Q. I wanted to ask about your running back situation and how RB Miles Sanders is doing, if you’re still optimistic to have him Sunday? And also, RB Jordan Howard didn’t look quite right last we saw him two weeks ago, how he’s doing and just how important it is to be healthy at that spot? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: We’re hopeful for [RB] Miles [Sanders] this week. Again, that’s why we didn’t put him on IR way back when he did have the hand injury. So, we’re hopeful for him.
We’re hopeful for [RB] Jordan [Howard] this week and [RB] Boston [Scott] and [RB] Kenny [Gainwell]. So, I think we’ll have our full stable of backs and really excited about where our backfield is. I think a lot of teams in this league would like the depth we have at this position.
Q. Can you take us through your Sunday, how it went for you watching the other games? And how much did playing Tampa earlier this season give you a head start when it came to prep last week? (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: We really thought that – I mean, just with the way the numbers were, as far as percentages of who you’re going to play – we’re football coaches, right, so we think about, ‘Oh, hey, the defense is going to do this. They do this 75% of the time and they do this 25% of the time,’ and we plan plays accordingly.
We have answers versus other things, but that’s how we plan plays, so we kind of did the same thing as far as our preparation goes. So, the percentages said we were going to play Tampa, so more of our emphasis went into Tampa. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a plan for the other teams that we possibly could play.
So, we dabbled in looking at some of that, but a lot of our focus was yesterday on Tampa and it’s nice when it comes out that way where you’ve put in the work there and you don’t have to start again.
So, that was a lot of our emphasis yesterday. It was fun to just be able to have the games on in the background and watch some things that we were tracking as we got ready to play our game next week.
Q. What gives you confidence that QB Jalen Hurts is ready for this moment? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: This is a playoff game, as we know, but we’re not going into this game saying, ‘This is different than any other game we play,’ right? And we’re not going to tell these guys they got to do something extraordinary to win this football game or extraordinary because it’s a playoff game now.
No. It’s going to take everybody’s best effort, but the process remains the same of how we go about our business, right? When it’s about the process, when you’re process-driven and you’re results-aware, then you don’t ride the highs and lows of the season.
And not only am I speaking of highs and lows after a win or a loss, but also highs and lows of what you deem a big game and what you deem a not-so-big game. They’re all big in this league, right?
We’ve been playing playoff games – we didn’t have a very big margin of error with the way we started off. We feel like we’ve been playing playoff games for the last month of the season now.
I know he’s ready for the next game, which just so happens to be a playoff game and he’s going to prepare the same way he has prepared. I know, from the outside, it looks like it’s a bigger game and everything, but to us, we understand the consequences of losing and when you win – you’re done if you lose, so we understand that.
But our process remains the same through it all, and I’m confident in our process. I’m confident in [QB] Jalen [Hurts’] process, that he’s going to go out and be ready to play in this game.
Q. Back when you played Tampa Bay in October, they had, obviously, Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin and former Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown, obviously big parts of their offense. How big of a loss is it not having both those guys and how do you think they might be different from what you’ve seen the last week or so since they both went out? (Martin Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: We’re both different teams than we were in Week 6. There is no doubt about that, and so that’s what we’re working through now. We’re working through more so on first and second down now, so look forward to seeing how they’re different in third down and red zone. But that’s the nature of the NFL. Unfortunately, guys go down with injuries, and the next guy has to step up.
What I see in this team is they’re well coached and the next guy is ready to step up. I really believe that with this Tampa team that we’re playing, that the guys that are coming into their place have been coached well and they’re ready to go because they’re good players, too.
But there’s no doubt they’re different, but they also have stability obviously at the quarterback position with one of the best players to ever play this game. So the things that he likes to do and that he’s done throughout his career, you’re still seeing those concepts.
The way we think, it’s about what our quarterback is comfortable with and what our quarterback likes. So, I’m imagining they think the same way and that’s evident a little bit in their tape, that they have some of the same concepts regardless of guys that are working it. Just going to some different guys, and it’s the same guy pulling the trigger back there.
Q. Have a two-parter for you. I know we have asked before, but why do you think the running game has been so successful with all the moving parts at guard, and, obviously, in the backfield? Can you speak to how important Eagles Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Jeff Stoutland has been to your first year as a head coach? (Mike Kaye)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, I’ve said this plenty of times with Coach Stout [Eagles Offensive Line Coach/Game /Coordinator Jeff Stoutland], just thankful that he’s here. He’s not only a great technician to get the guys better individually, he also does a great job of helping put them in good positions. So, he’s great at scheming and he’s great as a technician. That’s what you want out of all your coaches.
And so, obviously, we’re so appreciative of him and his players are so appreciative of him because they know that he’s getting them better.
As far as a lot of moving parts, I think that speaks a lot to the depth that this team has, not only in the O-line [room], but also in the running back room. For those guys to be able to step in and play, first and foremost, speaks to the ability of the player and the preparation that the coach puts in and the preparation that the player puts in.
And so, a lot of credit goes to why we’ve had some injuries and been able to continue on, but first and foremost, it’s the players; tribute to [Eagles Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and his staff that we have good depth here and they’ve built good depth here and we’ve built good depth here in the past when I wasn’t here and so that’s the why.
And then you think about our quarterback. He demands a lot of respect on the backside of things. So, we understand that one reason why we’re a really good running team is because not only all the yards that Jalen [Hurts] contributes to the run game, but also the respect that he demands all over the field as a runner.
And we’ve developed as a passing team with our play-action game and done really well on third downs in the red zone, so it’s becoming more likely that teams have to stop both, right? So, they have to stop – we’ve been an explosive pass and an explosive run team, and so you have to pick your poison there.
It’s not like they can – with the development that Jalen has went through this year with the receivers and the tight ends that we have, they can’t sell out only to the run because we’ve become balanced and the passing game has developed as the year has went on.
Q. What is your plan at tight end in light of TE Tyree Jackson’s ACL tear. I know you use 13 personnel a fair amount, but is there any consideration to looking at RB Jason Huntley in terms of how he performed as a kick returner? (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: As far as the plan for the tight ends, I think [TE] Richard Rodgers has done a good job every time he’s got an opportunity to play. He brings good veteran leadership. He brings great ability to block, not only in the first level, but at the second level as well, and so he’ll be the one that’s elevated up and ready to go.
He’s had to step up in that role a couple times this year for a couple different reasons. We got a lot of confidence in him to be able to do that. We also have confidence in [TE] Noah [Togiai] as well. Right now, it’s looking like Rich, but we have confidence in Noah as well.
As far as [RB] Jason [Huntley], he did a really nice job in the game with a lot of different things, right? Not only kick returns, but also running the football. You saw how explosive of a player he is. Unfortunately, for him, he’s in a very crowded room with a lot of good players that have had a lot of good reps and we have great depth there.
[RB] Kenny [Gainwell] had a great game the other day. I thought he ran the ball really well, also. So, we’ll have to look at the numbers. It’ll be hard. I’m admitting to you it’ll be hard to get Jason up for this game. He did a phenomenal job as a kick returner, but it will be hard to get him up because that means other positions will suffer if you have too many backs up. You guys know that. I don’t have to explain that to you.
So, we acknowledge what he did in the game. We’re looking to see what we can do at different positions, but that’s going to be a tough deal to get him up for the game because that means someone else goes down.
Q. The past month and a half you’ve handled practice a certain way. What’s the approach this week as far as practices versus walk-throughs, wearing pads, things of that nature? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, same, Zach. When you get to this point of the season you want to stick to — I don’t think it’s wise at this point in the season with the wear and tear on their bodies to go back in the pads. That’s not something that we’re going to explore.
We felt like we have been healthy. I know we got some unfortunate injuries in the game the other night, but we feel like we’ve been healthy, we’ve been fresh going into games, our legs have been there, and so I don’t see anything — we still can discuss, right? We have a couple days until our first practice. But we’re still in discussions about that. But I see it staying very similar to what we’ve been the last month, month and a half of the season.
Q. You’re going to be coaching your first-ever playoff game as a head coach against the defending Super Bowl champions. How much can you appreciate, to borrow from Ric Flair that, ‘To be the man, you have to beat the man,’ philosophy going into this one as opposed to playing against anybody else? (Rob Maaddi)
NICK SIRIANNI: Obviously, very excited for the opportunity that our team has to go out there and to be one of the few teams that get in the playoffs and to be able to play for everyone’s goal.
But we’ll take it one game at a time, and we’re going to prepare like crazy for this game. We’re going to have our same process that we’ve had throughout the entire year of trying to get a little bit better each day to give ourselves a chance to go 1-0.
And we know how good of a team that Tampa is. That’s going to be typical through the playoffs. Everybody that you’re playing now has won their division or won enough games to get one of the three wildcard spots, so we know that every game from here on out is going to be a challenge.
And that’s the way the NFL is. If you come into a game too high, too low, not going about it the right way in this league, we see it. We saw it all day yesterday. Anybody can beat anybody at any time.
So that has been our process the entire year. We’re going to stay the same way. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s just if you start doing anything different now in the playoffs than you’ve done the entire 17 weeks prior, or 18 weeks prior, you’ve done the 17 or 18 weeks wrong. That’s my philosophy, that’s how I was raised in this business, and I think that’s what good coaching is.
If you’re going to do something and do something different this week, then you haven’t prepared the right way for 18 weeks this season. So, we know we got a challenge. We know we’re playing a very good team, the defending Super Bowl champs, and we’re going to prepare like crazy.
We got the right guys in this building that I know are going to give everything we got and do everything we can do to get better each day to put ourselves in position to win this week.
Q. How much pride do you take in being the only first-year head coach to lead your team to the playoffs, and did you follow the success and failure of the other guys that were hired at the same time as you? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: No, I didn’t follow them. I mean, unless we were playing them or anything like that. I don’t think about that. All I care about is that our team is successful, our team is ready to play each week. So, I haven’t really thought too much about that.
I’m just thankful that we’re in the position we’re in now to go down to Tampa and play a really good team in the playoffs and prepare for that.
Q. How, if you can, prepare people who haven’t been in the playoffs, your young guys, for what might be one of the biggest moments of their football career? (Howard Eskin)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, that’s a good question, Howard. Again, I think you just go through the same process over and over and over again.
I think in this league if you’re saying — if you’re getting too high or too low based off you playing on Monday night or Thursday night or Saturday night or big division games or whatever it is, the defending Super Bowl champs, I just don’t think you went about your business the right way.
Now, I understand that the cameras are a little brighter. They’ll see more people on the field. They’ll see more outside media. I know you guys have been here through it all. They’ll see more outside media than they’ve seen before. Couple more interview requests. I get all that.
It’s going to feel different, and that’s our job as coaches, to make sure that, again, we stick to our process of how we go about things.
Now, we have some great players on this football team that have played in the ultimate ball game, in the Super Bowl, so what a great opportunity those guys have that were here in 2017 to lead the group going through the playoffs.
Some of our guys that have never been in the playoffs or who are rookies, shoot, Jalen [Hurts] has never played in the playoffs. DeVonta [Smith] has never played in the playoffs. Landon [Dickerson] has never played in the playoffs. But they’ve played in national championship games, and those games are huge. They have the same type of hoopla that surround them.
I’m confident. We have winners on this football team. That’s why we’re in the position we’re in now. We have winners on this team that know how to win. We go about the same process. Don’t make it bigger than what it is. We understand the consequences of you lose you go home, you win you move on.
Again, the process, -sorry for sounding cliche — but it truly is. The process remains the same because every game in the NFL that you play is big. If you don’t treat it like that, then you’re not going to be in the position we’re in right now. So don’t change now and keep it rolling.