he had a low key, once-a-week session with a few beat writers. It was all new.
“I wasn’t hired to wow the media,” Sirianni said. “Or do anything like that. I was hired to be in charge of the football team, be the head coach of the football team and win games.
“You train all your life to be a football coach and then you go into that moment and I wasn’t good enough in that moment,” he continued. “No excuses made. I wasn’t good enough in that moment.”
It really didn’t matter. It’s about winning playoff games, not news conferences, and Sirianni has won enough of them that he is now at the ultimate news conference in football, handling everything thrown at him during Super Bowl week.
“You know what,” he said, “I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better.”