Q. QB Jalen Hurts is on pace for career highs in most passing categories at this point in this season. What has it meant for him to take those kind of steps, especially as he’s been slowed in the running game with the knee pain? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: Like I said, I think he’s been playing really good football. We’re not looking at the stats kind of like that. We’re looking at it day-by-day, game-by-game, and we feel like he’s been going in the right place with the football. Making accurate throws, big-time throws in clutch moments.
So, we’re pleased with where he is right now. Like I said to you guys, he just keeps improving. With the more reps that he sees, the more things that he sees, the different defenses, where he went with the ball this defense, where he went with the ball on this play versus this defense. He has a very unique way of just trying to get better every single day.
He really lives that out. So, he’ll continue to get better with the more reps that he gets. And I know that’s crazy to say when he’s started for almost three years now, but it is. It’s this memory bank of all these different plays that he’s ran against these different defenses and knowing where to go with the football more and more consistently, and then just getting more reps and being accurate as a thrower.
As far as his pass game he’s making good, quick decisions and throwing with good accuracy.
Q. As you referenced on Monday, the top edge rushers are playing a greater share of snaps than they did last season. What does LB Nolan Smith need to do to be more involved on defense? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: He’s in a deep room. He’s in a very deep room with three guys last year, in particular, that had ten-plus sacks. So again, as [LB] Nakobe [Dean], as [G/C] Cam Jurgens last year, they’re in a position where there isn’t rotation as much.
So last year those guys were more just backups, and as far as Nakobe has special teams, whereas Nolan, he’s in a deep room, very similar to those two guys, and he gets mixed reps here and there throughout the game.
So, again, he’s getting good reps there on special teams and making some plays there on special teams. So again, not anything that Nolan has done where we’re really excited about Nolan and the possibilities that he has as a football player. He’s just in a very deep room and sometimes you get in the flow of the game, and you ride the hot hand. And [DE Josh] Sweat and [LB] Haason [Reddick] have really been playing really good football.
Q. The city obviously gets fired up for this game against the Cowboys with the division ramifications and everything. Do you have to sell that to the team in your messaging or is it just understood? (John Clark)
NICK SIRIANNI: Again, that’s for y’all to, you as media, the fans, to get — we have to treat every day the same. You can’t get more up for one game than you would the next game. I think if I said to the fans and to you as the media that, ‘it’s Cowboy week, we’re going to ramp it up!’ Well, what the hell were we doing the last couple of weeks? You’d be like, ‘well, that’s why you lost to the Jets.’ I would never — so we know how awesome it is.
Now, with that being said, we know how much energy this stadium is going to have on Sunday. And every bit counts. Every little bit counts. That’s why I find myself, after every away game, that’s essentially a home game, I try to thank the fans because they’ve been awesome.
So, it’s the same thing here. This energy that — I want it to be played up in that sense, but for us to do anything different would mean I’m not doing my job for the first eight weeks of the season. But I’m appreciative to be in this rivalry game. I’m appreciative of the players and the coaches that have coached it and played it in the past. I feel very honored that I can be part of this rivalry game.
But I’m just saying in the sense of us and our preparation, again that first year I had those T-shirts that said, “beat Dallas” and that, not that it back fired, but people were like, ‘how dare he say that?’ Yeah, we do want to beat Dallas, right?
But I just don’t think that the preparation or the weekly, the things that you go about your business weekly, because this could happen for everyone. Jalen is playing against [Dolphins QB] Tua [Tagovailoa] or just go about your business, just go about your business for a week.
Or we’re going to play in Buffalo, whatever. ‘Oh, I’m going home.’ Just go about your business. You can’t let those things distract your attention to detail and all the things that you go about throughout the week.
But, fans, let’s go. It’s Dallas week. So, we’re going to need that. Dallas has to feel that. Dallas has to feel that when they come in here that it means a little bit extra to the people in those seats and it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a hostile environment.
Q. If you look ahead, because I know you can’t treat this any bigger — and what you said is perfectly said — but this could be a game that decides the No. 1 seed because these are two great teams in the same division. So the magnitude of this one, it is ramped up is it not? (Jamie Apody)
NICK SIRIANNI: Good question, but there’s a lot of football to be played after that. We can only play one game at a time. So, I just don’t think of it that way.
And I’m not asking for anyone to understand that mindset, and I’m not asking anyone to understand our team’s mindset there. But we have to completely go about our business every single day and just try to go 1-0 today so we can try to go 1-0 this week.
Q. Going back to John Clark’s question, has that sentiment from you evolved from that year? Obviously, rivalry games you bring up the “beat Dallas” T-shirts. Did you learn from that? So obviously your preparation always stays the same. (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: Because again, like, yes, we want to win every game that we go out there and play, obviously. That’s the goal. But your goal day in, day out is to put yourself in position to go 1-0 that week.
So, I would say that the mindset is just more just completely focused on the day leading into the week and not looking ahead to anything. Yeah, I think that changes with your role as a coach, too. I think sometimes as an offensive coordinator, like, it’s easy to be able to say, ‘all right who is next, who is next after this because I’m planning some things.’
But your job as a head coach is to make sure that everybody’s locked in to the day, the situation. So, I think that comes a little bit with the difference of the roles, and that was week three. So, of course, if I’m asking the guys to improve every day, then I need to improve every day and the only way you can do that is to have a process that you stick to. And that doesn’t mean you don’t change the process; you’re always trying to perfect the process.
But, yeah, of course, I’ve grown in many ways since day one of becoming the head football coach.
Q. I understand you were asked about RB Kenny Gainwell in the red zone. Could you explain the decision to have him as your number two versus RB Boston Scott and RB Rashaad Penny? (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, he’s the number two — I think I was asked about this, too, and I said there’s things you don’t see that were obviously in practice. He’s our number two because we believe it right now. He’s the second best running back on our team.
That’s based off games. That’s based off past games. That’s based off practice. That’s based off the whole body of work, not just — and obviously I understand where that question is coming from, but I didn’t get this question last week when he ran over two guys in the Miami game and got into the end zone because we were all singing his praises. And also, the same thing in the playoffs last year when he gave us some very valuable carries.
But I understand that’s your guys’ job. But if I were to just say, ‘okay, Kenny fumbled the ball in the red zone, that’s it, he’s going to number three,’ then that wouldn’t be consistent of what we do with anything.
And if Jalen throws an interception, he doesn’t come out. And if [Offensive Coordinator] Brian [Johnson] or myself call a call that results in a turnover, I don’t turn the play-call duties over to [Passing Game Coordinator/Associate Head Coach] Kevin [Patullo].
This happens over and over. There are mistakes that happen. If [WR] A.J. [Brown] drops the ball, we don’t say to him — I don’t know if he’s dropped one in a couple weeks — but we don’t say to him, ‘we ain’t throwing it to him anymore.’ That’s the same philosophy here. Kenny is our number two back because of his body of work.
Q. The running game hasn’t been really firing as well as we’ve seen it these last couple of weeks. This is a Dallas defense that statistically can be run on. Why do you think the reason is for kind of being stuck a little bit in the run game? And do you think this Dallas defense can be run on? (Ed Kracz)
NICK SIRIANNI: I just think it’s a week-to-week game. You do whatever you need to do to win that football game. So, opportunity has been a little bit with the run game, we’ve been throwing the ball more.
So ‘why is the run game not working?’ We haven’t given that as much opportunity as the pass game because we felt like last game it was more — to win the game, to score 30-plus points, which we did, it was to throw the ball.
And so, when you look at it just as stats, that’s fair. But we’re always trying to put ourselves in position to win the game, period. If we have to throw it 50 times, we’ll throw it 50 times. If we have to run it 50 times, we’ll run it 50 times. That’s just what we’ll do to win the game. I think a little bit of that has been an opportunity because of the success we’ve had throwing it and that’s why.
Q. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s had a lot of success against you guys since you’ve been here. What are some of the keys to slowing him down, things maybe you haven’t done in the past against him? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: Obviously I can’t give you all that stuff because then that’s — but Dak has had success because Dak is a very good player. I have a lot of respect for Dak and [Cowboys Head] Coach [Mike] McCarthy and the weapon in [Cowboys WR] CeeDee Lamb and the weapons they have over there.
And so, he’s done really well against us the last couple of times he’s played us. And just like any quarterback, what I’ll say, like any quarterback, you have to try to confuse. You have to try to hit them and to try to knock him off his rhythm.
But I can’t tell you how much respect I have for Dak. I just feel like he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and we have our hands full going into this game to make sure that we contain him.
Q. Before the injury how was G/C Cam Jurgens playing, and what have you missed the most without him? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: I thought he was playing good football, stepping into a role that between [T] Lane [Johnson] and [C] Jason [Kelce], obviously that helps, but I thought he was playing really good football. Been really pleased with [G] Sua [Opeta] and the job that he’s done.
I think we’ve been pretty good on offense since Sua has come in. That’s why we trust him to be able to step in and play. And Stout does a good job getting the next guys up ready. He’ll continue to do that.
We like our depth at offensive line. So anytime you lose a guy you’re going to miss the player but you’re happy for the opportunity the other guys get. And I feel Sua has really taken advantage of the opportunity.
Q. How did OL Tyler Steen do? (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: Obviously, he only had a handful of plays, I think six plays, but I thought he did pretty good. I thought he did pretty good, and he held his own against two really good players in [Commanders DL Jonathan] Allen and [Commanders DL Daron] Payne.
Q. On that note, along the O-line, T Lane Johnson happened to get hurt in both of the games against Dallas last year, the offense looked a little different obviously after he went out. I know there’s a backup plan for anyone who goes down, but any extra thoughts given to that, do you think? (Jimmy Kempski)
NICK SIRIANNI: No. No. Not because he got hurt in the last–
Q. Just coincidence that it happened? (Jimmy Kempski)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, we have backup plans, obviously, for everything. But like my point was, no extra thought. Like, everything we do is extra. So, no extra-extra thought is I guess what I’m saying.
Q. When you look at Cowboys LB Micah Parsons, you guys have had pretty good success against him. I know obviously you’re not going to say what you have done against him, but how much does he impact their defense and how do you have to plan for him and everything? (Martin Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: He’s awesome. He’s really outstanding. One of the best players in our league. And so, we’ll have to make sure he’s accounted for every single play because I think that’s really the only thing I can say about him, is that he’s awesome.
So, we have really good players up front, too. We’ll have to win a lot of different ways against him to make sure that he stays out of the stat book and stays relatively quiet. But that’s easier said than done because of how good of a football player he is.
Q. You had a specific game plan last year against him. What are those Tuesday meetings like preparing for a specific player? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: We spent a lot of time thinking about that specific player. I don’t know if I’ve said it here, but I remember being in the AFC West, when we were in the AFC West and we were with the Chargers, the Raiders had [LB] Khalil Mack and they had [LB] Bruce Irvin. And the Chiefs had [LB] Justin Houston and [former DE] Tamba Hali, I’m remembering all these because I spend a lot of time thinking about them. The Broncos had [former DE] DeMarcus Ware and they had [LB] Von Miller. And each week you’d have to go in and spend a lot of time on Tuesdays, Mondays and Tuesdays, thinking about that. That’s what you do with any good player in this league, you’ve got to think a lot about them. You’ve got to think a lot about them. You’ve got to think about them more than their loved ones think about them.
And that’s our job as coaches to make sure we’re putting the players in position to succeed. So, a lot of our day– when we played [Rams DT] Aaron Donald, a lot of our day was devoted towards Aaron Donald. Obviously, Micah Parsons deserves that same respect as you guys just heard what I think about how good of a football I think he is. So, a lot of our day was consumed with that as well.