Q. Just want to get your thoughts on the passing of John Madden. Did you ever come across him? I know he tried to keep his foot in this game. Obviously, everybody knows him, but just what he meant to you as football coach. (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: I never did come across him, but all the great football coaches you try to learn from. He’s definitely a guy that I’ve seen, ‘A Football Life’ on and learned some things about him that have contributed to me being a coach, so I’m grateful for that.
And then, obviously, somebody my age and, obviously, the people that are even younger than myself know his video games, and that was the big thing. Hearing him on the video games when I was growing up or just seeing him on TV broadcast the game, that was always cool.
He’s just got that voice that was unbelievable. The charisma. He just made watching football games on television, he just made it really enjoyable for all people.
So obviously, we’re saddened, and he’ll be missed.
Q. I have kind of a combo question about RB Miles Sanders and RB Jordan Howard. Number one, do you know anything new about Miles and the timetable? I know you’re not big on timetables. Is there a realistic shot of getting him back at some point? And with Jordan, he had that neck injury two years ago. Obviously, you weren’t here. Is there any connection between his rehab now with the stinger and what he went through that really knocked him out for most of the second half of 2019? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: As far as [RB] Miles [Sanders] goes, again yeah, won’t put a timetable on him but we’re not putting him on IR. It’s not like, hey, on Thursday or Friday we’re putting him on IR. I can share that with you, we’re not putting him on IR. So, obviously, we’re hopefully that he’s back.
And you know actually, I had a running back a couple years ago, [Colts RB] Marlon Mack, he broke his hand and was back. Again, I don’t remember how much time it was, but it was the same type of thing. He broke his hand and was back a little bit later in the year. So, no timetable there.
As far as [RB] Jordan [Howard] goes with his injury, he’s just working like crazy to – and obviously, we’re aware of what happened two years ago, but he’s just working like crazy to get back and get himself ready to go for this game.
We’re aware of the injury last time. We know what went down with that and everything, but it’s a separate injury and we’re just treating it that way and trying to get him back for this football game. And he’s working – him and the trainers and the doctors and our strength staff are working like crazy to get him ready.
Q. If you look at way the defense has played over the past month or two, how much of that is tangible improvements or changes you’ve made? And how much is just the personnel of the opponents might be different than what you played the first month of the season? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: I think what we’ve done is done a good job of getting better every day and not listening to the outside noise. When the outside was telling our defense they stink, we didn’t listen. We put our head down and we continued to work. When the outside is telling us now, ‘You’re in the Top 5 and you’re awesome,’ we’re not listening. We’re putting our head down and working and trying to get better.
Of course, the opponent that you play and the offense that you play or the defense that you play always goes into it, but this is the NFL. Any team is capable of doing anything at any time and so we don’t look at it like that. We do what we got to do to win each football game.
Like I said, we put our head down and work and try to get a little bit better each week. And I think what you’re seeing is that development of the defense, of, hey, they’ve gotten – we’re better, right? There is no secret. We’re better now than we were a month ago because of the way our guys work and our philosophy of, hey, how do I leave this place a little bit better than I was yesterday?
And so, that’s a product of that as well. That’s what we believe is the main product of, hey, we just put our head down, work, and try to get better every day. That’s why we’re on an uphill trajectory of how we are playing right now.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the NFL’s new COVID rules that came out yesterday. In the context, I know you said on Monday that you plan to separate the quarterbacks in different rooms and everything. Were you guys planning any other type of COVID-type of adjustments? And just your thoughts on being able to get a bunch of guys back sooner. (Martin Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: Sure, yeah, we’ve made even more adjustments. Yeah, the main one is us separating the quarterbacks – like I just left a quarterback meeting to come down here and do the interview, and we were all – we weren’t in a room, right? [QB] Jalen [Hurts] was in his room, [QB] Gardner [Minshew] was in his room, [QB] Reid [Sinnett] was in his room, [Eagles Offensive Coordinator] Shane [Steichen] was in his office, I was in my office, [Eagles Quarterbacks Coach] Brian [Johnson] was in his office.
That’s the one meeting – and specialists, we made them all virtual, as well. Those are the meetings we went all virtual for. The rest of the guys are in person. There is going to be some things we do, as far as getting young guys ready to play that is a little unique and different. I’m not going to share that here right now for competitive advantages, but we’re doing some things to make sure if a guy gets sprung into action late, that he’s going to be ready to go even more so than what he would have in the past.
I just can’t say enough about our building and our organization that we’re able to handle changes so seamlessly. To me, I know how hard they are working, and I know behind the scenes they’re doing so much. When we got the rules changed, we changed a lot about how we were meeting again.
But the work of our building and our organization to handle the changes and to make sure everything was flawless today, it goes unnoticed, but it’s really a tribute to our organization and our video department and [Eagles Director of Team Travel and Football Logistics] Dan Ryan and his department and just all the different departments.
I mean, I can’t say everybody that made everything easy for us today as coaches and players, but [Eagles Vice President of Football Technology] Patrick Dolan, [Eagles Vice President of Football Operations and Compliance] Jon Ferrari, I could keep going on and on about how many guys and girls in this organization made it possible for us to meet flawlessly today.
Q. When it comes to RB Kerryon Johnson coming to the practice squad, what made you guys feel comfortable enough to bring him back? I know you say you’re hopeful RB Jordan Howard is trending to be back, but is that more of an indication he may not be ready, more of an insurance policy? (Chris Franklin)
NICK SIRIANNI: No, I wouldn’t look too far into that. We’re hopeful with Jordan. Just making sure we have other hands on deck ready to go. Kerryon knows the offense. I thought Kerryon was really good on third down in protections and out of the backfield. I thought he did a good job on first and second down running the football with different types of schemes.
And we have confidence in him. That’s why we brought him back. That’s always a good story for guys, for us to be able to tell next year, right, in training camp. Like not everybody might make this team, but there is a chance that you’re back, and this is an example of that. That’s something we said to Kerryon when he left, and look where we are now. He’s back and looking to help us win this game on Sunday.
Q. With I guess some of the different stuff you did with QB Jalen Hurts in terms of the run game, I think you mentioned in Washington because of the ankle and then because of the Giants maybe there wasn’t as much of it. Did you notice that the lack of a threat that he’ll keep it altered the way those teams defended you at all? (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: I don’t think so. It wasn’t like we were just not going to do it at all. We just did it a little bit less. They have to be prepared for that. They know what a threat he is to be able to keep it. I didn’t notice that.
Now, if you continue on a streak like this where he’s not carrying it or if his ankle is not getting better, then maybe you see a difference. But he’s done a great job rehabbing. He’s feeling better every day, what he tells me. He’s getting better every day.
So, like I said earlier in the week, I don’t feel like there is as many — we have don’t have restrictions on him anymore. We didn’t necessarily he have restrictions, but I guess we’re being less and less careful. I know that’s not the best way to say it either.
But we’re feeling more and more comfortable. Let me say it this way: We’re feeling more and more comfortable, and Jalen is feeling more and more comfortable to be able to do the things we need to win the football game.
Q. After the game Sunday, Jalen Hurts says he knows in his heart that you guys haven’t played your best game yet and you’re all striving for it. Do you agree with that and what’s the potential of this team? (John Clark)
NICK SIRIANNI: I think we all agree with that in the sense that we know we can get better. There is always something — you never play a flawless game. Ever. You’re always striving to be better and be better and be better.
I think that’s fair. When you’re in the mode of what we are, a process-driven very results-aware team, you’re going to grow each day. Yeah, I hope the last game we play is our best game. That’s what I always hope, that we’re continuing on this upward trend.
I know our guys believe that, our coaches believe that, our players believe that. Like I said, we’re just trying to get better every day. You’ll never play a flawless game. Always going to be things you need to correct and get better from.
Q. Following up on WR DeVonta Smith’s catch, I was wondering something you said a couple weeks ago about what they rep in practice. Can you provide a little bit more insight on the intricacies on the amount of reps they do that toe tap, the Jugs machine, and what makes him excel at those plays? (Josh Tolentino)
NICK SIRIANNI: We put them through just the drills that they’re doing five catches — I’ll try to explain this as best I can without getting too much into it. I don’t mind getting too much, it just could go long.
But five catches of each I want to say difficult catch or unusual catch that they might make. As you go through the year, you are always saying, ‘Oh, add that to the repertoire,’ because if you’re only making a difficult catch, if you’re only dragging your feet on Sunday, then you’re not going to be used to doing it.
So, there is no telling how many reps you’ll get of dragging your feet in a team period. You’re going to go through that process of team periods, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a drag your foot on the sideline during team period. So, you try to simulate those things as much as you can.
You have the sideline drag, you have traffic catches that you try to get. Again, you have low balls, high balls, behind balls, over the shoulder, over the shoulder where you turn your shoulder and catch it over the other side.
I got a great story about that. My dad used to throw me this ball all the time. He would always have me right here and have me look over my left shoulder and then flip over and catch it over the right shoulder when he put it on the other side.
I’m like, I never caught one. I moved from quarterback to receiver in high school and it didn’t happen in high school. I’m like, I rep these all the time. Then I would be home in the summer and football and my dad would be throwing it to me and never happen.
Then one game my junior here year it happened, and I was so excited. I caught a touchdown pass against Wabash where I looked over the one shoulder and caught it over the other shoulder.
I will take that back. It was a touchdown. They said that it hit the ground. It didn’t, all right, but it did show up in that time.
My point of all of this is you try to put yourself in as many scenarios as you possibly can before the game. That’s just natural. We stole it from everybody. I saw Dez Bryant one time and this is a drill that we do now. I saw him in a warmup. We were at the Chargers and we were playing the Cowboys. And he had his assistant, somebody with him and he had a towel around his arm. Every time he would catch it, the guy would yank his arm and simulate that yank of his arm. We added that to the repertoire.
So, it’s grown over the years of the type of catch you can do, and we just try to put our guys in the position of doing that.
You got to be — and credit to all the position coaches, because you got to sit there and you just got to pepper balls at them all the time over and over and over again. So that’s where that came from, and just to put them in that position that they might not be able to get in otherwise before Sunday.